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Drake talks about making his upcoming album, growing as a rapper, and finding a mentor in Stevie Wonder: An EW Q&A

The summer’s nearly over. But rap wiz Drake is feeling the heat. The deadline to submit the final version of his sophomore album, Take Care, is one month out. To say the least, it’s crunch time. Though, it seems he’s comfy in the clutch.

While holed up in his “quaint” Toronto studio recently, Drake checked in with EW to give us a progress report on the album, due on his birthday, October 24. Creatively, he says he’s “at a great place” and has a tons a recorded material to select from.

In the EW story on stands now, he gave us five recording rules to live by. Here, though, we get into the rest of the conversation—one that includes, among other things, how Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne album impacted his project, how his song with Stevie Wonder might make you shed a tear, and why you won’t hear him crying about his riches this go around.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In what ways are you challenging yourself this album?
DRAKE: I push myself in a lot of aspects when I write a song. I write a piece and where most people would stop and say “Oh, that’s the hook right there,” I’ll move that to the first four bars of the verse and do a new hook. That makes the song easy to learn and catchy. That’s how I like to challenge myself. I’ll write something and everyone that’s around might be like “Oh that’s that hook right there.” And then I’ll write something better than that.

How many tracks are you shooting for here?
Obviously, I can only fit so many songs on a CD. So what I’m doing is there will be a Take Care physical edition in stores that’ll hopefully have 15 to 17 songs on it. Then I know a lot of people do deluxe editions. But since October 24 is a special day for me, I got, like, a Take Care birthday edition that I’m going to put on iTunes that will have extra songs. I really want to encourage people to be excited about the album releasing. I remember how excited a lot of artists used to make me. I used to want to buy the physical copy to see the artwork. And if there were any bonus tracks, I’d go find them. I’m definitely trying to cause some of that excitement. I hope people go get the songs off the birthday edition. It’s going to be great, man. I’ve got a wide array of music this time. I’m very excited.

Talk to me about your team. Who are the people who are helping guide you through the album?
There are about three or four major opinions that I respect. Obviously, the main one would be [engineer and producer] 40 (Noah Shebib). He’s worked with me every single night I’ve set foot in the studio since Comeback Season. He knows what I’m capable of and he’s not afraid to say “You can do that better” or “That’s it” or “I know you can write a better verse than that.” And Oliver El-Khatib, who has progressed from my friend who just used to advise me on how to dress to a guy who came up with the artwork for So Far Gone to, since he’s such a creative brain, that he’s become one of my managers. Then my DJ Future the Prince has a great ear for music. And probably the most important person in the equation is Hush, who is a friend of mine who grew up rapping in Toronto and he’s present every night. If anyone knows what I’m capable of, it’s Hush. We love rap the same way and we have the same exact ear. So I know he’s hearing what I’m hearing. I never take criticism personally from anyone. I love feedback, but especially when it comes to Hush. He understands rap probably better than anyone else I mentioned. And he’s a close friend of mine.

Rap has become like fast food. Fans want it quickly and a lot of it. It’s only been a year since Thank Me Later and your fans seem to be starving for Take Care. Do you think they’ve forgotten that artists need life experiences to craft their art? READ FULL STORY

Beyonce's pregnancy reveal breaks Twitter record: Why do we care so much?

When Beyoncé unbuttoned her purple sequined jacket Sunday night at the MTV’s 2011 Video Music Awards and revealed that she has something baking in her oven—her first child, to be exact—the building roared in celebration.

If you weren’t at Nokia Theater L.A. Live to experience it in person, the next best thing was logging on to your choice social network and shooting off your reaction. For millions, Twitter was their first destination.

Techland reports that fans hopped on the medium to express their shock, happiness, and such at a rate of 8,868 tweets per second. That beats news of Osama Bin Laden’s death in May, which drew in 5,106 tweets per second, and the Super Bowl, which earned 4,064 tweets.

Crazy, right? The question is why did so many people care so much? Well, for one, people looooooove them some Beyoncé. She’s a major pop star who, unlike most of her peers, has managed to steer clear of celeb shenanigans. Add the fact that she’s married to Jay-Z, arguably the best rapper ever, and that they both keep the details of their life together on the hush-hush and bam, here’s the answer: We’ve never seen them so excited to let a secret out of the bag! Watch them let it go after the jump:

READ FULL STORY

MTV 2011 VMAs: What you didn't see on TV

The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards are in the books, and while the show as a whole felt a little scattered and unfocused, there were indeed some high points. Russell Brand, Tony Bennett, and Bruno Mars gave Amy Winehouse an excellent tribute, Beyoncé capped off a great performance with a nice little revelation about the future of her family, and Adele tore down the house with her stunning, jaw-dropping run through “Someone Like You.”

