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Hip-Hop Out-Charted Pop By 227 Weeks in 2017

It may come as no surprise, but hip-hop was the most popular genre of music in 2017, by an impressive margin. It was reported earlier in th...

The Fate of the Furious Review

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Rating: 10/10 (I'm serious)

Wow. I walked out of this movie energised and enthused, and quite frankly staggered at the leap in quality from Fast and Furious 7 to this, the eighth instalment. Every weak aspect of this long-running series has been enhanced, as if the writers took to previous movies with a fine toothed comb tightened every loose end.

Vin Diesel

Vin Diesel has been criticised heavily in past movies for his wooden performances. His slow and measured platitudes have been delivered with all the grace and subtlety of the cars he drives, and it's been difficult to believe he's the mastermind behind the various plans and escapades. In The Fate of the Furious he is revolutionary. It's almost like someone turned a light on in his head, and emotion shines brightly out of his every facial feature. When he smiles, he lights the entire screen up. He puts in a dynamic, show-stopping performance (sorry Charlize), and when it turns out he created an incredibly intricate and complex plan, it's believable for the very first time in the series. He's clearly the main character, and in a movie that also features Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, not to mention Charlize Theron, that's no small feat.

The Writing

As for the writing, it's genuinely good. And I don't mean action movie good. In previous iterations the writing lumbered along like a Tyrese album. The story line was genuinely surprising, the twists weren't telegraphed and they came with shock. They utilised character development from previous movies to heighten the sense of loss and the emotional response to big moments. They kept the lame one-liners to a minimum, and Tyrese was hilarious when called upon. They left it open for sequels in a way that didn't feel overly contrived. Ultimately, this wasn't Armageddon, it was closer to a Bond movie. That's high praise.

The Action

Somehow, they topped the last movie in terms of insane action. I don't know how they keep doing it. Maybe they have 2 or 3 people dedicated solely to thinking up crazy things that can happen. Making it rain took on an entirely new meaning. And while those kinds of moments previously felt a bit silly, like Hobbs breaking out hospital, stealing an ambulance, and driving to a location he surely didn't know ahead of time to shoot down a helicopter single-handedly, or Dom basically dying for 2 minutes but coming back to life through the power of family, in this movie the big moments don't feel forced, which is huge considering how huge those moments are. There are points where you're just laughing at the sheer audacity of the writers and cast, at how unreal it all seems yet how it's still possible. Jumping a car between 3 buildings isn't feasible in anyone's book, but (spoiler alert) leading a heat-seeking missile on a round-a-bout trip back to the device that fired it could potentially happen.

A Deeper Analysis

There isn't much deviation from the "family is everything" message that has underpinned the entire series. We're introduced to Cipher, who is scary not because she's willing to blow the world up (there have been thousands of baddies that can do that), but because she's willing to take the life of a child. Her motivations aren't explored any further than a 20-second conversation with Dom about why she wants to control nuclear missiles. Her dialogue is whispered for effect, and it's downright scary when she feels threatened. When you consider every antagonist thus far has been loud and hands-on, capable of doing vast damage via conventional weapons, Cipher is meek. This is where the writing really shone. They utilised the intense character development, especially that of Dom, to drastically heighten the emotion attached to every move Cipher makes. Her actions are irredeemable inside the narrative Dom and Letty have created, so we know there will be no switching sides for her in later films. More so than ever, Dom has reason to seek revenge, which means we all have a reason to watch the next movie.

What is even more exciting is Dom's coming of age as a strategist and shrewd thinker. By introducing Cipher, Ramsay, the Shaw brothers, Mose Jakande, and Mr. Nobody, we've been exposed to some of the most deadly and high-tech individuals in the entire universe. While Dom always seemed sloppy and prone to fisticuffs, in Fate of the Furious he's calculated, intelligent, and 2 steps ahead of the most elusive and dangerous hacker in the entire world. Not only that, Deckard Shaw proves himself to be a story all on his own, one that is ripe for a spin-off. And Jason Statham can carry a lead role with his hands cuffed behind him. That's exciting.

Fate of the Furious marries so many fun, enjoyable elements. There is Mr. Nobody, the man with endless resources at his fingertips, who makes things appear out of thin air, who has an entire hangar of high-end sports cars, and yet who is as likeable as Jim next door, and as unflappable as Dwayne Johnson at a pancake eating contest. There is Tyrese as Roman, incredibly funny but capable of swift and effective violence when needed. The jokes carry this movie alone, Tyrese is hilarious when in full-on charm mode, dropping one-liners at will. Which is good, because the rest of the cast isn't so quick to catch on. Letty's dialogue is still slow and obvious, her occasional one-liner either confusing or dull. Ramsay is yet to find her feet as part of the team, she isn't quite developed as a character yet. Tej isn't as dazzling as in previous movies, but again, he's up against Roman, who is the light.

As for Dwayne Johnson, what more can you ask of the guy? He's hilarious, he's the most imposing action hero since Arnie, and he plays his role to perfection. He could easily steal this movie, and the fact he was the highest paid actor in 2016 proves he has the box office clout to do so, but he plays Hobbs to perfection. A character who has learned that family is the most important aspect (and device) in the series, and although his interactions with his daughter feel tacked on and played up, he approaches each scene with style, grace, and believability.

This is a great movie, and not just a great Fast and Furious movie. The series will long be remembered for the box office records it smashes, but if the final two films are of the same quality as this one, it could change what we expect and demand of our entertainment. We want it to be bigger, brasher, and sexier than the last, but if we can also get top-drawer writing and acting at the same time? Well, movies like Captain American and Suicide Squad will cease to exist.

