The Surprising Strategy Behind Jay Z’s Business Moves

“I'm not a businessman—I'm a business, man,” goes one of Jay Z's most famous punchlines. And it's certainly true that Hov's business acumen has been a cornerstone of his public persona for many, many years, arguably dating back to the mafioso-rap days of Reasonable Doubt

But a closer look at many of Jay's business maneuvers, particularly his endorsement deals, shows a strange pattern. Almost without exception, Jay will align himself with the company that is number two or three in the marketplace, and rarely the leader. 

Once you notice this trend, you begin to see it all over the place. Jay's early-aughts sneaker deal was with Reebok, not Nike. When he teamed with a search engine for the release of Decoded, it was Microsoft's Bing, not Google. When he bought 1/15th of one percent of an NBA team in New York City, it was the Nets and not the Knicks (yes, he's from Brooklyn, but still). When he hooked up smartphone users with his new album, it was Samsung holders and not people with iPhones. When he wanted to increase awareness of The Blueprint 3 via a subscription-based music service, it was Rhapsody (remember them?) and not Spotify or Pandora. When he invested in a video-sharing app in 2012, it was the now-all-but-deceased Viddy, as opposed to Instagram.

Almost without exception, Jay will align himself with the company that is number two or three in the marketplace, and rarely the leader. 

In fact, arguably the only leading companies Hov has joined forces with are Hewlett-Packard, who have been running neck-and-neck with Lenovo for first place in global market share in personal computers for the past several years; and Duracell.  

For someone as careful and calculating as Jay Z to consistently behave like this, there must be a good reason. While we can't be certain about the motives behind Jay's moves (Hov, if you're reading this, call us), there are some huge advantages to his behavior.

Zack O'Malley Greenburg, Senior Entertainment Editor at Forbes, is the author of Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, a business biography of the rap titan. He pointed out that Jay's strategy is a win-win for both rapper and what Greenburg euphemistically refers to as “underdog brands.”

“Jay Z often does deals with underdog brands because they have more ground to gain from a connection with him,” he told Complex. “And in some cases, there may not be a deal on the table with the industry leader.”

“I don't know that he could have gotten necessarily a stake in the Knicks, or at least couldn't have done it as easily or on as favorable terms as he did with the Nets,” he continued. “I would think the same thing goes for some of the other deals when you look at it down the line. I think it speaks to the goal, which is to use his cool points and employ them to boost a brand that could use some boosting.”

Those “cool points” are often directly translatable into dollar signs. In the Nets deal, for example, he was able to turn a $1 million investment into a 135 percent return, and to garner a heavy association with the Nets and their Barclays Center arena, thereby gaining incalculable free advertising. Hov opened up the arena with a string of concerts in 2012, and continues to be associated with the venue, even though he has long since sold his stake of one-fifth of one percent. 

And being associated with second-tier companies has not proven to saddle Jay with any long-term negative associations. 

“Even if he associates with a second-tier brand, it doesn't tarnish his image so much as it gets people saying, 'Oh, there's Jay, he got a good deal. There he is making savvy business moves again,'” Greenburg explained. “In some ways, because of that business focus that he's always had throughout his career and that he's done a very good job of publicizing, he's seen more as a dealmaker than a sellout.”

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The Best TV Shows of 2017 (So Far)

The first six months of 2017, we can all agree, have been hot garbage. Everything in the news cycle ranges from merely troubling to potentially catastrophic. Thankfully, there's no shortage of distractions to give some temporary relief, coming in the form of great TV programming. On other hand, the amount of great television shows to pick from can be, frankly, panic-inducing. 

Lucky for you, it's our job to sift through the reality shows of Bravo, the comedies of FXX, the dramas of HBO, and the literally everything on Netflix to discover what is and what isn't worth watching. Mid-year brings a surprising lack of reboots (with one exception), only one superhero show, and a whole menagerie of comedies. Guess we're looking for some feel-good television (jk, you know that's not true). And with that, here are our Best TV shows of 2017 so far. 


  • 25. Billions

    Network: Showtime
    Starring: Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff, Malin Akerman, Toby Leonard Moore

    Billions centers around the financial world, which normal cinematic convention would dictate means there’s a ridiculously rich guy pitted against the law. To get more specific about it, Damian Lewis plays Axe, the manager of a hedge fund with a penchant for dirty deals and insider trades, who is constantly dodging the fury of Chuck Rhoades (Giamatti), who is the powerful, BDSM-loving U.S. Attorney General who is out to get Axe. It’s a classic set-up for juicy interrogation scenes and explosive investigations, and Billions delivers on all of that with an iconic yellow sports car to boot, but the stakes are turned all the way up in the show’s second season. This year also saw the addition of the excellent Asia Kate Dillon to the cast, who plays the first gender non-binary character in TV history. —Julia Pimentel


  • 24. The Young Pope

    Network: HBO
    StarringJude Law, Diane Keaton, Silvio Orlando 

    Jude Law played the role of Lenny Belardo, the Church’s first American-born pontiff, masterfully as he juggled dealing with the Cardinals trying to thwart his papacy behind his back while struggling with his own inner demons. The young god was in the Vatican chainsmoking cigarettes and performing miracles like it was nobody’s business for 10 of the most stylish episodes you’ll ever watch. The Young Pope is sort of like an artsy West Wing but for Vatican City as show creator Paolo Sorrentino lifts the veil on the way politics are handled in one of the world’s highest institutions. There was some dark comedy, graphic sex scenes, and powerful performances—shouts to Diane Keaton and Silvio Orlando for killing their respective roles. I wish the rules of the church would let their characters fall in love, but the life of a priest and a nun is about keeping sins of the flesh at bay, and only loving God. —Angel Diaz


  • 23. Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

    Network: TBS
    StarringSamantha Bee, Allana Harkin, Ashley Nicole Black

    Trump's presidency has given Full Frontal a LOT of material for season two, and Samantha Bee uses all the insanity to her advantage. Highlights included her evisceration of Ivanka Trump and her special Full Frontal episode, “'Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner,” which included an appearance from Will Ferrell as George W. Bush. Unfortunately, Full Frontal would be a lot more funny if it weren't all so real. —Lauren Zupkus