But there were a handful of amazing moments that happened between MTV’s rapid-fire camera cuts and commercial breaks. Luckily, I was inside the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live and can report the eight greatest things you probably missed during the show. READ FULL STORY

Jay-Z and Kanye West making surprise VMA performance? They probably should have advertised that

Considering he has made the show so memorable in the past two years, and he also has an extremely high-profile album out and a tour to promote, it seemed a little bit strange that Kanye West’s name wasn’t on the guest list for tonight’s MTV Video Music Awards. But according to one report, West will be making a surprise appearance on stage with his Watch the Throne tag-team partner Jay-Z for a performance.

According to E!, the duo’s appearance has been kept deep under wraps (their seat-saving placards were missing during rehearsals this week), and according to those connected to the show, the slot was still up in the air (though some speculated that they could end up closing the show). READ FULL STORY

Lil Wayne lyrically attacks Jay-Z and 'his lady' on leaked cut from 'Tha Carter IV': Will Jay answer?

As of late, rap beef’s been more like tofu, with tired disses slung by subpar rappers to ramp up promo attention for an album.

That said, what Lil Wayne just got himself into is real, Grade-A rap beef—well-done steak even. Last night his new album Tha Carter IV (slated for release Aug. 29) leaked on the Internet. And there’s one track out of the bunch that’s generating huge buzz, because of a few shots he throws at rhyme titan Jay-Z.

On “It’s Good,” which also features Drake and Jadakiss, Wayne seemingly reacts to a perceived swipe Jay took at Wayne’s Cash Money label head Bryan “Baby” Williams on his “H.A.M.” collab with Kanye West at the top of the year.

“N—-s fantasize about the shit that I do daily/ Like these rappers rap about all the shit that I do really/ I’m like ‘Really half a billion, n—-?’/ Really, you got baby money/ Keep it real with n—-s, n—-s ain’t got my lady’s money,” Jay spits on the record.

Lil Wayne finally hit back on “It’s Good,” taking it a step further and threatening to steal Jay’s wife. “Talkin’ ‘bout baby money,” he asks on the cut. “I got your baby money/Kidnap your b—-, get that ‘How much you love your lady?’ money.” Ouch. By the way, talking about folks who aren’t even involved (ie: children, wives, parents, etc…) in battle is a low blow.

READ FULL STORY

Kanye West and Jay-Z's 'Watch the Throne' breaks Coldplay's first week sales record, debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200 chart

Our critic may not have felt the vibes on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne album. But with a record breaking iTunes debut and the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart, it appears many did.

The twosome’s collection, one that West refers to as “luxury rap,” broke Coldplay’s iTunes first-week sales record, moving almost 290,000 digital copies. Coldplay’s Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends sold 282,000 in 2008.

Within 24 hours of Throne dropping on Aug. 8, it was No. 1 on iTunes worldwide in 23 countries. And today, Billboard reports that Throne‘s complete opening sales (meaning both the digital and physical version, which bowed Aug. 12) is a kingly 436,078 units, making it no. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

It’s a huge victory for the two, who didn’t promote the album in traditional fashion. Really, they hardly promoted it at all. Outside of two press listening sessions (I attended one) and one New York radio interview, Jay and Kanye kept quiet. There wasn’t magazine cover or even a music video released before the album.

Still, the buzz behind the project was huge. And apparently, fans have not been disappointed.

Did you buy Watch the Throne? Glad it opened with these numbers? Let us know.

More on EW.com:
Jay-Z and Kanye West release ‘Watch the Throne’ ‘Otis’ video — Everybody’s all-American! Watch it here
Independent record stores protest Jay-Z and Kanye’s album-release shutout


Jay-Z says wife Beyonce is 'the second coming' of Michael Jackson: Yes, he knows it's blasphemy

His comments should probably be taken with a grain of salt, considering he’s the lady’s husband, but Jay-Z recently bestowed Beyoncé with a heavy compliment.

During an interview with Miami radio station 99 Jamz, Jay compared his wife’s work ethic to that of late pop icon Michael Jackson. Then he took it a step further, saying she’s the closest thing we’ve got to MJ now.

“What I’ve learned from her is the same thing I learned from Mike,” Jay said after being asked what Beyoncé’s taught him.  “And I know it’s blasphemy to compare the two because Mike was such an innovator. But I think she’s like the second coming. The hard work and the dedication that she puts into her shows… It just makes you want to work harder at your craft. She’s like a machine.”