Ranking of Traditional Pub Grub

All standard Australian pub food. No lobster, or seafood platters. No dishes from pubs that specialise in a foreign cuisine (Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian, French, Indian etc).

28. Fisherman's Basket
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So you put on enclosed shoes and deodorant, drove to the pub, and bought the exact same meal your local fish and chip shop sells, for 3 times the price. There's a reason fish and chip shops don't usually stay open past 8pm. Figure it out.

27. Ribs
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The messiest food known to man is ribs. Usually swimming in the most sickly sweet BBQ sauce invented, ordering this is nearly as anti-social as ordering fish. While everyone else politely nibbles away on the chicken schnitzel at the end of their fork, you're indulging your inner animal and flicking bits of sauce and meat all over everyone. And Lord help you if you try and shake my hand at the end of the night. 

26. Roast of the Day
Source: Via Flickr and Vanessa Pike-Russell
There's a reason it costs $12 when everything else on the menu is $20+. Has anyone, anywhere, ever been content with their decision to order the roast of the day?

25. Fish and Chips
Via Flickr and Mats Hagwell
Unless you're at a really nice restaurant, which you aren't, you're at a pub, this is just the same as your local beer-battered takeaway fish, served on a plate instead of a box.

24. Sausage and Mash
Source: Flickr Via Alpha
Surely just a legacy item on any menu, aimed at those old enough to remember the food shortages during the Great Depression. Never order something at a pub or restaurant that would take you less than 10 minutes to whip up at home. It's about as exciting as a Sydney comedy festival. 

23. Pot Pie
Flickr via Foodista
The pot pie is where the chef throws all the cheap ingredients no-one would knowingly order. Huge marks deducted for pubs that omit the bottom crust, that's a real kick in the teeth.

22. Prawns (Cutlets/Garlic)

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Prawns are a delicate ingredient already bursting in flavour and in possession of an incredible texture. Why deep fry them? And show me a pub chef who doesn't drown their prawns in enough garlic to fell every Twilight fan in existence.


21. Surf and Turf
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Ever wonder how pubs without poker machines stay afloat? They slug out of towners an extra $10 on top of a regular steak for 2 or 3 sad looking prawns to be placed unceremoniously atop their 300gm piece of beef (this lucky soul managed to get 3 calamari rings too). And on what planet does seafood go with steak? 

20. Calamari Rings

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Calamari is notoriously hard to cook well, and unless you live in Vaucluse, your local pub chef can't be expected to get them right every single time. When they're slightly overcooked it's like chewing a Michelin off your dad's Hilux. And they're usually overcooked.

19. Pasta Carbonara
Via Flickr and dodongjan
Brilliant when done correctly, but it never is done correctly. It's always so creamy and rich. The human body was not meant to process that much heavy dairy in one sitting.

18. Greek Salad

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Inconsistency between venues drags down the Greek salad. I swear some chefs take it as a personal slight when you order a salad, so they whip it up in 2 seconds flat. Or maybe the pub see's it as a way to gouge you, so they charge $15 and you get 3 olives, 3 bits of crumbly fetta, and enough lettuce to satisfy Lil Wayne.


17. Salt and Pepper Squid

Flickr Alpha
Squid is a touch more forgiving than calamari, it's tougher by nature which lends it a real hearty texture. But the spice mix is so strong, it's difficult to get through an entire plate. Good to share.

16. Mixed Grill

Source Flickr via Alpha
A relic of a forgotten time, the mixed grill is slowly slipping off the menu to make way for mini burgers to slide in. It consists of a selection of meat from the menu, grilled, and shoved on a plate. You're looking at a hefty price too, usually in the mid $30's. I liken it to Crown Lager: expensive, nothing special, and consumed solely by those who peaked in high school in the late 70's. 

15. Lasagna 

Flickr tenasclousme
If it's surrounded by other pasta meals on the menu it's likely to be decent. But if it's the obligatory pasta dish, with no Spag Bol etc to keep it company, avoid, because you can just do it at home with a microwave.

14. Meat on a Skewer

How does a bamboo stick make meat any better? Meat is the only thing that's worse on a stick (think cheese and deep fried butter). You have to pick the skewer up with your fingers to get the meat off. Maybe you want lamb pieces but not for your hands to be covered in meat. Bad luck.


13. Steak

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Steak is easy to cook well at home. Chefs seem to forget about their steaks sometimes and cook it too long. On the flip-side, there are chefs that think they're being edgy by cooking your steak medium rare when you wanted well-done. It's a decent option, but not dazzling or terribly exciting or difficult to execute.

12. Burger With The Lot
Source: Food and Wine
Did we create this? Seems like Americans and the British aren't as enamoured with these towers as we are. Buzzfeed even felt the need to introduce the concept to its readership. They're traditionally stuffed full of a huge number of delicious things, that all seem to work in perfect harmony. Meat and cheese is a given, as is lettuce and tomato.  Then there's bacon, because of course. Sauce is usually BBQ or tomato, or a dressing. Beetroot and egg are essential, but anyone who puts pineapple on it needs to be disbarred, or whatever the culinary equivalent is.

Problem with this is how the hell do you eat it? You have to deconstruct it, which means you're eating the parts individually, which is significantly less fun. On the plus side, it's usually quite cheap considering what you get. Pubs never quite get it as right as the local hot food takeaway joint.


11. Lamb Shanks

Flickr via Nathan
It's impossible to screw these up, so they're also insanely easy to cook at home. Some pubs do impart their own unique style on the flavour though, and if you find a pub with something new and exciting in their lamb shank recipe let me know!