  • 22. Veep

    Network: HBO
    StarringJulia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale

    This season of Veep has been so incredibly good as Selina Meyer tries to live the life of a former president the best way she can. The only thing is she was the leader of the free world for like a year and gets no respect. She’s essentially the Rodney Dangerfield of former presidents. A library for the first woman president should be a no-brainer, right? Shit, even Jimmy Carter has one; nope, no library love for the first female commander-in-chief in the history of man. But Jonah Ryan (played by Timothy Simons) steals the show, as his pettiness and incompetence knows no bounds in his role as a New Hampshire congressman. Every episode ups the ante as Selina tries to write a memoir while wrangling the gang of misfits she’s put in charge of handling her affairs. Veep is perfectly vulgar, smart, witty, and outrageous; the perfect recipe for winning a treasure trove of Emmys once again. —Angel Diaz

     


  • 21. Catastrophe

    Network: Amazon
    AmazonSharon Horgan, Rob Delaney, Mark Bonnar 

    While Catastrophe bears the great honor of having Carrie Fisher’s last onscreen appearance—which is terrific BTW—the British comedy (well, maybe dramedy) in its third season has continued to be one of the best depictions of marriage on television. Sharon (Sharon Horgan, a true kween) and Rob (Rob Delaney) are in the midst of a rough patch, dealing with infidelity, unemployment, and aging parents. While the heart of the show will always be Sharon and Rob’s relationship, which is both abrasive and loving, season three ups the ante while exploring Rob’s escalating drinking relapse–perhaps one of the more realistic portrayals of alcoholism on television. Yeah, it’s a lot of heavy stuff, but it’ll also make you laugh your ass off. (And cry because of, y’know, Fisher’s last appearance). —Kerensa Cadenas
     


  • 20. Santa Clarita Diet

    Network: Netflix
    StarringDrew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson 

    Honestly, Netflix had me at “Drew Barrymore plays a zombie real estate agent.” While my wife couldn’t be in the room because of Drew’s gorging on the flesh of the living and the gore that came with that premise, the series was deeper than Suburban Night of the Living Dead. It was about a family and its struggles to deal with each other, hiding secrets and desires while trying to do right by each other. Barrymore and Timmy Olyphant nailed their performances, grounding their black comedy with flying colors. If you can get past the ultraviolence, there’s a truly heartfelt show residing underneath. —khal

     


  • 19. Fargo

    Network: FX
    StarringBilly Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman 

    Season three hasn’t been as good as the two previous seasons, but Fargo is still premium television, especially the second half of this year’s chapter. The northern Midwest and idiot criminals go together like oh and jeez. This season feels a bit darker with Ewan McGregor playing Emmit and Ray Stussy—two brothers at odds over a rare stamp collection. When the younger of the two, Ray, tries to get the last stamp left with the help of his ex-con lady Nikki Swango (the underrated Mary Elizabeth Winstead) he sets off a series of events that can only happen on a show like Fargo. There’s also a shadowy British mob figure with bad teeth involved in all this because of course there is. Murder and mystery soon follow as Emmit, Ray, and V.M. Varga (that British mobster I mentioned earlier) try to get Eden Valley police chief Gloria Burgle (played by Carrie Coon of the Leftovers fame) off their tracks. Fargo is beautifully shot, well written, and fun for the entire family. Sex, murder, and mayhem should be enjoyed with the people you love. —Angel Diaz


  • 18. The Americans

    Network: FX
    StarringKeri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Maximiliano Hernandez, Holly Taylor

    When this story of two high-level, ultra-secret and deadly KGB spies debuted back in 2013, it was a good show. But now that our President might be a Russian hack himself and we might as well be pledging allegiance to Mother Russia, The Americans has gained an eerie, prescient quality that only adds to the show’s already suspenseful tone. This season has been Philip and Elizabeth Jennings struggling more than ever before with their spy work in America, as the toll their life takes on their family comes into sharp focus with every passing day. This fantastic slow-burning drama showed it knows how to play the long game in this year’s season, with several expertly drafted parallel storylines and supremely well acted moments, and even though we know from showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields that there will only be one more season, The Americans has likely already cemented its place in TV’s hall of fame. —Julia Pimentel


  • 17. Girls

    Network: HBO
    Starring
    Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver

    This year brought the official end of Lena Dunham’s white female millennial story, and with it came the end of one of the most distinct and unapologetic shows in recent history. Although the show was often at the center of controversy—most notably its lack of diverse character representation—it still managed to become one of the best representations of the millennial social milieu ever depicted on television, and that is largely because of Dunham’s ambitious knack for raw storytelling. The show’s final season is an ode to growing up in New York City: how has the Hannah Horvath who asked her parents for money in the first scene of the first episode changed, now that she is raising a biracial baby on her own upstate? The show’s dedication to character development is its greatest strength. —Julia Pimentel


  • 16. The Breaks

    Network: VH1
    Starring: Afton Williamson, Wood Harris, Tristan “Mack” Wilds

    With an impressive backdoor pilot in the form of 2016’s TV movie The Breaks, the first season of The Breaks stayed truer to the world of hip-hop than series like The Get Down and Empire. Where The Get Down fancied itself as a glamorous re-telling of the time before hip-hop was a thing, and Empire is a glamorous soap about hip-hop at its excess, The Breaks keeps it a buck, staying grounded in that sweet spot of hip-hop finding its way in a mainstream that was ready for it. No one was balling like that, which made the hunger 20 times realer. Afton Williamson is a star as Nikki, and hold her own alongside a cast featuring everyone from The Wire alum Wood Harris, Tristan “Mack” Wilds, and Method Man to Sinqua Walls, Melonie Diaz, and David Call. It’s no wonder that the series picked up its second season, even though it’ll be interesting to see what a move to BET will do for the future of the show. —khal


