Here’s Shaq’s Advice to Karl-Anthony Towns Following His First Playoff Game

On Sunday night the Timberwolves had an opportunity to take a 1-0 lead over the Rockets. But, alas, it was not meant to be. Instead they lost 104-101. Oh well.

Part of the reason that Minnesota failed to potentially panic Houston by putting them in an early hole was the offensive struggles of Karl-Anthony Towns, who ended the night with just 8 points in 40 minutes on 3-of-9 from the field (in fairness, he also contributed 12 rebounds).

After the game, Shaquille O'Neal (a man who should have credibility due to his vast experience as a 7-foot tall NBA star with more than 200 career playoff starts) gave his two cents on how KAT can improve after his first career postseason contest. In fact, O'Neal felt that Towns' underwhelming playoff debut was due to not demanding the ball in the post with more urgency.

“What I would tell him to do is run to the middle of the floor every time and just stand in there until the ref calls three seconds two times in a row,” O'Neal said, according to Larry Brown Sports. “Not only will it get yourself in the game, the defense starts to panic and they’ll start to double and triple a couple times early and you kick it out to your shooters.

“I know he’s young, but he’s the man on the team and he still needs to demand the ball. When they switch and a little guy (guards) him, all the guards telling him to clear out — no, you don’t move. You say, no give me the ball. Throw me the ball.”

One would think that there are only so many opportunities for an 8-seed to upend a 1. But, whatever, way crazier things have happened. We'll see if anyone was listening when the two teams meet again for Game 2 in Houston on Wednesday night.

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Prodigy Beefed With All Your Favorite Rappers, and Always Held His Own

Albert “Prodigy” Johnson, whose death from complications from sickle cell anemia was confirmed Tuesday afternoon, was a true rap legend. As a part of the duo Mobb Deep with Kejuan “Havoc” Muchita, and on his own (especially when partnering with producer Daniel “The Alchemist” Maman), P made classic music that will stand the test of time.

But almost as much as writing great rhymes, Prodigy loved a good rap beef. His career was filled with battles against many of the greatest rappers of all time, and he usually gave as good as he got.

Here is a by-no-means-definitive list of some of P's greatest rap beefs.

Tha Dogg Pound and 2Pac

In his 2011 memoir My Infamous Life, Prodigy traces his beef with nearly the entire West Coast to one video. He says that the clip for Tha Dogg Pound's collaboration with Snoop Dogg, “New York, New York,” which featured the rappers blown up to Godzilla size, walking through NYC wreaking havoc, was something he took personally.

So Mobb Deep teamed up with Capone-N-Noreaga and made “L.A., L.A.” in retaliation. As the East-West rivalry began to heat up, 2Pac, newly signed to Death Row, decided to get involved. 'Pac went at nearly everybody—Big, Nas, Jay Z, and Mobb Deep, plus a few more people for good measure—on “Hit 'Em Up.”

“Don't one of you niggas got sickle cell or something?” Pac teased on the track. “You fuck around with me, you about to have a seizure or a heart attack.”

P struck back immediately. In his book, he says that the very same day he first heard “Hit 'Em Up,” he went to the studio and recorded the vicious “Drop a Gem on 'Em.”

Sadly, just a few weeks later, 'Pac was killed.

Keith Murray and Def Squad

On the now-famous (and oft-parodied) monologue “The Infamous Prelude,” Prodigy took shots at (nameless) rappers who talk about “how much weed you smoke” and “space shit.”

One rapper who did just that, Keith Murray of Def Squad, felt some type of way. Eventually, they squashed the beef at a video shoot. That is, until Prodigy ignited it again by rhyming about “def kids feeling guilty 'bout the space shit” on LL Cool J's “I Shot Ya”—a record on which Murray appeared as well. 

At that point, Murray got into a fight with P outside NYC nightclub the Tunnel (“Keith Murray and his whole clique/Yeah, you snuffed me in front of the cops, that's bullshit,” Prodigy recalled on “In the Long Run”). The two would continue trading disses back and forth for years.

Jay Z

The “New York, New York” video actually started a second major beef in Prodigy's career. Jay made a passing reference to the clip on his 1998 song “Money, Cash, Hoes”: “It's like New York's been soft ever since Snoop came through and crushed the building.”