10. Grilled Chicken Breast


Good for you, delicious, and succulent when cooked well. Bonus points if they serve it with avocado! 



9. Grilled White Fish


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As long as there are no bones, and I haven't encountered any yet, this is delicious. What is it with pub chefs and fish? They always nail it! 

8. Nachos

Flickr via pamelasvoboda
Is it a snack? A side? A share plate? Is it a main? When executed properly, Nachos is a top 2 option. Cheese, beef, corn chips, guac and sour cream, it's truly incredible. But menus rarely give a clue as to how the chef views this dish. If it's a snack I'd avoid, but if it's listed on the main menu order away, it's delicious!

7. Spaghetti Bolognese

Hearty and delicious. As long as they didn't just warm up a frozen package, it's quite a good meal. You usually get free parmesan cheese too, which is the reason for life!

6. Caesar Salad

I don't know what it is about pubs in Sydney, they love to show off when it comes to this, the God of Salads. Portions are more often than not huge, and they don't just precariously place two slices of chicken atop a mountain of margin-boosting lettuce. Major marks are deducted if there's no egg.

5. Chicken Schnitzel


Some people can't eat cheese. This was created for them, and it's absolutely glorious.

4. Salmon

It's been a brilliant run for the not-so-humble salmon fillet. It usually arrives unadorned, with a small amount of herbs dusted on top, a bowl of sauce you're never going to eat, and some sides (salad or chips) that you pick unenthusiastically at after devouring your entire salmon fillet in 45 seconds. Rarely does a pub chef mess up a good slab of salmon; becoming a dab hand at this dish can lead to restaurant offers.

3. Pizza

Pubs make the best pizza, hands down. Usually one of the cheapest items on the menu, they don't bother with this "less is more" crap regarding toppings that Italian chefs swear by. Pizzas come stacked with ingredients, fat, oil, salt, cheese. So. Good. 

2. Garlic Bread
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It's unlikely the world would exist without garlic bread because it's a God. even bad garlic bread tastes good so imagine how good good garlic bread tastes?

1. Chicken Parmigiana 

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The hero. The schnitzel becomes a canvas on which a pub chef can paint their masterpiece. I am yet to meet a pub Parmi I don't like. 











Was Bink! the true architect of The Blueprint sound?

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On September 11, 2001, Jay-Z released the second classic of his career, The Blueprint. The album was transformative for Kanye West and Just Blaze, the former picking up 5 production credits, and the latter 4. Both used this album as a springboard to hip-hop immortality. Just Blaze expanded on the sped-up soul samples by taking the instrumentation, playing it live, and propelling it into the stratosphere ("Welcome To New York City", "Hovi Baby", "As One", "Lollipop", "Pump It Up" and so on). Kanye stuck true to The Blueprint sound and helped vault Freeway, Twista and Common onto the charts, and his first 2 records, largely regarded as classics, relied heavily on the trail that was blazed by the creators of The Blueprint. Both artists are now considered all-time greats.

So who, you may ask, is Bink!? He's a producer who started out working with Lost Boyz, and came up in the same environment as Timbaland, The Neptunes, Nottz, and Teddy Riley. He produced "1-900-Hustler" (the record that broke rapper Freeway) and "You, Me, Him and Her" (the record that broke Amil) for Jay's collaborative Dynasty record in 2000.

He also said this on the Rap Radar Podcast in 2017:
I have a lot of sons out here but no-one's calling me Daddy
Bink is speaking about Just Blaze, and the next 5 minutes of the podcast touches on the phenomenon of biting a sound, copying a style, and getting a couple of lucky breaks (Bink specifically mentions "Just Blaze and the Blazettes", a line from Hov's 2002 track "Hovi Baby"). Bink mentions, in regard to what kind of sound Blaze in fact "bit", the tracks "The Ruler's Back", the opening track on The Blueprint, and "1-900-Hustler", released in 2000. The latter flips "Ain't Gonna Happen" by Ten Wheel Drive, speeding it up and sliding it into a nice loop. The horns are loud and bombastic, reminiscent of the Just Blaze signature sound that has dominated real hip-hop since 2001.

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Let's backtrack though, because Just Blaze produced "I Really Like It" for Harlem World in 1999, which borrowed heavily from the 1983 New Edition track "Popcorn Love". Bink was sampling 2 years prior to that, courtesy of his work with Lost Boyz. On "Beasts From the East" he sampled a classic Bob James song, "One Loving Night", from 1977. In 1999 Bink was sampling heavily on his contributions to A+'s album Hampstead High, as well as his work with Kurupt (notably "Trylogy").

It's not as though Just Blaze just suddenly began sampling in 1999, though. Like a sound engineer (Young Guru comes to mind), he studied the way phones and electronic devices worked, taking them apart and putting them back together, gathering an understanding of the way sound is made and maintained. He used this knowledge to create custom ringtones in an era where no apps or stores existed to make or buy them yourself. A primitive form of sampling. Blaze also told me via Twitter he'd been making beats since the late 1980s, and his first use of sampling was definitely prior to his earliest credited beats in 1999.