  • 15. Twin Peaks

    Network: Showtime
    StarringKyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Kimmy Robertson 

    TV revivals are certainly in vogue, but that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be good: the X-Files had a particularly embarrassing return to the small screen last year, with Arrested Development not faring much better the year prior. But in the case of Twin Peaks: The Return, the long-awaited third season of David Lynch’s dreamy mystery series, the beloved show has never been better. Stuffed with guest stars like Naomi Watts and Michael Cera and oscillating between crime stories in New York City, South Dakota and the titular Twin Peaks, The Return um, returns, to Lynch’s perennial obsession with the seedy underbelly of suburbia in traditionally gorgeous form. Far more meandering and opaque than the quirky, coffee-fueled small town story that preceded it, Lynch has expanded the world of his series tenfold: to sumptuous, rebelliously satisfying effect. —Aubrey Page


  • 14. I Love Dick

    Network: Amazon
    Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Hahn, Griffin Dunne 

    Did you ever realize that you needed to see Kevin Bacon, in full cowboy garb, hand rolling a cigarette? Would you ever guess it might be one of the sexiest TV scenes of the year? Well, that’s a very good reason to watch I Love Dick immediately. Another one is the truly underrated and completely compelling Kathryn Hahn as Chris, a manic, brilliant filmmaker who follows her academic husband to Marfa, Texas when her movie is rejected by a major film festival. There she falls for Dick (played by Kevin Bacon), a fellow academic where her husband will be residing. Chris and her husband Sylvere become obsessed with Dick—which culminates in a letter writing project—that stirs up their formerly dormant libidos and Chris’s creativity. From Jill Soloway, the mind behind Transparent, I Love Dick doesn’t care about traditional television structure or narrative—it can be tough to watch but it’s utterly engaging and breathtaking at times. Episode five, “A Short History of Weird Girls,” might be the best television episode of the year AND the best examination of female desire on screen ever. —Kerensa Cadenas


  • 13. New Girl

    Network: Fox
    Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield 

    Listen, there are higher-rated sitcoms, sitcoms with more award buzz, sitcoms that are brilliant in their own right. But New Girl is the funniest most original situation comedy out right now. The fact that it's long in the tooth—renewal was so touch and go this year the finale was filmed to serve as a *series* conclusion if need be—is its greatest benefit. These are characters so uniquely bizarre and actors who have been inhabiting them and cohabiting with each other for like a decade now. Their freedom and trust to be wacky with their personas and with each other is unbridled, earned, and a fucking joy to watch. What Lamorne, Jake, and Max Greenfield do in any given episode should be taught in comic courses everywhere. This is the series that made Megan Fox funny for Christsake, case closed. —Frazier Tharpe


  • 12. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

    Network: The CW
    Starring: Rachel Bloom, Vincent Rodriguez III, Donna Lynne Champlin 

    Season two of The CW’s Golden Globe-winning twisted musical rom-com upped the ante on Rebecca Bunch’s craziness. After much dogged determination, the apple of her eye—the dull Josh Chan—was finally hers. Well, not without many ups and downs. While Josh and Rebecca’s relationship completely went off the rails, the best part of season two was Rebecca’s blossoming friendships with the women around her and finally some semblance of self-awareness. Don’t worry, it all rapidly falls apart in the absolutely perfect finale and season three Rebecca is primed for revenge. And that’s great, because our favorite Rebecca is the most unhinged version of herself, which always promises even better songs. —Kerensa Cadenas


  • 11. The Keepers

    Network: Netflix
    StarringTom Nugent, Deb Silcox, Gemma Hoskins 

    True crime shows have oversaturated the television game in recent years, but the story brought to light in Netflix's The Keepers is an account worth telling. With the pace of Making a Murderer and a theme that echoes 2015's Spotlight, The Keepers seeks to uncover the mystery of Cathy Cesnik, a popular Baltimore nun whose murder remains unsolved. Without much cooperation from the police, Cesnik's tenacious former students form a grassroots investigation to find both answers and healing in the wake of their favorite teacher's death. Much like Making a Murderer and The Jinx, The Keepers has inspired a renewed effort to revisit the seemingly botched case. —Lauren Zupkus


  • 10. The Handmaid’s Tale

    Network: Hulu
    Starring: Elisabeth Moss, O-T Fagbenle, Yvonne Strahovski 

    When we first sat down to debate what should be on this list and where it should be, Handmaid's Tale was considerably higher. ​The first three episodes of the adaptation of Margaret Atwood's landmark '80s novel are chilling, a masterclass in an ugly narrative so beautifully made you can't look away. But you do have to pause. Even for the seen-it-all, not of faint heart, this story of a dystopian future where the New American World Order is one that hides behind biblical text to instate an aggressively chauvinist society is a tough pill to swallow. Couple that with a worldwide fertility crisis and the ultimate nightmare is engineered: the rare amount of designated fertile women, like our narrator, June, are made into handmaids. As June describes early on, not concubines but wombs with legs. Their identities and personalities are stripped—June, for example becomes Offred as in of Fred, her “owner”—and once a month a ritual rape occurs in the hopes of impregnation. It's harrowing stuff, made even more unsettling by flashbacks that show how the climate that allowed the world to devolve to this…a climate not too dissimilar from our own.

    Elisabeth Moss is rivaling her iconic work in Mad Men already—her face conveys a multitude of contrasting emotions in any given scene. Samara Wiley, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, and especially Yvonne Strahovski and Alexis Bledel, form a murder's row of talent. Too bad then, that the back half of the season is undoing itself by spending too much time in the serialized TV muck. I haven't read the book, but aspects of a rebellion plot and Offred's involvement seem hackneyed and cliched. A flashback episode revealing what happened to a character from the pilot gave me Walking Dead PTSD. The decision to pair it with another, even less compelling and illuminating male-centric flashback ep is downright bemusing. It's almost as frustrating as the music choices, which veer from workably ironic to on-the-nose and corny. But at press time, the penultimate episode is a fine return to form. A TV season is a marathon, prestige is a pace that lags and laps from episode to episode. However Handmaid finishes the race, we'll always have those first three, though. —Frazier Tharpe


  • 9. Master of None

    Network: Netflix
    StarringAziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe

    Master of None is a frustrating show. In the series’ second season, creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Wang demonstrated greater maturity and interest in the experiences of its peripheral characters, specifically the women; but its execution was inconsistent. As perfect as “Thanksgiving” was, with its anchoring performance from the ageless Angela Bassett and heartfelt exploration of Lena Waithe’s Denise, the development of Dev’s love interest this season, Alessandra Mastronardi’s Francesca, felt wanting at best.