It was a line Prodigy took public exception to. “Jay was nowhere to be found when that drama popped off between Mobb Deep, Dogg Pound, Pac, and Biggie,” P told The Source. “That was our little personal beef, not a coastal war… so Jay Z is a bitch-ass nigga for making that quote in his lyrics.”

Tensions that had been stewing for years (there were, P claimed, subliminals thrown back and forth on “Trife Life” and “Where I'm From”) exploded in 2001 when Hov debuted his Mobb Deep diss “Takeover” live at Summer Jam, and included the now-infamous picture of a young Prodigy at his grandmother's dance school. 

“I did like the tactic that Jay used,” Prodigy said years later, about the photo displayed on the Summer Jam screen. “That was pretty slick.” He fired back with “Crawlin'”—and, at least according to his memoir, by nearly beating Jay up at Diddy's restaurant, Justin's


On “Destroy and Rebuild,” released in 2001, Nas took some shots at P, but in a very Nas-like way: “Prodigy, I got love for you,” he says on the song's outro. “Just get them unloyal niggas from out your circle.” Prodigy claimed in his book that Nas rapped this because “he was mad at me for doing a song with Cormega on which Mega took shots at Nas in his verse.”

But there was actually another, deeper level. P said in an interview on Vlad TV that some of Nas' Queensbridge friends were upset that Prodigy was repping their hood even though he wasn't originally from there. 

“I can't even really be mad at Nas, because these is the people he grew up with,” P said. “I had to distance myself from them, because [Nas is] standing next to someone who's threatening my life… that's how it got kind of crazy.” Nas and P reconciled when Prodigy returned home from prison in 2011.

Saigon and Tru Life

To hear Saigon tell it, the origin of this beef comes from Prodigy double-dipping. 

“Prodigy stole $15,000 from Tru Life. Not stole it, but he did a verse for him, and went and did the same verse and took the money, and then went and did the same verse on some other shit,” Sai told This Is 50. “Tru was like, 'Aight, give me another verse.' Son kept ducking.”

Tru Life and Mobb had serious issues from then on, which were documented in the film Beef. Tru claims he and his crew ran into a Mobb studio session with guns and beat some people up.

Because Tru Life and Saigon were close, Sai got dragged in as things escalated. Not helping matters was an interview where P said he didn't like Saigon—something Saigon saw and promised retaliation. It all culminated in a fight between Mobb Deep and Sai at SOBs in the fall of 2007. The two would continue to snipe at each other well into 2011.

As for Tru, he and Prodigy would finally reconcile in 2016.

Crooked I

While incarcerated, P was still keeping up to date on what was going on in hip-hop. Vibe conducted a poll about the best rapper alive in 2008, and Prodigy was not happy with the results. “Vibe says 920,000 people voted for it,” he wrote in a letter. “I would personally bitch slap all 920,000 of these voters if given the opportunity. Who in the fuck picked Crooked I, Flo Rida, and Rich Boy? How did Vibe approve this?”

Crooked responded by challenging Prodigy to a fight.


P's propensity for feuds even extended to his own Mobb Deep collaborator, Havoc. In the spring of 2012, Havoc sent out a bunch of strange tweets attacking his partner in rhyme. He went as far as accusing P of having a homosexual relationship while locked up. “”I got n***as in the jail system to back up that prodigy was fucking homes in jail,” he wrote. 

Havoc then released a statement saying his phone was stolen. But that was proven to be a lie when audio of Havoc going at P was leaked to the Breakfast Club. The group went on temporary hiatus, but reunited the following year.

But today, to mark his passing, it's been all love from the rap world. Prodigy is a legend and he will be missed. 

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5 Things We Learned About Joey Badass on ‘Everyday Struggle’

Though a lot of the rap world has been happy to throw dirt on the New York hip-hop scene, Joey Badass continues to carve out his lane within the city's storied history. After coming up through the underground and breaking through with projects like 1999, Badass has since established himself as one of the foremost lyricists in the game on recent projects like All-Amerikkkan Badass.

The 22-year-old rapper walks a fine line between paying homage to the old guard of rap while still staying relevant and fresh in today's scene. Badass sat down with the Everyday Struggle crew on Monday, and talked about a bunch of topics, from the stagnation of New York radio, Amber Rose, and much more. Here's what we learned from the interview.

Joey feels New York radio was slow to recognize him.

The DJs in New York City have a lot of cultural gravitas, and though the streaming era has changed how we hear new music for the first time, Badass noted that he felt unsupported by local radio when he was on the come up.