So what of the third architect of The Blueprint, Kanye West? He's the one who has achieved the most and scaled the highest heights since 2001. One much-publicised story from that lightning few weeks was the vibrant competition between Kanye and Just Blaze. Here is how Jay-Z tells it:
I had two rooms in Baseline. It was a big room... That I'd record in. Then it would be a small room that Just would be in doing beats. What happened was, Just would peep his head in and hear what me and Kanye was doing and would just go back mad... It was like a heavyweight slugfest. For three days they were just knocking each other out.
This was a coming of age for Kanye West, who was really struggling to break into the market during this period. One of the most candid re-tellings of Kanye's influence and standing at this time was by rapper Hot Karl, who published his book Kanye West Owes Me $300 in 2016. In the chapter dealing with Kanye, he describes the Chicago producer as a cut-price Just Blaze, the beat-maker you go to when you can't afford Just, and he relays stories of Ye playing his music for a room full of hip-hop heavyweights and getting laughed at.

But Kanye sold sample-based beats as far back as 1996, utilising soul and disco samples, notably "City to City" by Grav, which lifted the bass line from "Cyclops" by Eddie Henderson. And while Bink! doesn't seem to acknowledge Just Blaze's work prior to 1999, he's complimentary of Kanye and never accuses him of copying or biting. During that same Rap Radar Podcast in which he confronts rumours that Just Blaze copied his style, he's incredibly complimentary to Kanye, saying, after he had heard early Ye track "Wow":
He's the epitomy of believing in yourself, cause if he had let people around him dictate his worth he'd still just be doing beats... There was a big hole in the game, and he filled that hole... He created a lane for himself, you have to respect somebody who creates a lane for themselves. That's why I respect Kanye. 
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Is it a popular misconception, then, that Just Blaze was the reason that soul-samples became the "blueprint" for commercial success for hip-hop tracks during the early-2000s? Based on an objective timeline, Bink! was getting heavy spins from top-tier acts with sample-based beats a full 2 years prior to Just Blaze, and Kanye was sampling in 1996, 3 years prior to Just Blaze's breakthrough in 1999. But Just Blaze confirmed he was sampling well before his first production credit in 1999. When they came together for 2001's The Blueprint they were undoubtedly the top 3 sample-based producers in the world, and Just Blaze was likely already in most people's top 5. Kanye would soon join him. All three are still sampling heavily, and still sit atop the sample-based tree (Bink's work on the new Rick Ross album is confirmation he never fell off).

When you consider how influential that 2001 album has become, how many millions of dollars has since been earned and how many platinum plaques can be directly attributed to the trail that the album blazed, Bink! needs to be recognised alongside Kanye and Just Blaze as a pioneer, and someone who altered the direction of hip-hop in a few short years.

But was Bink! the true architect of The Blueprint? Based on all the facts available to us, all three producers contributed equally to that incredible body of work, and all three deserve the accolades for the sound that dominated hip-hop during the 2000s.

What if Lil Wayne had signed with Jay Z in 2005?

Source: AintNoJigga
Around 2005-2006, Jay Z, as president of Def Jam, made a play to sign Lil Wayne. It never eventuated. Jay's side of the story, told to The Breakfast Club in 2013, places the blame for the failed deal squarely on the table of Birdman, the head of Cash Money Records, the label that discovered and signed Wayne. Jay claims Birdman sent him a letter for "torturous interference", and that was that. Lil Wayne explained in 2016 that he had indeed taken a daytime meeting with Jay at a 40/40 club in the mid-2000s, but the $175k value of the deal wasn't agreeable: "Believe that... I was looking like... two teeth in my mouth is 175. My bottom teeth."

2006 was the beginning of Wayne's run as the greatest rapper on the planet. He ran the genre from 2006 through at least 2008, releasing an unprecedented amount of critically acclaimed music. As Jay said on 2009's "A Star Is Born", "Wayne scorchin', I'll applaud him / If he keep going, pass the torch to him". But Wayne didn't keep going. His 2009 rock album Rebirth fell on deaf ears, and after his 8-month incarceration that began in 2010, he was never able to recapture the alchemy that saw him entirely untouchable during that halcyon run.

How would Wayne's career have been different, had this illustrious period been under the guidance of Jay Z, and either Def Jam Records or Roc-A-Fella?


Free Mixtapes? Unlikely


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While Wayne had no choice but to release Dedication 2 (2006) and Da Drought 3 (2007) for free (although D2 did pop up on iTunes at one point), due to his lack of payment for instrumentals already used by other rappers, there was a wealth of original music released for free between 2006 and 2010. Wayne arguably built his buzz off of mixtapes, notably the Squad Up series in the early-2000s, which signified his coming of age as a lyricist and true technician. But it doesn't hide the fact that his three critically acclaimed mixtapes (D2, DD3, No Ceilings) had 20-30 of the hottest verses he would ever spit, all for free.

Jay Z doesn't give things away for free. Even his own critically acclaimed mixtape, the S. Carter Collection, was designed to boost his bank balance. It came packaged with his the sneaker collaboration he'd forged with Reebok, one that attained huge, unrivalled success. Freestyles get recycled and thrown onto album tracks, or used to promote the albums of his own artists (think "Dear Summer" on Memphis Bleek's 534, or his "Grammy Family Freestyle" appearing in full HD with a Chris Martin feature). 


Notice that the majority of Jay's artists don't put out mixtapes. Beanie Sigel didn't release a mixtape until he was under Dame Dash. Bleek waited till 2005, and self-released free music. Young Chris didn't release a mixtape until 2007, post-Roc-A-Fella. Neef Buck released one mixtape while signed to Roc-A-Fella, though under his own label. J. Cole has released 2 mixtapes under the Roc Nation label, the second was released commercially and charted at number 7 on the US albums charts, and the first was re-released in 2013 commercially. 


