Story by Ralph Bristout & Rob Hansen
He dropped Magna Carta… Holy Grail and then backed out.
In the years since dropping his 12th studio album, Jay Z has gone On The Run with his wife, Beyoncé, dabbled in the music streaming wars with Tidal, and swapped courtside seats at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for a row at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Not too shabby. Besides the business moves, and occasional chaining day presentations, the Roc mogul has gone full Luke Skywalker — maintaining a low profile as the aforementioned Jedi in the lead up to "Star Wars: Force Awakens."
But as a million and one questions surround Beyoncé's looming album and the 11th-hour updates continue to trickle in for Kanye's "living" Frankenstein The Life Of Pablo, the mystique around Jay Z's future recording prospects grows larger.
Like Bey, he has not released an album since 2013, his sixth personal favorite, and while it may not be considered his best, it was, arguably, solid enough to serve as Hov's final album. If there’s one thing we all know about Hov after all these years, it's that he can’t leave rap alone (see 2006's Kingdom Come) and if track records are worth a damn, then it's safe to say we're overdue for a new project.
Earlier this year on The Breakfast Club, Memphis Bleek appeared as a guest and was asked the pressing question regarding a new Jay LP. In response, he posed his own question, asking, "Imagine what it would take to get Jay in the studio to lay a verse." The answer was met with laughs and a few ahhhs, but taking what Bleek said into account, there are more than a few reasons for Hov to step back in the booth.
For starters, there’s the output from his Tidal circle of super friends, from Rihanna with Anti to Kanye with TLOP, which could elicit some type of excitement for him to work on something new. Furthermore, and perhaps the greatest reason of all, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Reasonable Doubt and the 15th anniversary for The Blueprint, both undeniable classics. Considering how Hov has praised both projects, and quickly yanked them from competing streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, it doesn’t seem believable that he’d miss the opportunity to celebrate such landmarks, especially his iconic debut, which is a project he often refers to as his "baby."
To commemorate Reasonable Doubt's 10-year anniversary, Hov hosted a special Radio City Music Hall tribute show and gave the world "44 Fours." There's no telling what kind of special moments he has in store for the big 2-0.
In an interview last week on the Rap Radar Podcast, Kareem "Biggs" Burke furthered the rumors about a new album from his fellow Roc braintrust, revealing that he may already be trying on that No. 45 jersey:
Rap Radar: "People always forget that Jay back in the day would always talk about 'I'm only going to do one more album. I'm only going to do one more album.'"
Biggs: "He just told me that the other day. [Laughs]"
To avoid missing out on an incredible year in music releases and also to celebrate his legacy are two good reasons to believe Jay Z has plans in place. But don't just take our word for it, look at the many clues that are already out there.
Freestyle in DJ Khaled's announcement video
When it comes to new music, Jay Z has always been stern on having something to say and feeling that urge. So when the world witnessed the Roc mogul kicking a quick freestyle in DJ Khaled’s epic Roc Nation announcement clip last month, it was clear that Hovi Hov is in that zone. Besides, when is the last time Hov kicked a freestyle on camera?UPDATE: This freestyle turned into "I Got the Keys," Jigga's star feature on Khaled's Major Key album.
Swizz Beatz working on beats
In a since deleted Instagram clip, Swizz Beatz teased a photo of him playing news beats from his phone for Hov. A few days later Roc Nation’s Lenny S. posted a photo of the two (with the phone!) at the Roc Nation offices.
Jay Electronica teases new "All Time Favorite" Hov verse
On November 1, 2015, the master of elusiveness Jay Electronica hopped on Twitter to toy with Hov's legion of fans, suggesting that Jigga is working on some new 16s. Since deleted, the tweet read as follows: "one of my NEW favorite verses of all time is one Hov said to me over the phone a few days ago." Spooky.
Mysterious "Everything is Blue" Snippet
Two years ago, a mysterious snippet from Hov popped up online for a new song called "Everything Is Blue." The record features a sample of Marty Robbins' "Love Is Blue" and sonically harkens back to the soulful Blueprint era.
The LOX show up to Roc Nation headquarters
The last time Jay took a flick from the Roc Nation offices with a '90s rap legend, it was Raekwon and eventually the two would hit the studio for an unreleased collaboration (rumored to be a "Heaven" remix with Ghostface Killah) that failed to make Magna Carta... Holy Grail. Most recently, the legendary LOX popped up at the offices with Hov and shared the moment on Instagram. There are many possibilities as to why they were there (Tidal deal perhaps?), but for fans missing the days of "Reservoir Dogs" and "Blackout," the meeting left nothing but wishful thoughts.
Make it make sense ... Classy gentlemen meeting of the minds ... https://t.co/s2Vn9BfQM2— phantom. (@therealstylesp) April 1, 2016
We working aaaaahhhhhha— JADAKISS (@Therealkiss) April 1, 2016
Jermaine Dupri knows the title
In an interview on the Rap Radar podcast, Jermaine Dupri revealed that he knows the title to Jay's mysterious new album. "I know the name of Hov’s new album and everything right now," he revealed. "It might be done."
Joins Fat Joe and Remy Ma for "All the Way Up"
For his first 2016 guest verse, Remy and Joe deliver new verses for the year's hottest rap anthem and in Hov's 16, the Roc Nation leader dishes on everything from wifey's Lemonade, Prince's catalog being safe at Tidal and all the valor it takes to be the King of N.Y.
Hops on Pusha T's King Push single
Waxing poetics about his former ways, Jay Z joins Pusha T for "Drug Dealers Anonymous" and turns heads on each syllable.
Delivers his first solo record in three years
In light of the recent string of police shooting deaths, Jay Z releases a nearly four-minute audio open letter, titled "Spiritual."
"I am not poison," the Roc mogul raps on the song's hook. The new record arrives just hours after Jay's wife Beyoncé issued a statement on the senseless killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police. Taking the same approach through song, Jay delivers a stern message on "Spiritual," using lines like, "Just a boy from the hood that got my hands in the air in despair, don't shoot," as the hook.
Zaytoven took to his Instagram page to tease a possible collaboration with the Jiggaman. Who got the keys?
UPDATE: Zaytoven reveals to REVOLT that Hov requested specific beats from the producer.