“There are many ways I could have been more supported,” said Badass. “The world recognized me before my home did. They should have jumped right on it. I was young, I didn’t know how to establish relationships and keep them.”

He takes (some) responsibility for not nurturing relationships early.

Despite how he feels on the radio front, Badass admitted he's partially responsible for his own predicament. Still, he continued to emphasize that people outside his hometown were happy to show love early on compared to his hometown.

“I didn’t realize I was burning a bridge by not communicating,” he said. “I think radio should never be late on local artists. I’m from here, I’m one of the few touring globally. Just me and [ASAP] Rocky … L.A., they've always supported me. I'm getting more love from L.A. than my own town.”

Joey spent a lot of money making All-Amerikkkan Badass, but he doesn't regret it.

Fans like to focus on how much an album sold or how much profit is being made from a tour, but few people think about what it takes to put together an album. Badass highlighted the cost of putting together his latest project, but he told Everyday Struggle it's not a concern for him.

“This is probably the most expensive album,” he said. “I probably spent like, I want to say a quarter [million]. It was definitely worth it, every cent.”

Joey thinks most hip-hop beef is lame.

After Remy Ma put Nicki Minaj on the Summer Jam screen, the Everyday Struggle crew had to talk about their long, drawn-out beef. But the young rapper claims he doesn't really pay any mind to that sort of thing, because he has a preference for settling the score through competitive freestyle instead of trading songs back-and-forth.

“Don't care about that beef shit,” he said. “I prefer sparring. Hip-hop beef is not going back and forth with tracks.”

He thinks you should respect hip-hop's youth movement.

The Everyday Struggle crew has had dust ups with some of the younger rappers in the game—what up, Lil Yachty—but Badass thinks a whole lot of people are underselling just how big some of the kids on the rise are right now.

Playboi Carti has the whole youth in his hand,” he said. Badass went on to defend Yachty, and accused Budden of downplaying the movement behind him. “You just don't want him to be happy. He might not be a star in two years, [but] he's a mega star right now.”

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Joey Badass Talks Nicki Minaj/Remy Ma Beef and XXXTentacion Getting Knocked TF Out on ‘Everyday Struggle’

On today's Everyday Struggle, Joey Badass stops by the studio to tackle some topics with Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, and Nadeska. During the show, the gang debate the influence of NYC radio, Remy Ma putting Nicki Minaj on the Summer Jam screen, the rumored Jay Z album, and DJ Khaled's new album tracklist. They also talk about the video of XXXtentacion getting attacked on stage. To wrap the show, the crew discuss what really makes a star in rap today and if some artists are just born with it. 

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What Makes a Classic Rap Album?

For as long as hip-hop has existed, it's spawned arguments. For decades now, fans of rap have been staking out ground, hills to die on, each concerned with one question: Who is the best? And the debate for the GOAT has a long-running spinoff, one of the primary criteria for being the greatest of all time—has that rapper made a classic?

What a classic actually is, outside of just being a very good album, is up for debate. Which is partly why the argument is so fun to have—everyone is working from a different rubric. Some people are concerned with the quality of the rapping, others the popular response, others still need it to have shifted the culture significantly. On an episode of last week's Everyday Struggle, Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, and Nadeska Alexis brought up the ever-present debate: What makes a classic?

Complex staffers weighed in below, with their definitions of what makes for a classic and three picks for hip-hop classics made in the last decade. 

  • Ross Scarano

    There’s a lot of baggage around the word classic in the world of hip-hop, something that doesn’t feel analogous to other mediums and genres. (I lurk on film and literary twitter, and there isn’t so much consternation and incredulity around entering the canon. For instance, Magic Mike XXL—just two years old—already earned its spot and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that. Not from my vantage, anyway.)

    Music, by virtue of how it’s consumed, is typically more accessible than a movie or a novel, and because of that we often want the best stuff to reach the widest audience possible; or we insist that, if it is the best, it will reach that audience. There’s evidence for this—see Lemonade and Damn. These battles about quality and audience aren’t monitored so closely in other mediums. If a movie is perfectly realized but doesn’t make noise at the box office, it won’t be held against it by critics and fans. But this can become a demerit in the conversation around the rap canon.