    Because I’m taken with the show’s impeccable soundtrack, sincere love for New York, and its fairy tale qualities—something I’ve used to justify the odd performances and line readings from many of the actors, Ansari and Eric Wareheim specifically—I squinted at Francesca. I tried to give her a more generous reading, glomming on to her as a character feeling trapped by a provincial upbringing. She’s intentionally opaque to the viewer in the same way that she can be unreadable to Dev (granted, this doesn’t allow for the show to do anything sophisticated with dramatic irony, and so that’s a strike against the storytelling). But after talking about the final episodes with friends, it’s clear that she’s just not there. More time is spent on her freaking out over diarrhea medicine than on figuring out what makes her tick, and it shows that as much as the show has evolved since its first season, it still needs to grow in crucial ways.

    Still, Master of None has taste and really cares about music—see the inclusion of Timmy Thomas and Lucio Battisti and Gigi Maslin. It understands the immediate pathos of music in a way that isn’t gimmicky or hamfisted, something you can’t say about otherwise strong shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and even The Leftovers. —Ross Scarano


  • 8. Dear White People

    Network: Netflix
    StarringLogan Browning, Brandon P. Bell, Marque Richardson, DeRon Horton, Antoinette Robertson 

    Based on Justin Simien’s 2014 movie of the same name, Dear White People picks up exactly where the movie left off, using the blackface Halloween party that was at the climax of the movie as the impetus for the 10 episode character-centered storyline. The show has the same Ivy League, smooth aesthetic, and since a large portion of the cast reprised their roles, everything feels familiar. Perhaps most importantly, the show embodies the same unapologetic approach to the thorniest of race issues as the film did, always straddling the line between activism and outright anger, but because the 10 episode arc has more time and space to explore the tensions within the social classes of Winchester University, the show is able to reach farther than the movie ever could. While it can, at times, get overly didactic, Dear White People is a powerful ode to “woke” culture, tackling the issue of race in modern-day America explicitly through the lens of young black folk. —Julia Pimentel


  • 7. Better Call Saul

    Network: AMC
    StarringPatrick Fabian, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks 

    While its ratings are slipping (it’s gone from roughly 3 million viewers on average in its first season to barely holding onto 1.5 million a week in season three), Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul continues to shine when it comes to quality. There’s a beauty in its turtle pace, the slow descent into madness that is Jimmy McGill’s pre-Walter White life has been a blessing. We not only get to see the entrance of Gus Fring into the series this season, and the early machinations of his relationship to Mike, but there are also some realizations regarding McGill’s shift to Saul Goodman. Honestly, though, if this series is going to be this damn good, we could deal with another season (or two) of build-up before reaching its satisfying climax. —khal


  • 6. Riverdale

    Network: The CW
    StarringK.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse 

    As the No. 1 fans of The CW, there was no way we weren’t going to love Riverdale but I don’t think we expected to LOVE it this much. Best described as The O.C. meets Twin Peaks meets Archie Comics, the show has an almost overwhelming amount of elements—teen drama, soap opera, murder mystery, romance—and could easily fall into substandard teen fare but it never does due in part to its brilliant casting. It’s a mix of unknowns for Archie (K.J. Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and Jughead (Cole Sprouse, of child fame) coupled with teen stars of yore as their parents Skeet Ulrich, Molly Ringwald, Mädchen Amick, and Luke Perry. This creates a delicious dynamic of unrequited love (and, uh, incest), as a small town is rocked by mystery and solving the murder of the dead high school quarterback, Jason Blossom. Plus, we’ve really got to give it to Betty for making rage fists a thing.—Kerensa Cadenas
     


  • 5. The Good Place

    Network: NBC
    Starring: Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil 

    I’m not sure anyone expected The Good Place—the high-concept Kristen Bell-led comedy about a woman who accidentally lands herself in heaven despite not actually being a great person during her time on earth—to be quite as good as it turned out to be. Created by Mike Schur, the guy behind The Office and Parks and Recreation, The Good Place spent its lean 10-episode order building an almost deviously ingenious world, all while laying out engrossing character arcs for Bell’s deliciously acrid Eleanor, Ted Danson’s sunny Michael and William Jackson Harper’s fatally neurotic Chidi in the process. A far more diabolically funny show than the holy glow of the premise implies with one hell of a final episode kicker, The Good Place is one of the best original comedies in years—maybe even decades. —Aubrey Page


  • 4. Chewing Gum

    Network: Netflix
    StarringMichaela Coel, Robert Lonsdale, Susan Wokoma, Danielle Walters, Tanya Franks

    Carried entirely by the brilliant Michaela Coel, who created, wrote, and stars in this British comedy, Chewing Gum is a bubbly, hilarious coming of age story full of Beyoncé references and extremely unsexy sex scenes. Coel plays Tracey Gordon, a horny East Londoner who works at the corner shop and lives with her religious mother and devout sister and will go to literally any length to lose her virginity. If that seems like too simple a plot, you’re underestimating Coel’s epic comedic writing and timing; though the ridiculous ups and downs of Tracey’s relationship with her boyfriend are objectively hilarious, the show is, at its heart, a journey of self-discovery for a young black woman, and this emotional element becomes more apparent than ever in the second season. —Julia Pimentel


  • 3. Legion

    Network: FX
    StarringDan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza 

