During halftime of the NBA Finals Game 5 between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, a three-minute black-and-white commercial piqued the interest of rap aficionados everywhere.
In the clip, mega-rapper Jay-Z is seen working in a recording studio with—at various points—music producers Rick Rubin, Swizz Beatz, Pharell Williams, and Timbaland. The clip is laid over a strident piano line that segues into cuts of several insane beats.
“We put the album out on July 4,” says Jay-Z. “We don’t have any rules, everyone’s trying to figure it out—that’s why the Internet is like the Wild West ... We need to write the new rules.”
The commercial ends with a message: “The Next Big Thing Is Here. MagnaCartaHolyGrail.com. Samsung GALAXY #MagnaCarta.”
The news, predictably, blew up Twitter, and the hashtags #JayZ, #MagnaCarta, #Samsung, and #MagnaCartaHolyGrail because trending topics. According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung has already purchased 1 million copies of Jay-Z’s upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, which will be released July 4, and will make the album available to owners of Samsung Galaxy smartphones 72 hours before its official release (July 1) via an app. Samsung Galaxy users will reportedly receive the app in late June. Samsung paid $5 for each album, giving Jay-Z $5 million in sales already, reported the WSJ. It’s not clear, however, if the 1 million in pre-sales will factor into Nielsen SoundScan sales. If they do, then Magna Carta Holy Grail has already gone platinum, notching the most first week sales of 2013.
The partnership with Jay-Z marks another huge coup for Samsung in its battle against Apple’s iPhone for smartphone supremacy. A report by the research firm Canaccord Genuity found that Samsung sold more smartphones than Apple during the month of May.
“While we believe Samsung and Apple maintained dominant share of the U.S. smartphone market versus sub-scale Android OEMs and struggling Windows Phone and BlackBerry ecosystems, we believe Samsung on the strength of strong Galaxy S 4, S III and Note II sales surpassed Apple to gain top share of the U.S. smartphone market for the first time since the iPhone 5 launch,” said Canaccord analyst T. Michael Walkley.
Samsung has held a full-on marketing blitz for its smartphones. In addition to pouring millions into print and TV ads, the company has hosted various events for media and industry professionals all over the country featuring performances by top-tier musical acts like Kanye West, Skrillex, and others. Apple, meanwhile, has remained relatively quiet on the promo front.
The Jay-Z release news also speaks volumes about the celebrity-industrial complex—or the symbiotic relationship between stars and big business. Given the state of the music industry, musicians have increasingly relied on branding partnerships with companies in order to up their sales figures.
Manga Carta Holy Grail will be Jay-Z’s 12th studio album, and his first solo album since 2009’s The Blueprint 3. In 2011, he teamed with Kanye West for the Grammy Award–winning LP Watch the Throne, and the timing of the Jay-Z announcement is a bit curious since it comes a mere two days before the release of pal West’s highly anticipated album, Yeezus.