It's unclear how Jay would have navigated this situation. Likely, he'd urge Wayne to hold some of those incredible verses back, to be used on even more guest spots or for future albums. A large part of Wayne's success during this incredible period was due to his mixtapes, and the fact they were free ensured they spread across the internet like wild-fire. But did Wayne burn too brightly? Did he spread himself too thin? Would he have improved his longevity if he held some of that music back? 


The only time Jay and Wayne have since linked up for a full project (they have collaborated on 3 individual tracks) was the Free Weezy Album in 2015, a record Wayne intended to release for free, but ended up a Tidal streaming exclusive, securing a revenue stream from an album that wouldn't have made any tangible income. 


Quality Control ("Pussy Monster"?!)

"I just make the records, Tez picks the songs." Tez is Cortez Bryant, Wayne's long-time manager and A&R. As Tez said in that interview: "Wayne is like 'I'm a just create it and give it to you and you do what you do with it'". So this means he's accountable for "Pussy Monster" appearing on Wayne's near-classic Tha Carter III, or "Wowzers" on IANAHB2, and relegating "Mirror", Wayne's incredible collaboration with Bruno Mars, to the deluxe edition of Tha Carter IV. 

Someone should have stepped in before Wayne released his 2009 rock album Rebirth. While it wasn't terminally bad, it was an early example of the inconsistency that has now become his most frustrating quality as an artist. He followed up the incredible, million-in-a-week Grammy nominated Tha Carter III with the worst album of his career. 


Jay Z did rock as well. Twice on 2002's The Blueprint 2 he indulged in guitar-based music, on "A Dream" and "Guns & Roses". He also partook in a genre-busting collaboration with Linkin Park for 2004's Collision Course, an EP that shot to number 1, went platinum, and sold 3.5 million copies worldwide, along with widespread critical acclaim. 


Now, imagine if Wayne had saved the two best tracks from Rebirth, "Prom Queen" and "Drop The World", and placed them on his 2010 record I Am Not A Human Being, released to keep his buzz up while he was behind bars. "Prom Queen" hit number 15 on the US Billboard 100, and would have made a brilliant mid-album palate cleanser. Instead, Wayne has a record in his discography that sits at 37/100 on Metacritic. Jay Z would never allow this to happen. 




Leaks (or how Lance Rivera learned to stay away from Kit Kats)

Source: AintNoJigga

Yeah, Jay Z doesn't much like leaks. In 1999 he was arrested and charged with stabbing label CEO Lance "Un" Rivera at the Kit Kat Club. Jay pleaded guilty, and skated with probation. It's believed Jay and his team attributed a month-early leak of his 4th studio album Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter to Rivera, and dealt retribution. 

Although Jay's music would leak again, it would never be on such a scale. Lil Wayne suffered more than almost anyone else from the actions of a bootlegger. The offending party was DJ Empire, who leaked almost the entirety of what was to be Wayne's LP Tha Carter III. Cortez Bryant explained Wayne was hurt, but locked down the studio and created almost an entirely new album, which ended up being some of his best work. 


Overall, 35+ original songs were leaked from these recording sessions. It appeared on the internet as Da Drought Is Over series, but also The C3 Sessions. Wayne would suffer similar leaks before Tha Carter IV, although not to the same extent. While Jay Z's album leaked a month in advance way back in 1999, he wouldn't experience another leak of such magnitude. In 2008 a couple of loosies surfaced, notably "Ain't I", and "Ultra" and "Ghetto Techno" appeared online around this time too. But it's safe to say Jay tightened his circle notably, and that of his artists. Although albums like The College Dropout leaked, no-one on Roc-a-fella lost that amount (more than 35 songs) of high quality original product, ever. 


Who knows what measures Jay Z has in place to combat leaks? But just imagine if Wayne had songs like "Pussy, Money, Weed", "I'm A Beast", "Did It Before", "Kush", "La La La", "Something You Forgot" and "Love Me Or Hate Me" in his arsenal, ready to be deployed any time his career took a slight dip (during his incarceration, for example)

Wayne Would Never Need To Sue

During Cortez's Rap Radar episode it was revealed Cash Money was paying Wayne all the way up until 2014's "Believe Me" dropped. They waited for the money from the label, and it never arrived: "This time when we put it out, the check didn't come." The hugely successful Drake Vs Wayne tour began, then concluded, and Wayne's team wanted to put his next studio album, Tha Carter V, out immediately to capitalise. Still, Cash Money couldn't come up with the cash money.


Roc-A-Fella has been accused of owing former artists money. In 2010 Beanie Sigel went on record saying Dame Dash "owe me some money... My own lawyer found about $11 million that Dame stole from me". Oddly, Oschino, a member of the Roc group State Property, told The Breakfast Club in 2016 it was Beanie who owed them money. And while Dame Dash has been dogged by claims that he "owes everyone", it's incredibly rare to hear anyone level that claim at Jay Z. Beanie and Jay made up at the Tidal B-Sides concert in 2014, and Jay remains on good terms with Young Chris, Memphis Bleek, and just about everyone except Jaz-O. 


There are no parallels between what Birdman is currently doing to Lil Wayne, and what Jay Z has done to any of his artists, ever. Doubtless, if Wayne had signed with Jay in the mid-2000s, his bank balance would truly reflect his sales and standing in the industry. 


Young Money

Young Money Entertainment was formed in 2005, believed to be a sweetener to help convince Wayne to re-sign with Cash Money Records for an extended period of time. The label has 11 number 1 albums in their discography, and two of the biggest artists in the world, Nicki Minaj and Drake, are currently signed to the label. 