    With the run FX has been on as of late with series like Atlanta, Better Things, Fargo, and American Crime Story, there was little doubt that they’d nail the first true superhero property in their programming block. What was unexpected is how captivating a series with a C-list member of the X-Men, Legion (who is the son of Professor X) would be. The series, which separated itself from the mostly-lukewarm X-Men Cinematic Universe, scored the most points when it marched to the beat of its own drum. Legion, who is quite possibly one of the most powerful mutants ever, spent the majority of the eight-episode first season trying to understand his powers, while viewers spent most of those episodes trying to learn how to take in the fully-realized world that Noah Hawley created. Luckily, we had stellar performances from Dan Stevens as the unreliable narrator David Haller (aka Legion) and Aubrey Plaza who truly stole every scene she was in— blending a leftfield sense of mania with impressive evil undertones. Legion was a Wes Anderson film masquerading as a superhero series, and got better with each episode. —khal


  • 2. Big Little Lies

    Network: HBO
    StarringReese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley 

    Did anyone really need another show about rich white women? Not really, but wow did Big Little Lies exceed every expectation. The Jean Marc Vallee (his best work tbh) directed, Reese Witherspoon produced drama based on the novel by Liane Moriarty follows a group of Monterey, California moms—sniping and griping about their day-to-day lives, which primarily revolves around their grade school aged children. But under the picturesque California landscape, of course, lies something much more sinister. A greek chorus of Monterey parents, teachers and partners all work to unravel a murder that has rocked their idyllic community. With breathtaking turns from Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley, along with an impressive supporting cast of Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, and many #thespian children, Big Little Lies is full of salacious drama, heartbreak and utterly proves that it’s not just a “woman’s show.” A big middle finger to all those dudes out there who said that because these ladies are laughing all the way to every goddamn awards show out. —Kerensa Cadenas


  • 1. The Leftovers

    Network: HBO
    StarringJustin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston

    Seven years ago, Damon Lindelof (along with co-showrunner Carlton Cuse) delivered one of the most divisive finales of all time with LOST. It's easy to analyze the ways in which the finale of his latest series, The Leftovers, is both a reaction and commentary to the LOST fallout. But truly, the entirety of The Leftovers was one big subtweet to to the same people whose vitriol literally drove Lindelof off of Twitter. Leftovers was never a show about #answers, it was always a show with its own smoke monsters, Daddy issues, and men of science dueling with men of faith—but without an Orientation video when Justin Theroux sweatily demands answers. The Leftovers has other, much more important themes and missions: mainly, being the ultimate treatise on grief and faith that we've seen on television in some time.

    Truly, season 2 ended perfectly. We didn't quite need a third, and that worried me. Shame on me: just when I thought Leftovers resolved all of its characters inner turmoils, it used this renewal to make the ultimate statement: we never ~truly~ get over our shit. We learn to live with it, keep living in lieu of it, but the potential for it to rear its head again is always there. And if you let it, it could ruin everything you tried to rebuild. It's been a great year for television—but whatever your fave is, it doesn't have material as weighty as this countered with truly authentically capital-w Weird shit like a Tasmanian Sex Boat dedicated to Frasier the lion, and have that not even be the weirdest, funniest aspect of the episode. Goodbye to this beautiful, captivating, soul-crushing masterpiece. I hope everyone left standing in the end is doing OK, but we all probably know the answer to that.—Frazier Tharpe

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Nick Cannon Shows His Sneaker Closet

Wild’ N Out host Nick Cannon has been making people laugh for nearly 20 years, and he has the same dedication to his sneakers as he does his craft. For the most recent episode of Complex Closets, Joe La Puma met up with Cannon at his house in New Jersey and got a tour of his legendary footwear collection.

In the episode he shows the world’s most expensive shoes, a $2 million pair of Tom Ford diamond-encrusted slip-ons. When it comes to the sneaker portion of the segment, Cannon shows off a pair of custom Gucci Air Maxes, a never-before-seen Goyard/BAPE/Jordan 1 custom, and then reveals for the first time his exclusive Wild N' Out Air Jordan VIIs.

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Remy Ma Performs Her Nicki Minaj Diss “Shether” at Summer Jam 2017

Remy Ma said she was all done beefing with Nicki Minaj back in May, but when she got her chance on the Summer Jam stage, she did not feel like holding back. Flanked by some of the leading ladies in hip-hop history, Remy openly disrespected Minaj before performing a rendition of her diss track, “Shether.”

According to reports from within MetLife Stadium, Remy brought out a gang of some of the biggest female MC's in hip-hop history, and yes, she made Minaj the next contestant on that Summer Jam screen.

After paying homage to a strong history of female MC's—and conveniently leaving out Nicki—Remy went right from subtle shade to an outright attack, performing “Shether” for an amped up crowd.

Although plenty of rappers in the past have threatened to air out their business at Summer Jam—Nas planned to hang a dummy meant to look like Jay Z at Summer Jam 2002—few are really willing to take it there. Remy using her performance to put Nicki on blast shows both how much animosity she holds for Minaj and her understanding of the significance of the Summer Jam stage and screen in hip-hop.

Minaj re-sparked the beef when she fired shots at the Bronx native on “Realize,” which may have been enough motivation for Remy to open up this wound again. We'll have to see if this escalates further from here, because you can't back down from a call-out at Summer Jam.

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North Carolina Teacher Arrested for Allegedly Having Sex with 3 High Schoolers

A North Carolina teacher was arrested and charged with sexual assault, after an investigation reportedly revealed sexual relationships with at least three of her male students.

Erin McAuliffe, a 25-year-old teacher at Rocky Mount Prep, has been under investigation since May 5, when local police were informed by administrators at the school of possible inappropriate conduct. Detectives spoke with numerous faculty members and students at the school, and eventually concluded McAuliffe had sexual contact with three different male students off-campus, aged 16, 17, and 17 years old respectively.

According to local news reports, McAuliffe was fired the day a police report was filed by the school's president in early May. Parents and former students at the school alike expressed their concern that someone in a position of authority was allegedly abusing that stature.