Before you just go on and dismiss Jay completely, know that he’s more than just a loving husband; he is of course a major artist himself, one who even collaborated Jackson years ago.

READ FULL STORY

Jay-Z and Kanye West release 'Watch the Throne' 'Otis' video -- Everybody's all-American! Watch it here

Jay and Ye’s game of Throne has pretty much owned the pop-culture conversation this week—I’m obsessed with “Why I Love You” and “That’s My B****,” my colleague heartily disagrees—and now hip-hop’s wonder twins have capped it off with an official Spike Jonze-directed clip for the album’s first single, “Otis.”

As bombastic as their pairing already is, they don’t double down on platinum video tricks here; it’s just three minutes of our boys gone Casual-Mogul Friday in jeans and crest-embossed white tees, racing stripped-down cars (not Yeezy’s other other Benz) and dropping verses in front of a giant American flag in a dusty backlot.

Minimal models, no bottles, no problem—spend it on pyro! They look like they’re kind of loving it, and I’m happy too. Watch it here: READ FULL STORY

Kanye West and Jay-Z's 'Watch the Throne': Read the EW review

Yesterday, as you may have heard, Jay-Z and Kanye West (also known as “The Throne”) dropped their full-length collaboration, Watch the Throne.

It’s available exclusively on iTunes—where it has already taken the no. 1 spot in 23 countries—with a physical copy due in Best Buy stores this Friday, August 12. Below, see the full review of the album, which will also appear in the issue of EW hitting newsstands this Friday.

The Throne
Watch the Throne
(Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam/ Roc Nation)

On their first full-length collaboration, topline superstars Jay-Z and Kanye West choose to hide behind the sobriquet “The Throne.” But why? Do they love professional wrestling and think their tag team needs a badass name for the ring? Are they hoping to snag spots as direwolves on Game of Thrones? Or do they simply want to temper the heightened expectations that tend to saddle supergroups?

The latter seems like a distinct possibility. Too much of Watch the Throne sounds cluttered and disjointed, as though Jay and ‘Ye built their garish castle in the sky via FedEx and text messages. “Welcome to the Jungle” offers a lot of bluster but little heart, and “N—-s in Paris” seems to be the result of the ritual torturing of an Atari 2600. Everything falls apart on the album-closing “Why I Love You,” which cranks up West’s love of prog-rock bombast so much that it sounds like guest crooner Mr Hudson is trying to sing the hook over a poorly recorded bootleg of a Muse concert.

But Throne is certainly no disaster. “Otis,” on which the pair exchange breathless verses about their rags-to-riches elevation from street-corner slinging to private jets, revels in the cleverly sampled sweat and soul of Otis Redding’s 1966 classic “Try a Little Tenderness.” “Lift Off” nearly suffocates amid baroque strings and self-importance, but is rescued by Beyoncé, who whips the chorus with a belt so powerful you’d think it insulted her mother. The album’s centerpiece, “New Day,” finds guest the RZA laying down a busy, warm beat that gives the duo the freedom to write love letters to their unborn children, with West speculating about his future son, “I mean I might even make him be Republican/So everybody know he love white people.”

In fact, the greatness of “New Day” drives home the album’s big problem: It feels too much like a Kanye West project featuring a clutch of Jay-Z cameos. They sound like they’re on the same page only during fleeting moments, and when those slip by, listening inevitably is more frustrating than fulfilling. Then again, neither Kanye nor Jay should worry too much, right? After all, this misstep officially belongs to “The Throne.” B-


Read more on EW.com:
Kanye West drops ‘Watch the Throne,’ but not before comparing himself to Hitler
Independent record stores protest Jay-Z and Kanye’s album-release shutout
Review: Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Review: Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3

While you're waiting to 'Watch the Throne,' enjoy these punchline-friendly jams

On “Otis,” the first single from Kanye West and Jay-Z’s upcoming Watch The Throne, Jay-Z spits, “Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth/ I’m about to call the paparazzi on myself.” Not to be outdone, Kanye fires back with, “Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses/ Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive!”

Ba-dum, crash. It’s been a great summer for club-goers and college kids (read: people who love LMFAO), but when it comes to witty, winking rap one-liners, well, let’s just say we’ve missed these guys.

There’s no arguing with the fact that Jay-Z and Kanye are two of the cleverest guys in hip-hop. So if you’re getting feverish waiting for Watch The Throne to drop on Monday, fear not—we’re here to help! To tide you over for the weekend, we recommend that you first watch Jay and ‘Ye’s vaguely inexplicable new teaser trailer, and then check out these other tracks we love by rhymers with a sense of humor. READ FULL STORY

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