    I didn’t make up these rules, it’s my inheritance and so I won’t rail against it. A classic, then, should be of high quality; must impact the genre in a way where you can read the ripple effects, like rings on a cut tree; and it should dominate. True, some albums take time to find their rightful place, like Reasonable Doubt. And others, though they're dominant in their moment and impactful across the years, don't age so well, like Graduation. But time roots it all out.

    I’m of the opinion that we don’t need to sit and wonder about the status of the three following albums:

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Drake, Take Care
    Jay Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne

  • Brendan Klinkenberg

    Left to my own devices, the term “classic” isn’t part of my listening experience. When I listen to a great album no part of me thinks about in those terms. I don’t think you do either. Rather, I’m thinking about what I like, or don’t like, or love—the word “classic” only comes into play when imagining the coming arguments with friends, whether in person or online, about how good the album is.

    “Classic” is a word that’s used exclusively to talk to other fans; it’s a term for creating consensus, not assigning value. Whether or not something is a classic isn’t really about whether it’s good, and it certainly doesn’t have much to do with a personal favorite. Instead, it’s a way for us to talk about the albums that everyone loves, the ones that genuinely connected people. It’s a decided-upon battlefield that can’t be won by strategy or trickery, only outnumbering the other side.

    Yeezus is a better album than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Damn is better than Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Neither are classics (yet). Young Thug may well be the best rapper alive, but he hasn’t made a classic (yet). While I find Yeezus, Damn, and Thugger unimpeachable, their classic status is moot, simply because not enough people agree with me. A classic album is a classic when (almost) everyone decides, together, that it is. Proclaiming a classic on your own is like calling yourself the king of the world—all it will get you is weird looks on the subway.

    If an album means that much to you, don’t worry about declaring it a classic. Just live with the knowledge that it’s your favorite. That means more.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
    Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

  • Nora-Grayce Orosz

    When it comes down to it, every interpretation of music is subjective. Even the act of delineating a body of work as a “classic” can have different parameters for each person. Maybe a classic has to do big numbers and chart for a million consecutive weeks. Maybe a classic has to push the boundaries of artistry and floor listeners and take ~edgy~ experimental risks. Maybe a classic just has to have fire production and lyrical mastery. These are all valid factors to consider, and are often what leads to the passionate debates that are at the core of hip-hop culture.

    Personally, I think the two most important factors to ponder when debating a classic are: First,how the album makes you feel, and second, its lasting influence on the landscape of music. If you find yourself coming back to an album year after year, well after the initial novelty has faded, that’s a sure indicator of a classic. If you’re sitting on the train on the way to your 9-5 bumping an album and it transports you to a different setting, era or mood, then to you, it’s a classic. Personal preference is an absolutely valid element in defining a classic.

    Alternatively, if an album comes along and makes waves, and subsequent projects in the genre start mimicking that wave, it’s likely a classic. This breed of classics are the albums new artists cite as their inspiration for the debuts they've been preparing for their entire lives. That kind of classic are the magnum opuses of the genre, they are the pioneers of a unique sound.

    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
    Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book

  • Alex Gale

    I'm pretty sure The Source and its once bible-like “mic” rating review system are to blame for embedding the word “classic” so firmly into hip-hop's vocabulary and psyche. Albums were assessed on a scale of zero to five mics—five out of five was labeled a “classic,” and for a while The Source pretty much batted 1.000 when doling that rating out. Back then, hip-hop was a small enough village, so dominated by New York and LA and a handful of labels and acts and tastemakers, that it was pretty easy to figure out what a classic was. Did you all the sudden hear it from every car on Fulton Street or Crenshaw? Classic. There weren't a million different subgenres, scenes, and Soundcloud rabbit-holes to keep track of—when you first heard The Chronic, or Illmatic, you knew rap had never sounded like that before. You knew you were witnessing the culture leap forward in real time right before you. And those golden-era innovations stood the test time—they sounded like classics in the moment, and they still sound that way now.

    Now, it's harder to tell. Rap is splintered, into a million different sounds and social-media feeds. Some of the most impactful albums of recent memory were the most polarizing—Kanye's 808s and Heartbreaks is arguably his most divisive record, but it changed the sound of rap more than any other. Does that make it a certified classic? I say no. I like to think that albums can be both foundational and five-out-of-five-mics flawless.

    I think that there are only two undisputed rap classic albums, ones that are both near perfect and changed the game, from last 10 years:

    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.d City
    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

    Everything else? Up for debate.