If Wayne expressed a desire to create his own label while signed to Jay Z, things would have taken a similar path. On 2011's "Why I Love You" Jay rapped "I tried to teach n***s how to be kings / And all they ever wanted to be was soldiers", with regards to artists like Beanie Sigel who didn't share Jay's entrepreneurial mindset. He allowed Memphis Bleek to create Get Low Records during the late 90s, Kanye West formed G.O.O.D. Music, and J. Cole has Dreamville Records. 

It's hard to say if anything would have been different. Young Money is wildly successful, but they may have been able to hang on to Tyga if YM was a part of Roc Nation or Def Jam, because he'd actually have been getting paid. 

Lil Wayne's Legacy

On Jay's 1999 track "Pop 4 Roc" he made the bold claim "You are about to witness a Dynasty like no other". Under Jay's watchful eye, at least 2 legends have been made. Both Kanye West and Just Blaze were relative unknowns before they began their Roc-A-Fella careers. In 2017, Kanye is at the absolute pinnacle of both hip-hop and fashion, and Just Blaze is considered a legendary producer. Jay also signed a 16 year old Rihanna, and gave guidance and opportunity to Ne-Yo and J. Cole, not to mention signing Rick Ross to Def Jam.  

Lil Wayne, in terms of ability and potential, was quite possibly on-par with Kanye West and Rihanna, and has proven himself to be an all-time great. Alas, Wayne fell off. His fall seems harder than most becauseit came and went so quickly; he arrived in 2006 and ran with it until 2010, but with the ability he had, he should still be sitting on top of the world. 

Would this have happened under Jay Z's guidance? How many rappers or artists have actually fallen off on Jay's watch? He managed to bounce back himself from the poorly received 2006 record Kingdom Come. Foxy Brown left Jay's orbit in 1997 to work with Nas and AZ, and fell off in the early-2000s far removed from Roc-A-Fella. Memphis Bleek was always "one hit away". Beanie Sigel went to prison. Kanye West never fell off, Just Blaze never fell off, J. Cole hasn't fallen off, Rihanna hasn't fallen off. There's a reason why everyone is signing management deals with Roc Nation: The label doesn't lose. Artists don't flop when they're signed to Roc Nation. Albums like IANAHB2 don't exist in their discography. mixtapes like No Ceilings 2 just don't happen on Jay Z's watch. 

I will make a bold claim. Lil Wayne would be comfortably in most people's top 5 if Jay Z had been in charge of his career since 2006. Rebirth would never have been a full project, "Wowzers" would be in a hard-drive somewhere buried deep underground. Wayne would never have attempted to rap over "My Name Is", or if he did, it would have been destroyed before anyone outside the studio heard it. Jay Z doesn't flop, he never has. Even Kingdom Come went number 1 and sold 680k first week. It has a Metacritic score of 67, 37 higher than Rebirth and higher than IANAHB2, Tha Carter IV, S4TW, D4, and S4TW2. Wayne's average career score is 60, Jay's is 73. As Jay said:
I've been winning so long it's like alchemy 
Wayne deserves to be in your top 5. It's just a pity it might now be too late to salvage his full legacy (he will still retire as a true GOAT, and maybe, in a few decades time, be recognised for the technician and superstar he is). Hopefully, he manages to secure his bank balance and curb his drug use. Jay Z can help, he always does. 


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Jay Z The Sportsman

Over the course of his public life, Jay hasn't always shown himself to be a supreme athlete. While Roc Nation Sports, the sports management arm of his company, deals with some of the greatest and richest athletes on the planet, Jay usually finds himself at the centre of a meme when he showcases his athletic abilities on camera. But is this fair? Is Jay actually much better at sports than we're giving him credit for? After collaborating with Frank Ocean on the track "Biking", a song that uses riding a bicycle as an extended metaphor for karma in the music industry, there is no better time to explore whether Jay is an underrated sportsman, or just human, like the rest of us.

Cycling

We start with a pursuit that he may actually have had a natural talent for. On Jay's autobiographical 2003 track "December 4th", his mother relates a story of him learning how to ride a bike, without training wheels, at the age of 4. This story has become common in Jay interviews. He told Vibe in 2003:
My uncle had promised to put training wheels on the second bike I’d received from my cousin, but he hadn’t gotten around to it. Me being the younger of four kids, I was determined to be independent and not spoiled... I took the bike outside, and from 10 a.m. to 5pm. taught myself how to ride without training wheels.
He told Oprah in 2009 that as a child he was "famous" because he was the five-year-old who could ride a 10-speed bike, and on "Best Of Me (Part 2)" he claimed to be doing wheelies by age six.

All of this experience didn't stop him from getting flamed in 2013 when Tyler, The Creator posted this picture of Jay cycling on Instagram:



Boxing

In his autobiography Decoded Jay declared boxing a "glorious sport to watch", but "a stupid game to play", because of the potential injuries. This didn't stop Hov honing his own skills, though. In a 1998 interview (7:51) he told a journalist he sparred often, and said:

I don't want people to think they could test me on the street... Everything I do, I've mastered... Two more years Imma be fighting Roy Jones."


This continued into the 2000's. During the height of his beef with Nas, Jay appeared on Hot 97 with Angie Martinez and claimed he'd box Nas, behind closed doors, to determine the outcome of their conflict:
We go to the gym, this one's closed doors, throw on some headgear, three rounds. Quick. 
There have been multiple lyrical references to Jay's ability to throw hands as well. On 2001's "Renegade" he offered "Do not step to me, I'm awkward / I box lefty". On 2003's "Moment of Clarity" he rapped  "What, you gonna box me, homie? I can dodge a jab", and on 2002's "Show You How" he challenged "You can't fight me, in the Porsche I'll box you out."

