As Chuck Klosterman pointed out in, Eating the Dinosaur, a Garth Brooks album was once considered a huge flop for selling only 2 million copies. In light of today’s dramatically changed economic landscape for music—any album that goes double-platinum in 2013 will easily rank among the top-sellers of the year—rapper and mogul Jay-Z must be rather stoked that his just-announced new LP sold a million copies before its release. He didn’t sell them in the traditional way, though.
During halftime of a June 16 NBA Finals game between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, an unexpected 3-minute ad revealed some good news for hip-hop heads: Jay-Z is back. Magna Carter Holy Grail will be the artist’s first new material since a 2011 collaboration with Kanye West, and his first proper album since 2009's The Blueprint 3. And thanks to an innovative deal with Samsung, a million of the electronics goliath’s phone owners will get copies of the album for free four days before the rest of the public.
The Wall Street Journal revealed the details of the deal, in which Samsung purchased a million copies of the album at $5 a pop as part of a co-branded giveaway effort. On June 24, a special app will be made available, and the first million Galaxy S3, S4, and Note 2 owners who download it will be able to unlock the new album on July 4—three days in advance of its official release.
The surprise ad for the new album gives fans a taste of Jay-Z’s latest. The first thing we hear is a spartan, piano-lead backing track that promises epicness. Soon it erupts into a propulsive electro beat that recalls some of the more future-leaning songs in Jay-Z’s catalog. As other songs are briefly demoed, we see the rapper in his element, collaborating with some of the more sought-after producers in music—a veritable Avengers of hip-hop that includes Rick Rubin, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, and Timbaland. ALthough we don’t hear much in the way of the words that will be rapped over these beats, Jay-Z explains a bit about the theme that will accompany his lyrics this time out.
"The album is about, like, this duality of how you navigate through this whole thing, through success, through failures, through all this and remain yourself," he says.
It’s a perfectly appropriate theme for an artist attempting to satisfy fans and corporate interests at the same time.