  • Anslem Rocque

    In my book, what makes an album classic is twofold. On one hand, the music has to be able to stand the test of time—to a certain extent, be eternal. Not just a few songs on the project, but the entire body of work. You have to be able to turn the album on today and be moved by the music the same way you were when you first heard it with minimal skipping, if any at all. For the record, skits don't count in this definition. So while I rarely re-listen to Kanye's interludes on his first three releases, those albums still warrant classic ratings in my book.

    On the secondhand, an album can be considered classic based on its overall impact on the culture. Some albums change styles, language and grow the culture to another level. Das Efx's Dead Serious comes to mind, which ushered in the whole iggity synonym to the hip-hop lexicon, but rap moves in trends and sometimes certain album don't age as well as (siggity sorry). There's also a nostalgia factor, as music often plays as the soundtrack to key moments in our lives. The album that you used to play during road trips with a friend who is no longer in your life may hold more classic weight for you than it would for someone else. At the end of the day a classic album can be a personal experience.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Lil Wayne, The Carter III
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

  • Russ Bengtson

    There is a famous quote about pornography that was first uttered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, dating back to a case in 1964. Justice Stewart was not able to succinctly define obscenity, but said “I know it when I see it.” Change “see” to “hear,” and it’s a fine starting point when talking about classic hip-hop albums.

    I’m not sure whether I could give a short, precise definition of what qualifies as a classic album. Is it an album that has no skippable tracks? If so, that eliminates OutKast’s Aquemini (I haven’t willingly listened to “Mamacita” in years), which is absurd. Is it an album that defines an era? Well, sure, that should be part of it. Is it an album that defines an artist? Yeah, that should be part of it too. But there are so many things to consider, each of which gets weighed differently depending on who you’re talking to, to the point where there can be no easily defined set of standards.

    Then there’s the time factor. It seems—to me, anyway—that the term “instant classic” is an oxymoron. “Classic” is something that by its very definition requires time. Think of cars. A new design can’t be considered a classic. We can predict, but that’s about all. But what’s enough? A year? Two years? Five? Is it like the Hall of Fame, with a mandatory waiting period? Damn. I don’t know. What is a classic rap album? Honestly I’m not sure. But I’ll tell you this much. I know it when I hear it.

    Kanye West, Yeezus
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.d City
    Young Thug, Jeffery

  • Frazier Tharpe

    Masterful execution of theme and vision. A replay value that holds up 1, 2, 5 years later and still evokes awe-inspiring emotions with most, if not all, of the same potency it had on the first listen. And impact. We can bandy on about this being personal opinion all day long, but if your choice didn't resonate throughout both the rap game and the rap culture, then we don't believe you and you know the rest. (It's why I'll refrain from being a hyperbolic and dickhead and listing ASAP Rocky's A.L.L.A., an A+ project it is nonetheless).

    These are rote answers, but the standards for what it takes to be a classic shouldn't leave many options to choose from if we're implementing them correctly—like how we all agree on Jay Z's three objective classics (and I'd argue has 3 more but I digress). So, if we're talking the past decade, I don't see how you couldn't salute Watch the Throne, the gargantuan event album that overcame twin-sized ego and forum fanfic to more than meet expectations —no rapper, not even Jay and Kanye themselves, has articulated the daily glories, anxieties and loneliness of being a Forbes Cash King as beautifully and masterfully since. The gauntlet was thrown down so forcefully it inspired their de facto successor Drake to distill all his weirdo insecurities and sonic influences into his most ambitious project to date, on the waves of which the rap game rode into the new decade, with imitators still surfing.

    And if we're only choosing three here—a fourth pick would've gone to Good Kid, fifth to Live.Love.ASAP or Yeezus—I don't know how anyone claiming sanity doesn't consider My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as the reigning classic of the last 10 years. Narrative defines classics too. Illmatic got a hard-won 5 mics, Blueprint validated bold claims of kingship after the most savage Summer Jam performance ever seen. And Kanye West returned after an exile (only partly self-imposed) and an album that confused and alienated some of his fanbase with a backhanded apology scored to the most beautiful sounds he's ever curated and the best bars he's ever laid to wax. Yeezy has never been in his bag as thoroughly as he was in 2010, and he might never get there again. Pay respect.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Jay Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne
    Drake, Take Care

  • Angel Diaz

    What makes a classic to me? If the record either influenced the genre in one way or another, or if said record goes today as if it were released yesterday.

