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99 Problems by Ali Graham

An illustrated journey through Jay-Z's numerable troubles

by Gavin Lucas in Design on 15 July 2013

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Inspired by Jay-Z's track "99 Problems," British artist Ali Graham has been creating an illustration every day since the first of June this year that imagines a problem the world-famous rapper might (or might not) face.

As well as a host of First World problems many city-dwellers also face—such as running out of phone battery or toilet paper—there are plenty of Jay-Zisms that fans of the Brooklyn-born rapper will love, such as the very first problem in the project: "Can't Get Dirt Off Shoulder" or problem #15, "Diggers in Paris".

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We particularly like problem #10, which sees Jay-Z filming a rather sad-looking lion that seems reluctant to roar on request, and problem #2 in which Jay-Z studies a fold-out map with the caption "Where Brooklyn At?"

"I love wordplay and literal meanings of language," says Graham of the project, "and when '99 Problems' popped up on my mp3 player one day, it got me thinking. I've had the idea scribbled in the back of a notebook for ages and always assumed someone had done it already but after discovering it was pretty untrodden ground, I drew about five just for fun. Once I had a bit of a break in my work schedule, I built up a bit of a collection and so I started blogging them, one a day. It was pure coincidental luck that Jay-Z announced his new album Magna Carter Holy Grail a few weeks later and placed him firmly back in the zeitgeist."

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Graham explains further he chose to blog using Tumblr due to its easy reblog system and has also been shaping particular problems to trending stories for maximum exposure. "By popular demand I'm going to be rolling out limited edition signed prints very soon—99 of each one, obviously—and hopefully organize some sort of exhibition when we hit the 99th problem in a few weeks."

Images courtesy of Ali Graham

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