99 Problems: Superstars Have Bad Days, Too, by Ali Graham
This book is a lot funnier if you know and appreciate the Jay-Z hit song 99 Problems and wonder what problems the successful billionaire has. The more you know the career of Jay-Z, the more the problems in this book make sense, because the author/artist does a great job at showing Jay-Z in a deadpan light that has him serve as the straight man of sorts for a great deal of craziness that goes on all around him. Hopefully this book, which smartly labels itself as an unauthorized parody with explicit content (largely because of the occasional drawings that show comic violence), finds an appreciative audience, because even a good deal after the song has been out this is still a funny book. This is precisely the sort of book that should not age well because of its dependence on knowledge about Jay-Z but in reading this book I still smiled at the references to one of the most successful rap artists ever, and as long as he is well-regarded this book will be enjoyed by those who have been his fans. And if I am not a huge fan of his I am familiar enough with music history to appreciate what this song offers.
If this book is unauthorized, and I’m not sure that it is, I hope that Jay-Z isn’t mad about it. Honestly, this book is pretty hilarious, as you would likely agree if you were familiar with Jay-Z and his life and music. Whether one is trying to find Brooklyn on the map (2), dealing with awkward friend requests from Grandma (3), getting murdered by one’s fierce wife (11), getting soap in one’s eye (16), having to sit with Kanye while dealing with poor table service (30), or struggling with how to tie a bow tie (54), everyone has problems. Not all of us have hustler babies (88) or have Kanye interrupting us in the bathroom (93), but most of us have too much to watch (97) and struggle with finding the end of the tape roll (25), or wrestle with wanting to be but unable to be forever young (42). Some of the cameos on this particular selection of problems are savage, and the one about Bill Cosby not having any pudding appears particularly pointed and prescient in retrospect (seeing as this book was published before Cosby’s brush with the law). With spare but evocative drawings and funny problems, this is a book that will still amuse the Jay-Z fan among your friends and family members.