    Some albums need time to ferment, others are instant. Thriller didn’t need time for people to get it like Reasonable Doubt did. Thriller banged the day it came out the same way it still bangs today. I can go with the usual suspects like My Beautiful Twisted Fantasy, Good Kid M.A.A.D. city, or To Pimp a Butterfly, but I considered those classics in my book after a single listen. Aquemini, on the other hand, went over my head. I was in high school running the streets and all me and my friends wanted to hear was Cash Money, Ruff Ryders, Queensbridge shit, or Rocafella music. We were disgusted with the Source’s five mic rating. “They giving out five mics to this weird shit?” We asked each other over blunts and Henny. Years later, it’s one of my favorite Outkast records.

    For me, a classic rap album serves as water to a thirsty game. I base classic rap on whether or not I get chills when I hear it, or a feeling of spirituality. I can hit play and listen all the way through for the most part. The usual suspects I mentioned above do that to me. But I’m gonna go with three records that I feel don’t get the respect they deserve:

    Roc Marciano, Marcberg
    Retch and Thelonious Martin, Polo Sporting Goods
    Bankroll Fresh, Life of A Hot Boy

  • Edwin Ortiz

    I don’t think there will ever be a satisfying explanation for or perfect method in deciding what’s a classic album. There are, though, a handful of core attributes to help define one: quality, impact, replay value, along with other characteristics to balance the decision-making.

    That’s not a cop-out, but a realization that the argument and evidence for (or against) a classic album has shifted over the years. The '90s had the Source’s once-coveted five mics; XXL had its own definitive take for part of the aughts. Now, it’s a combination of critical and fan acclaim. And the process has been accelerated thanks to the internet. I don’t need five years to know Kendrick Lamar’s Damn is a classic album; I knew that two weeks after its release.

    Below are three albums I consider to be classic from the last 10 years.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
    Kendrick Lamar, Damn

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Lil Wayne Cuts Show Short After Someone Throws a Drink at Him

Fans at a Sunday night Lil Wayne concert in Garden City, Idaho didn't exactly get their money's worth after one of their own acted a fool and threw a drink up on to the stage where it appeared to miss Wayne by mere inches as he performed “A Milli.” His reaction was instantaneous.

“Look, let me tell you something. I don't know if you thought I was a buster, but I'm rich, so I can't throw nothing,” he explained. Luckily he has a protocol in place (probably because this wasn't the first time). “Watch this. Goon squad come here. Goon squad…I said every goon that's with me come here baby.”

At that point a number of “goons” stared down the crowd, where they were directed by their leader to “Throw that shit back at them.”

He then informed the crowd that the show was over, while telling them that whoever tossed the drink is the one who ruined it all for them. Neither some boos nor chants of “Weezy” could convince him to change his mind.

Good going, guy in the crowd.

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Frank Ocean Isn’t a Recluse Anymore, and the World Is Better for It

The most surprising thing about Frank Ocean’s return is that it hasn’t ended.

Mercurial and independent, Ocean is the sort of artist that doesn’t seem to need an audience—he could be just as happy singing to himself as a crowd. And so, after releasing Endless and Blonde last year, another hiatus, like the four years post-Channel Orange, wouldn’t have come as a shock.

Instead, he stuck around to work with Calvin Harris on a Picasso-referencing contender for song of the summer, and launch a radio show with Beats 1 in which he patters in his New Orleans accent about this and that, interviews Jay Z, and drops loosies that are better than other folks’ album singles. Five episodes of Blonded Radio, which seems to follow no set schedule, have aired since it premiered in February, and the three new songs he’s debuted—“Chanel”, “Biking,” and “Lens”—are discretely excellent.

“Chanel” has a more refined version of the free-association songwriting heard on “Futura Free”; it’s boastful and candid and has one of the best opening lines of the year: “My guy pretty like a girl.”

“Biking” is a wistful summer song, a style Ocean excels at. Built upon acoustic guitar and scalloped drums, it's more accessible than any single from Blonde. The meditative thinking unlocked by repetitive motion, by the hard-working peaks and coasting valleys of a bike ride, occasions wonder about marriage, children, and the limits of self-reliance. “When’s the last time I asked for some help that I couldn’t get from nobody else?”

