“Holy Grail,” the opening salvo of Jay-Z’s 2013 album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, was always an ostentatious affair. Justin Timberlake sings what seems to be a sexual innuendo where a reproductive body part is compared to a “holy grail.” Jay-Z delivers part of Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit” in a very off-key and monotone voice. The best part of the song is Jay trying to convince listeners that his then-toddler, Blue, demanded that he “remind you niggas/Fuck that shit y’all talking ’bout, I’m the nigga.”
“This was the map for the album,” Jay-Z told Zane Lowe in 2013. “It’s why I couldn’t give it up for the [Watch the] Throne album. It fit the Throne thematically. I was like, ‘I can’t, man. This is the centerpiece to my next.’ I said, ‘There’s records like “Paris” and “Otis,” and this record is going to get lost on this album.”
Over the weekend, during a songwriting battle on Instagram Live, The-Dream shared the original demo of the song — with himself singing Timberlake’s chorus. Credited as a writer and producer on the original song, The-Dream’s version is far more captivating than what fans originally received. His voice, slathered in Auto-Tune and reverb, sells the drama and inherent ridiculousness of a song that’s essentially the plot of The Da Vinci Code, but slightly more horny. “I wasn’t tight — much respect to @jtimberlake,” The-Dream told Tidal on Twitter. “I wasn’t tight at all. However, I did feel that from the pain and what it meant for me … to voice that and to sing that … it just meant something.”
Response to the song was so overwhelming the demo is now streaming on Tidal.