“It's very shocking and appalling that a person would do that with a student,” said Dayvon Steele, a recent Rocky Mount grad. “The teacher student-relationship is very intimate in itself, but it's not meant to be abused in that sort of way.”

McCauliffe was charged with three counts of sexual activity with a student, and one count of indecent liberties with a minor. The former teacher was placed in Carteret County jail on $20,000 bond on Thursday, and court records show she posted bond Friday afternoon.

Her LinkedIn page shows this was McAuliffe's first year as a teacher, having spent her previous years as a data analyst in San Diego and as a sales rep at a Chevy dealership in Rocky Mount. 

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5 Things We Learned About 2 Chainz on ‘Everyday Struggle’

2 Chainz joined Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, and Nadeska Alexis on Thursday's new episode of Everyday Struggle. The new Chainz album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music drops Jun. 16 and will be followed by a just-announced tour of the same name spanning 35 dates, so there was plenty to discuss during the hour-long conversation. 

Below, we've rounded up 5 highlights from the latest episode of Everyday Struggle. The full interview can be watched above.

2 Chainz is already working on the follow-up to Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.

“I'm not content,” 2 Chainz said. “I'm thirsty for more success, more fans, bigger venues, more touring.” Chainz added that he wakes up with new ideas every single day. “I'm gonna fuck the game up,” he said. The next album will show “this other side” of Chainz as an artist.

2 Chainz doesn't worry about counting bars.

“I didn't know a line where a line ended,” Chainz said of his early work, noting that he still doesn't worry about when hooks come in on a track. “So the first people who were teaching me how to do bars, I just was one of them defiant students.” 

Lil Wayne helped 2 Chainz ditch the idea of traditional music structure.

Elaborating on his “I don't know how to count bars” approach, Chainz credited Lil Wayne with teaching him how to not give a single fuck about traditional song structure. While on tour with Wayne in 2008, Chainz witnessed Wayne rap beyond what he thought was “the hook sound” of a track before Wayne shut that entire concept down. “I said, 'Hey bruh, you rapped over the hook sound,'” Chainz recalled. “He said, 'Boy, ain't no hook sound, bitch.'”

2 Chainz recorded “Birthday Song” on the tour bus.

“Birthday Song,” his collaboration with Kanye West from the 2012 album Based on a T.R.U. Story, was recorded on his tour bus. “When I bought a bus, it had a studio in it,” Chainz said. “So 'Birthday Song' was done in my bus. [Kanye West] flew to South by Southwest to see me perform. We got on my bus and did 'Birthday Song.' I did a lot of my album, the first album that you hear, on my bus already doing shows and touring. To me, the studio was my trap.”

2 Chainz believes hip-hop shouldn't have rules, even when it comes to ghostwriting.

“What's happening is, you can still get you a Lamborghini and not be on TV,” Chainz said. “They reward you differently now.”

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Inside the Beef That Lead to XXXTentacion Getting Knocked Out

During the San Diego stop on his Revenge Tour, 19-year-old Florida-based rapper XXXTentacion got knocked out mid-song while performing at The Observatory. The assailant, who's identity has not been confirmed, is said to be an associate of Rob Stone, a 22-year-old rapper from San Diego who made some noise with a song “Chill Bill” but has been connected to XXXTentacion through a beef that's been stirring since April of this year.

With XXXTentacion's name being in the news circuit for most of 2017, and a flurry of theories regarding what happened in this altercation (which someone who may or may not have been the person who attacked XXXTentacion being stabbed), the question on everyone's lips is “what the hell happened?”

Let's walk back to the beginning of the beef, which reportedly features everything from grabbing mics, more violent attacks, and a rapper named Ski Mask The Slump God. Here's a look at Rob Stone and XXXTentacion's beef.

April 9, 2017: Ski Mask the Slump God escorted off stage during Rob Stone performance

To understand how XXXTentacion and Rob Stone started beefing, you have to understand Stone's beef with Ski Mask the Slump God, another Florida-based rapper who is down with XXXTentacion. According to reports, Ski Mask was escorted off the stage at a show at The Observatory on a San Diego date for Desiigner's Outlet Tour.

As the story goes, Ski Mask tried getting on the mic as Rob Stone was getting on stage to start his performance. Ski Mask got frustrated over the ordeal and decided to not leave the stage. Footage shows that he ended up getting walked off the stage by a number of unidentified men.

When word got to XXXTentacion about what happened at the show to Ski Mask, he took to Twitter to vent. The tweet, which has since been deleted, said, “Let them know whoever the fuck that is getting fucked in they mouth when I go on tour for putting their peasant hands on my brother.” Rob Stone wasn't here for it, and let it be known in his own tweet.

To which Ski Mask sent his own tweet, insinuating that there was more to the growing friction between himself and Rob Stone.

April 10, 2017: Ski Mask gets jumped

The very next night on Desiigner's Outlet Tour found Ski Mask and Rob Stone getting into it at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. At the start of Ski Mask the Slump God's set, a pair of individuals are jumped him from behind, causing the three of them to fall into the crowd. Ski Mask is said to have then jumped back on stage, and was chased by a whole squad of people.

April 11, 2017: Two sides of the same story

In two separate conversations with XXL, both Rob and Ski Mask laid out their sides of what happened in Los Angeles. Stone likened Ski Mask's set in L.A. to being the “third strike” of disrespect. Strike one was said to have been an incident where Ski Mask ran out during Rob's set in Seattle to interact with fans mid-song. Stone says, “The nigga was ruining my spot. So that was the first strike and I told the nigga, ‘Don’t do that. If you’re gonna run on my set, come on ‘Chill Bill’ at the end.’ So he was like, ‘Aight, cool’ and it was straight.” Stone said strike two was at the San Diego show. According to him, Ski Mask's lateness forced set times to be pushed back, with Ski Mask being told he's go on at 9 p.m. Around 9:25, Stone says Ski Mask finally showed up, and took to the stage as Rob Stone was about to go on. When Stone's DJ wouldn't hand Ski Mask the mic, he got aggy and stood his ground.

