In 2004, Jay Z told the world that he had “99 Problems, but a bi**h ain’t one.” The epic signature song was about racial profiling and the inevitable trouble that accompanies street life. The song didn’t truly outline all of the problems that the Jigga Man faces everyday, but one graphic artist has a few amusing ideas.
UK Graphic Artist and Illustrator, Ali Graham has done design work for Estee Lauder and Michael Kors, but since June he has been releasing daily “problems” billed as “the illustrated adventures of a certain rap superstar.”
Released daily on Tumblr, the illustrations are sometimes based on actual things that come out about Jay Z in media, others are based on lyrics, and others still are just funny for the sake of being funny. Prints of each illustration is available on the Tumblr, for $19.99.
AllHipHop.com talked exclusively to Ali Graham about his hit illustrations and about the cultural impact of one of the greatest rappers of all time.
AllHipHop.com: Where did you get the concept?
Ali Graham: 99 Problems was playing on my mp3 player one day, and it got me thinking – what 99 problems could exist for someone of Jay Z’s status.
AllHipHop.com: Why Jay Z?
Ali Graham: Jay Z is a household name, whether he’s known for his work, or just being married to Beyonce. I liked the idea that “even world famous rappers have problems,” however mundane. He’s also got really vivid lyrical imagery that is fun to play with visually.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you choose to give him mundane problems like, “Brain Freeze,” or reaching the smoke alarm?
Ali Graham: The mundane stuff, as you say is very humanizing. He’s reached such a point of fame and success that people forget he’s prone to suffering the little things in life.
AllHipHop.com: Have you heard from him?
Ali Graham: No word as of yet. If he has seen it, I hope he enjoys.
AllHipHop.com: What has the response been from fans?
Ali Graham: Response has been amazing. I chose the arbitrary date of June 1st to launch, and it was pure luck that just a couple of weeks later MCHG was announced., since then feedback’s been absolutely incredible.
AllHipHop.com: Are the prints selling well?
Ali Graham: The prints are selling exceptionally well … almost too well. I’m trying to stay on top of orders, while juggling other jobs, and creating daily illustrations. Fortunately people are being very patient and supportive.
AllHipHop.com: How do you choose the problem for the day?
Ali Graham: Some problems I have in a list, others are responses to topical stuff happening at the time. I like to stay current, as it gives the project a fresh, unpredictable vibe.
AllHipHop.com: Do you plan to do any other artists?
Ali Graham: There are lots of fun plans for the future, at the moment I can’t get too ahead of myself as I’ve got to finish this current set, and make sure all the prints get sent out successfully. Stay tuned.
The “99 Problems” collection is hilarious and fun. Visit the Tumblr or @99probs99 to see the entire collection. Cop a couple prints for your hip-hop collection, before they are all gone. Check out a few of our favorites.