There's no footage of Jay actually boxing, but we can ascertain from his lyrics and interviews he probably fancies himself in the ring. He's been associated with the sport as both a fan and manager on multiple occasions, with boxing references and metaphors littering his rhymes, and pictures of him with legendary scrappers all over the internet.

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Basketball

While Jay's relationship with basketball is best displayed through his constant Michael Jordan comparisons, lyrical basketball references, and Roc Nation Sports' huge roster of basketball superstars, he revealed in Decoded that he's been playing the sport as far back as he can remember, in apartment 4B in Brooklyn with his dad and older brother:

My big brother Eric played basketball in junior and summer leagues and was a straight star. When we first moved to Marcy my father set up a little basketball hoop in our apartment -- and we would all sweat it out right there in the living room like it was Madison Square Garden.
His ties to the sport are incredibly deep. Back in 2003 Jay took on the famous Rucker Park street ball competition, amassing a team of local legends and ringers that eventually lost to Fat Joe's Terror Squad team (it's a long story, but a freak blackout in the city forced the game to be played the next day, and by then, Jay was on a private plane jetting off on a holiday). While he didn't play in the competition himself, Reebok still decided to award him his own signature basketball shoe in April 2003. At the time, it was the fastest selling shoe in the company's history. He was also an unlockable character in NBA Live 07.

But can Jay ball? We may never know. There is video on youtube of his dribble game, recorded after Kobe Bryant's final outing. On Memphis Bleek's "Do My" video Jay can be seen dunking, although that may have been staged. In 2010 rapper Nelly claimed he could beat Jay in a game of one-on-one. And who knows what's going on in this photo...

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 Tennis

This is one sport Jigga is not too good at. Although, in his defence, he was taking on one of the greatest athletes of all time. During the video for Memphis Bleek's single "Do My", Jay, Bleek and Serena Williams engage in a game of Tennis. While Jay is shown actually returning one of her serves, this may not be an accurate depiction of what transpired. In an interview with 106 & Park Serena said: "Bleek was good, he was actually hitting my balls! But Jay wasn't that good..."

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American Football

Another sport that Roc Nation Management has on lock, with multiple high-profile athletes on the roster. Unfortunately, Jay's physical association with the sport has boiled down to a meme of him looking awkward throwing a football.

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I'm sure if someone analysed every still frame of me playing a random sport they'd find something awkward as well. Hopefully, the footage of Jay playing football with daughter Blue Ivy that aired during Beyonce's LEMONADE visual album will usurp this meme.

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Other Sports / General Exercise

If you don't have a personal trainer in 2017, are you even a superstar? Like the rest of us, Jay tries valiantly to squeeze in his 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Here are some of his favoured methods:
  • Tae Bo - A form of martial arts, Jay was roasted for participating in this form of physical activity by Nas on "Ether": "I still whip you ass; you 36 in a Karate class? / You Tae-Bo ho tryna work it out, you tryna get brolic?" Nas was likely using Jay's line on 2001's "Girls, Girls, Girls" ("That means I fly rough early, plus I know Tae-Bo") as a jump-off. Needless to say,  Jay didn't mention it again...
  • Swimming / Diving - People love to knock a legend don't they? In 2013 the internet exploded with memery after Jay was photographed awkwardly diving into a pool next to Beyoncé. The fact he was next to his famous, beautiful, talented and rich wife on a family holiday in Italy at the time doesn't seem to matter. 
  • Motorsport - The video for Jay's 2006 comeback single, "Show Me What You Got", was dripping in expense and luxury. In the opening scene, Jay (riding shotgun to NASCAR ace Dale Earnhardt Jr in a Ferrari F430 Spider) challenges stock car legend Danica Patrick, who is in a Pagani Zonda, to a motor race through Monaco. Jay then takes the wheel of a speedboat as he engages in another high speed race. 
  • Running - Despite claiming "I just run the town, I don't do too much jogging" on Drake's 2010 track "Light Up", Jay told an interviewer in 2010 that he had run a mile that very morning: "I got up around 8, had some breakfast, went and ran a mile, it was really tough... You know, I just wanted to touch it, a little bit." During the track "Lyrical Exercise" he often references running but uses it as an extended metaphor for the way he trains and hones his skills as a rapper. 
  • Golf - Hov has a mean backswing. Check him out during Memphis Bleek's "Do My" video launching one into the city. 
  • Push-ups / General - In 2003 he was pictured with his then-personal trainer Gregg Miele. In a Rolling Stone feature from 2005 it was revealed he had a gym at his house in New Jersey, and had used it the morning of the interview. He was pictured with exercise physiologist Marco Borges in 2016 at a basketball game. He was pictured backstage in 2006 doing push-ups to "stay fresh". A beautiful home video also exists of Hov doing push-ups with daughter Blue Ivy. 




30 Things You Might Have Forgotten About Growing Up, NSW Edition

Never Step On The Cracks!!!

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Just don't. Trust me.

Custom Backgrounds for your Nokia
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Sure, they cost a fair bit of money, but it was totally worth it! How else were people to know you like The Backstreet Boys?

Happy Harold

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The mere sight of the trailer sent the entire school into a state of high anticipation. It's a giraffe talking about how important it is to eat carrots, why did we adore it so much?

Fundraising with boxes of Freddo Frogs and Caramello Koalas


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No playground was ever complete without some kid wearily moving between student groups trying to offload some fat and sugar for a dollar. It was fantastic to be honest! Even better when Cadbury started using their chocolate blocks in the boxes as well.