Stone said that after the back-and-forth with XXXTentacion and Ski Mask on Twitter, as well as seeing XXX on Instagram Live “talking about Ski Mask gonna slap the shit outta me,” Stone decided he'd approach Ski Mask at the L.A. show, but Ski Mask showed up and hopped right on stage. “I wasn’t even trying to run onstage and do bro like that. I was supposed to get at bro behind the scenes, but he wanna run onstage and not holla at me like a real nigga, so I run onstage and take the mic from blood and then we beat his ass from the stage to the street. And that’s how it goes. And I left his ass out in the street with his ass out and his underwear. And that’s exactly what happened, from beginning to end.”

Ski Mask saw things differently, saying that AEG (who was putting on the Outlet Tour) was trying to get Rob Stone off of the tour. “Statistically, I shouldn’t even perform before him. Looking at numbers, I shouldn’t have to perform before him because it doesn’t make sense. My numbers are way higher than his in general. Then performance wise, this nigga is ass. He doesn’t do good in general in performance. So they were trying to throw him off [the tour] and he was angry as fuck.” Ski Mask also stated that the San Diego date was supposed to be his last date on the tour, but he says he might not have been getting paid.

Now, even though he says he wasn't going to perform if he wasn't going to get paid, he did indicate that he would be telling his fans “'on the mic that I'm not performing.' Because they're gonna think I didn't even pull up and they're gonna be mad.” According to Ski Mask, that's when the footage starts, where he's on the stage not being given a mic, but not wanting to get off the stage.

In the case of the Los Angeles tour date, Ski Mask said he only went there because he “didn't want to seem pussy,” indicating that he “didn’t think, even if he was gonna jump me, he was gonna do it like that, by jumping me on the stage and not even give me the heads up that he’s about to jump me or wait until I’m done performing.” As you can see in the above video, that wasn't the case. Ski Mask also alleges that around eight people attacked him, and at some point, knives were drawn and his friend was stabbed.

They both indicated to XXL that they were no longer a part of Desiigner's Outlet Tour.

May 1, 2017: Rob Stone replaced by Ski Mask the Slump God at Rolling Loud Festival

After their very public scuffles on the Outlet Tour, Ski Mask and Rob Stone would spend time clapping back and forth at each other, but the next real issue was Stone's claims that he was removed from the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. According to a tweet of his on May 1, Stone says he was paid in full in advance “not to show up at the festival,” saying that “the promoter is their boy.”

The “their” is in reference to XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God; XXX was already on the bill, and its said that Ski Mask ended up taking Rob Stone's slot. Stone later spoke out on the situation, reiterating that he was paid not to go “for 'safety & security,'” and spoke on how his issues with XXXTentacion was the cause of him being let go.

 

#robstone says he was paid NOT to attend #rollingloud because of issues with #xxxtentacion (part 1)

A post shared by DJ Akademiks (@akadmiks) on May 8, 2017 at 6:26pm PDT

 

#robstone says he was paid NOT to attend #rollingloud because of issues with #xxxtentacion (part 2)

A post shared by DJ Akademiks (@akadmiks) on May 8, 2017 at 6:30pm PDT

June 7, 2017: XXXTentacion gets suckerpunched

It's hard to tell if XXXTentacion was worrying about any flack from his shared beef with Rob Stone when hitting The Observatory during his Revenge Tour, but knowing what has gone down between Ski Mask and Rob Stone, it's hard to be surprised. During his set, someone ran onstage and knocked XXX out with a blow. The individual was immediately bumrushed by security, with a major scuffle ensuing both on stage and behind-the-scenes.

It appears that many in the building started screaming “Fuck Rob Stone.” After the incident, when XXX came to, he hit Twitter to not only say he was set up, but to throw a threat for the next time someone attacks him.

Fox 5 San Diego reports that at some point during the incident on stage, a 19-year-old was stabbed. They also indicated that, at the time, there were no reported arrests.

At the time of this writing, there's been no comment on social media from Rob Stone, though the Slump God did share a couple of tweets.

Sadly, this doesn't seem like it's going to be over any time soon. Maybe Rolling Loud had the right idea; the heat between these factions is too great to have them near each other. If someone doesn't step up to mediate the situation, this could go from bad to worse very quickly.

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A Recent History of Kanye West’s Music Leaks

Truth be told, music leaks every day, and while some artists' pre-release material might move the news cycle for a bit, no one can dominate a conversation quite like Kanye West. Over the years, his leaks have become the thing of legend, with entire sections of the internet dedicated to cataloging the build-up of new Kanye music, watching it evolve from demos and pre-release material to the finished product (or, in the case of The Life of Pablo, the songs' evolution).

This is something to ponder as we try to figure out what his most recent leaks will end up being. Boasting features from Young Thug, Migos, and ASAP Rocky, the songs have been teased for over a year, with no clear cut indication on where they'd end up. Judging by Kanye's leak history, we might not even get the same songs that we heard this week.

Let's look back at Kanye West's leaked track history in recent times.

May 28, 2010: No one man should leak all that “Power”

Long before we knew what a powerhouse of an album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would turn into, Kanye fans were just hoping he was on his way back toward traditional hip-hop after 2008's 808s and Heartbreak.

When “Power” leaked in the spring of 2010, it was all the evidence we needed to declare Kanye was back. There weren't a whole lot of changes in the song in the time between the leak and the album's final release, but the initial product was so good that it didn't really matter.

May 31, 2013: Q-Tip introduced us to “Mama's Boyfriend”

A track by the name of “Mama's Boy” had been rumored amongst Kanye fans for years, and was allegedly rapped a capella at the Facebook offices during the promotional tour for MBDTF. It didn't end up on the album, and a fake version would eventually surface on the internet in 2011.

Mercifully, Q-Tip freed what sounds like a final version of the song titled “Mama's Boyfriend” while lecturing at the Red Bull Music Academy in 2013. The upbeat snippet didn't sound like it would have fit on MBDTF, but at least it was finally confirmed to be a real track.