Money isn’t far from Ocean's mind on both “Chanel” and “Biking,” and on the latter he barks and raves about the cash and what it’s affording him. The new money must feel incredible, but I wonder about the effect it’s having on Frank's conception of responsibility—for himself and the people he loves. I wonder if he doesn’t feel heavier in some way. Burdened by possible futures. Less able to depart.

“Lens” is the lightest of the trio, more empty space than song. (The beat builds so slowly, I spent my first listen waiting for something that never arrived.) Its lyrics resolve the spare tension by ending on the feeling of being seen. His grandfather Lionel, aunt Janet, and friend Matt have a lens on him. They see him, and surely they see him differently than we can.

Ocean's visibility creates a strange and diffuse sort of anticipation, altogether different from that pre-Endless and Blonde excitement. It used to be that he was the adored uncle who disappeared for long stretches of time—maybe a year or more—only to show up unexpectedly outside the house, engine of a beautiful new car you’d never glimpsed before ticking and cooling, a package tucked under his arm for you to unwrap. Now he’s become something like a cousin who lives nearby but is prone to wandering. He shows up more often than that uncle, always with a story, but you won’t quite let yourself count on his presence in your life. You’d know it would burn if you let yourself become too accustomed, because, after all, he could be gone tomorrow, no forwarding address and an unpaid phone bill that left his mobile dead.

On his Blonded Radio mixes, Ocean plays music from tragic downtown original Arthur Russell, UK Bandcamp act Bare Pale, French decadent Sébastian Tellier. His ear is impeccable and his taste wide-ranging. Hearing him transition from Guided By Voices to Grandaddy to Russell gives me the same thrill I felt upon discovering that he’d read Christopher Isherwood’s Mr. Norris Changes Trains.

That ability to remain private even in the open is a rare one, and though he’s sharing more of his work, there’s no knowing Ocean completely. There’s no anticipating the next move, no telling whether these new songs will accrete into something larger, or if these broadcasts will culminate in a new full-length. We’re watching him now, more closely than we could before, and still we see precious little. It’s enough.

More from Complex

2 Chainz Gets Pharrell Assist On ‘Feds Watching’


By Mike Brilliant

On Monday night (June 3) 2 Chainz debuted “Feds Watching” featuring and produced by Pharrell. This single is the first we get to hear from his upcoming sophomore album, which has yet to be titled, but arrives on September 10. Listen below.

When MTV News caught up with Chainz on the set of B.o.B’s “Headband” music video, he explained that he was excited to celebrate the album release and his birthday in the same week. “We should all celebrate the week of the 10th man, I’m just really… adding gasoline or adding steroids to what I was already doing as far as locking down the club, locking down the streets,” he said. “Just really giving it to you from my heart man and also enjoying life, enjoying getting this paper. You feel me?”

(2 Chainz on his upcoming album)

The uncensored version of the single was released on iTunes Tuesday morning.  “Feds Watching” was first previewed on Sunday night at Hot 97’s Summer Jam, where 2 Chainz brought Nicki Minaj on stage to perform “Beez in the Trap.”

Did Papoose Win By Storming Summer Jam Stage?

By Sowmya Krishnamurthy

Last night, Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam festival brought out its usual array of hip-hop stars from headliners French Montana and A$AP Rocky to surprise guests ranging from Lil Wayne to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, but one performer who hit the mainstage unexpectedly, was rapper Papoose.

Following Kendrick Lamar, Papoose did an impromptu performance, then quickly ran off. Today, Hot 97’s Program Director Ebro Darden explains that it was not meant to go down like that After the performance, Ebro took to Twitter to share his confusion. “Yo @Papooseonline call in tomorrow.. U thought that was dope?

“U think that helped get ya music hot? Let’s discuss..Send #.” Today, Ebro further explained what happened on Hot 97’s morning show. He accused morning show host and underground rap enthusiast Peter Rosenberg of knowing that the strange cameo was going to happen. “Rosenberg’s is responsible for NONSENSE at Summer Jam!” said Ebro.

Rosenberg shared that Kendrick Lamar‘s team told him yesterday that Papoose was going to join his set because the Brooklyn rapper helped out K. Dot back in the day and this was his way of repaying him. Hot 97 wasn’t able to cut off Papoose because he was technically performing during Kendrick’s set.

Was this a smart move by Papoose? The rapper, who has largely been quiet on the music scene for the past seven years, quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. “I run New York,” he simply shared on Instagram.