Trips to Wonderland were God-Like

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Our parents used to surprise us with visits. They'd get us in the car on some pretence about visiting some relative and we'd end up here. Words can't express how I feel about this place. It was a place for us to bond as a family, to have fun together and create beautiful, vivid memories. It was a true wonderland, filled with delight at every turn. The rides never got stale, especially not the Bush Beastie, which I swear lifted off the rails on that first drop. 

RIP to a legend. 



Trips to Luna Park were less God-Like

https://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/12121270906Alex Prolmos via Flickr. License
Luna Park is much more a vibe thing. It's a place to go with mates and chill out and have a bit of fun, whereas Wonderland was always a full-day event, with plans and intense concentration. It was always a bit of a cop out when your school went here, especially after they got rid of the Big Dipper.

The obligatory school camp to Canberra

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Our nation's capital. Also sinfully boring except for the Telstra Tower, which is a beautiful work of art. Bonus points if you had to come all the way up from Victoria. 

High school's with vending machines and proper canteens

© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, via Wikimedia Commons
If your school canteen looks like this it was happy days. I used to eat cream buns, sausage rolls and LA Ice cola almost every day, but my absolute favourite was the custard doughnut. I assume school canteens are now watered down and boring. Seems like it's the same with vending machines, they're selling apples and such instead of vanilla coke.

Carob Buds

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Back in primary school I guess someone in charge thought carob was healthier than chocolate. Maybe the lack of caffeine was the reason. I adore carob buds now, and they're so hard to find!

Scallops 50c each/5 for $1.50

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Deep fried potato. Not to be confused with "Potato Pancakes", which don't exist.

Nesquik on everything!


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Milo was fine, but it was kind of a one trick pony. Quik was capable of so much: ice cream topping, sprinkled on yoghurt, added to milk (it combined much easier than Milo), sneakily added to Rice Bubbles to make Coco Pops. Delicious.



McDonald's Playground

AussieGold via FlickrLicense
How good was Macca's form? Not only did they peddle junk food to children, they provided them with as a place to burn it all off! People talk about being carbon neutral, but McDonald's was calorie neutral. They were fun too, just not in the summer... 

McDonald's Birthday Party

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Remember the ice cream cake? And how they used to take us on a tour of the giant freezer? Epic. 

Red Rattlers

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Some of these legit didn't have freaking doors. They weren't nicknamed "Rattler" because of the bumpy ride, it was because you were rattled about falling asleep on your morning commute and falling out of the carriage on the Harbour Bridge!

Sizzler / Pizza Hut Buffet

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I can't describe the joy I have always felt when entering Sizzler and to a lesser extent Pizza Hut. Sizzler was so freaking good I still go there on occasion. I don't care what anyone says. The dessert bar was stunning, the cheesy toast legendary, and the salad bar allowed you to concoct your own delicacies. Nachos with wedges instead of corn chips, croutons in your spaghetti, bacon bits on your soft serve. RIP guys, you will be missed for eternity.


Music A Viva


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All I remember is a couple of people coming in and playing the Oboe. Better than Maths though!


Learning to sing "Achy Breaky Heart" in Kindergarten


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No idea why we had to sing this. I am sure your school chose something different. At least I hope it did...

Borrowing CDs from the Library

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Before Spotify, libraries were our streaming services. Free!! And who listens to an album for more than 3 days anyway?

Rage

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Before Youtube we had Rage. It was always so exciting to see your favourite song/video, cause you had to sit through 30 others not knowing if they'd ever play it!

Age of Empires 2


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Along with Counterstrike, one of the very first popular internet multiplayer games. I must have spent over 1000 hours playing it. And I still got spanked every time.

Cheez TV


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Just look at this ridiculous list of shows! Nothing more to say.


ICQ/MSN Messenger

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Did you know there was usually a log of all your conversations, archived somewhere on your HD? If you still have your hard drive from back then dust it off and try and find them!

Trends that lasted 6 months at the very least

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Jacks, Yo-Yos, scooters, Pokemon cards, Tazos, all of these took our school by storm for a really long time. Without the internet to introduce a new meme very day, we fixated on something and stuck to it.

Gak

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Before Minecraft, we had things like Gak. It's exactly what it looks like: a giant glob of goo. Stretchy and sticky, it really got disgusting quickly, thanks to dirt, dust, food, hair, fur, and all manner of junk getting stuck to it. After 6 hours it turned into a giant ball of disease. It tasted rubbish too. 

Clag Glue/Blu Stick

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Every kindergarten table in my school had a big pot of Clag glue, and they should have just given us all spoons before class everyday, because most of it ended up in our stomachs. It was bloody delicious. 

I never thought I'd love a glue more until the Blu Stick came out. Made by Bostik, glue went on blue and dried clear, so you could see where you had glued and where needed more glue. Glue glue glue glue glue. Blu stick tasted terrible though. 



Writing your lunch order on a brown paper bag


By Matt Edward [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
This just reminded me I adore my mother so much.

Saturday morning sport on frosty grass

Tbmynors assumed. [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Winter sports that started any time before 9am were absolutely brutal! Now you know why you love to sleep in on the weekend, because you wasted all your weekend morning energy chasing after a cricket ball that you couldn't pick up without gloves!


Legendary Characters

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You might have forgotten Grug, but guys like Blinky Bill, Brum, Agro, Mr Squiggle, Johnson & Friends, Babar, and Bananas in Pajamas are going to be your imaginary friends for life!


Sydney 2000 Olympics


By David Shapinsky from Washington, D.C., United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
How bloody good were they?! Magical time.


John Howard


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This legend.

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