Aug. 12, 2014: Someone recorded “All Day” on their phone

The fight to be first on the internet is real, and it was part of the reason “All Day” hit the streets long before the scheduled release date. The leaked version was reportedly unfinished, and Kanye claimed to continue working on the song until March 2015.

Despite the shoddy quality and incomplete nature of the original “All Day” leak, it managed to rise to No. 1 on Billboard's Twitter Trending 140 for five hours. That's the power of Kanye in a nutshell.

March 11, 2015: Kanye thinks Kim Kardashian is “Awesome”

Kanye first played this song for a Met Gala crowd way back in 2013, but it took another two years—and a stolen Kanye laptop—for this song to hit the internet. “Awesome” is believed to be a salute to his wife, Kim Kardashian, but the response to the song was nothing like the title.

Fans have warmed up to Kanye's use of Auto-Tune over the years, but things went into overkill on this one. “Awesome” was never released officially, and maybe that's for the best.

April 11, 2015: Kanye's got the “Midas Touch”

Dropping seemingly out of nowhere, this gold-themed song was speculated to be a reference track for Rihanna, in the same vein of her song “Bitch Better Have My Money.” Her name is all over the track, and Kanye was working together with Rihanna at the time, with their song “Four Five Seconds” releasing months prior to the “Midas Touch” leak.

That's all speculation, however, because there has been no indication since the leak about what the song was supposed to become. Consider this a partially-unsolved mystery.

Jan. 21, 2016: Miley Cyrus hops on “Black Skinhead”

Kanye loves boasting about his ability to mix untraditional combinations of artists—call him Kwa-li or Kwe-li, he'll put him on songs with Jay-Z—and putting Miley Cyrus on a song called “Black Skinhead” certainly qualifies. Cyrus sang lyrics from Tears For Fears' “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” while West switched up the delivery of his lyrics, mixing in Travis Scott vocals alongside a toned-down inflection.

Mike Will hinted the song was in the works dating back to 2013, and hopefully you took advantage of the leak when it finally emerged, because it's a difficult track to hunt down these days.

Feb. 18, 2016: Reddit user releases a whole lot of Pablo tracks

The Life of Pablo is more of a “living” album than a traditional release, and one rambunctious Redditor thought he'd join the creative process for Kanye's latest solo album. Just days after Kanye released Pablo, original or demo versions emerged, including the original version of “Wolves,” full versions of “Waves” and “Fade,” and new tracks like “Only One,” “New Angels,” and a remix of “All Day.”

Kanye wasn't shy about telling the public he had a whole lot of unreleased music in the vault during TLOP, but he didn't comment on this particular leak.

March 31, 2016: Apple Music accidentally leaks “Saint Pablo”

Rappers are always happy to tell you when a record label or third party screws the pooch, and Kanye had a case to make when “Saint Pablo” leaked in early 2016. Ye's link up with Sampha was accidentally posted on Apple Music for a few hours in March, taken down, and then eventually added to Pablo in mid-June.

It wasn't an unknown property when the tech giant let it fly—Kanye had been performing it at shows prior to the leak—but come on, Apple. You only had one job!

Oct. 6, 2016: A Young Thug-assisted version of “Famous” hits the net

Kanye's controversial Pablo track came under fire for targeting pop icon Taylor Swift, but an unreleased version of the song that surfaced later in 2016 changed the formula entirely. Rihanna and Swizz Beatz' vocals got dropped from the track in favor of Young Thug, and West name-dropped his ex, Amber Rose, rather than firing shots at Swift in the track's intro.

The Kanye-Thug collaboration sounded like it was unfinished, but I guess we'll never know—we're still waiting for an official release of this one.

June 4, 2017: Collaborations with Young Thug, Migos, ASAP Rocky, and Travis Scott surface

Individuals behind a site called Music Mafia allegedly hacked Drake's Twitter and afterward were able to get their hands on two songs from Kanye—”Hold Tight” featuring Migos and Young Thug and “Euro (Switch Hands)” featuring ASAP Rocky—as well as a preview of another track with Travis Scott. 

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Is Kendall Jenner a Bigger Signing for Adidas Than Kanye West?

This past week, Adidas made another power move by adding model and reality television star Kendall Jenner to the Originals family. Like it or not, the Kardashian/Jenner family is an extremely influential group whose co-signs have generated major dollars for a wide variety of brands and products for more than a decade. Jenner, who has more than 100 million combined followers on social media, was named Models.com Readers' Choice Model of the Year for 2016. She's also pitched for brand's like Estee Lauder, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and recently starred in a controversial Pepsi ad.

Just how much of an impact can Kendall make with Adidas? Our own Rich “Maze” Lopez and Brendan Dunne discussed the topic on the latest episode of Full Size Run. And while it may be blasphemy to some, the thought of Kendall potentially being a bigger signing for the brand than Kanye West was brought up.

Kanye West and Kendall Jenner
Image via Kevin Winter for Getty Images

“It honestly might be. Not from a product standpoint—that remains to be seen,” said Lopez. “But from a sheer reach and influence standpoint, Kendall Jenner reaches hundreds of millions of people on her Instagram and on Twitter and on her shows. Her influence is undeniable. She has a huge following. To me, this is a massive and huge get for Adidas.”

Dunne is a little more reluctant to make the comparison, holding out for a little more information on what we can expect from the new partnership.

I want to know where they're going to take this. I'm assuming that there's not going to be a lot of product tied to her,” said Dunne. “I do wish Adidas would have come through by now with a little bit more context around what they're planning to do, but I think they can get quite a lot of money's worth by just having her throw a photo of herself in Stan Smiths on her Instagram and things like that.”

View the full episode, including discussions on Art Basel's Adidas lawsuit, Pride Month sneakers, the new Air Jordan Defining Moments Pack and much more above. Be sure to subscribe to Sole Collector on Youtube for future episodes and you can now listen to the show on the go by subscribing to Full Size Run on iTunes.

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