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  1. Jeezy is not down with the Illuminati. The Atlanta rapper is hitting back at the criticism surrounding the cover art for his album Seen It All: The Autobiography. Last week, he revealed the controversial artwork, which features the Eye of Providence, a symbol of the Illuminati. But in an interview with Mina SayWhat on Power 99, Jeezy downplayed the Illuminati references. “Do not get art and creativity confused with ignorance,” he said. “I am a hard-working, God-fearing man. I have no idea what an Illuminati is and really don’t give a damn ’cause it has nothing to do with me. I just wanted to do something different and something bigger.” The artwork is a reflection of the music. “It’s kinda a dark album, so I just wanted it to have that mystique about it, something to keep as a collector’s edition.” He likened it to Tupac’s Makaveli cover art. “When Pac did Makaveli and he put himself on that cross, it was just how he felt,” said Jizzle. “He felt like it was him against the world, him against all odds. He put himself in that mind state. That’s just how I feel. I feel like I’m bigger than music. I’m a leader so I can do that. I don’t want to stand in front of a Lamborghini and give you another picture of me with five chains on. That’s wack for me. I’m nine, ten years in the game. I’m trying to push the envelope a little bit.” When the album arrives on September 2, it will silence the critics. “When you open that album and play that album, then we ain’t gon’ have this conversation. ‘Cause that music is A1.”
  2. The wait is over. Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande are here to blow your mind with their powerhouse anthem “Bang Bang,” produced by Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, and Ilya. The pop divas show off their powerful pipes, while rap’s reigning queen busts a lethal verse. The song serves as the first single from Jessie J’s third album, and will also be included on the deluxe edition of Ariana’s sophomore album, My Everything, available August 25. According to HITS Daily Double, the trio will perform the song at the MTV Video Music Awards in L.A. on August 24. Meanwhile, Nicki has delayed the release of her Pink Print single “Anaconda” until August 4. Pull the trigger on the ladies’ explosive collaboration.
  3. Lil Wayne has lost his mind. MTV News was on set as the Young Money captain shot the wild video for “Krazy,” which takes place in a psych ward. Tunechi struggles to remove himself from a strait-jacket while strapped into a chair. “I’m not talking about being crazy in the song, I’m just talking about being me, and a lot of people view that as crazy so we just wanted to capture that and have fun with it,” said Wayne. Director Colin Tilley came up with the concept, which draws from the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson. “We talked about putting Lil Wayne in a psych ward and I definitely took some inspiration from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, just as far as the look and feel for it,” said Tilley. “It’s more of the psychological trip that Lil Wayne’s going through in this place.” The song is set to appear on Weezy’s upcoming album Tha Carter V. Prior to the album’s release, he will hit the road with Drake on the “Drake Vs. Lil Wayne” tour starting August 8. Rehearsals kicked off over the weekend. “First day of Drake vs. Lil Wayne rehearsals were INCREDIBLE,” tweeted Drake. “Can’t wait for the people to see it.” Go behind the scenes of “Krazy” below.
  4. Lenny Kravitz sets the airwaves ablaze with “Sex.” The rock god injects some ’80s soul into the guitar-driven record off his upcoming 10th album Strut. “This is one of my favorite tracks on the album,” Kravitz tells Billboard. “It was recorded with minimal instrumentation, guitar, bass and drums. The strength of the groove comes from the sparse production which creates space.” His 14-track album is now available for pre-order on iTunes, and will be released on September 23.
  5. Turtle power. Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla $ign join forces in the illustrated video for the Kill the Noise and Madsonik-produced banger “Shell Shocked” off the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack. The hip-hop trio step into the action-packed world of Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael in Michael Bay’s movie. “[Paramount] heard about how big of a fan I was of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their whole legacy,” said Wiz. “I actually have Donatello tattooed on my leg, so when they asked me to do it, just being a fan and being a musician, it made sense. In my generation, I think everyone who listens to me loves the Turtles as much as I do, so it just made sense.” The reboot of the animated TV series, starring Megan Fox and Johnny Knoxville, opens in theaters on August 8. Watch them bring the blockbuster to life. Cowabunga, dudes!
  6. After debuting her “Domino” duet with SZA in Brooklyn earlier this month, Willow Smith lends her voice to DJ Kitty Cash’s Love the Free II mixtape. The 13-year-old singer settles into a laid-back groove on the ethereal cut. “I’ve been really into numerology lately because a lot of numbers have been following me and my friends,” Willow told MTV News. “I’ve been coming into this new phase in my life, just becoming one with all that is, going deeper into myself and getting to the goal of my music, which is to share that feeling and pass on knowledge so that consciousness can be raised on this planet.” Due Tuesday, Kitty Cash’s 19-track tape also includes contributions from SZA, Blood Orange, Yuna, and Rochelle Jordan. [MTV News]
  7. Before the players took the court at Sunday’s EBC America Celebrity Basketball Challenge at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, Elle Varner performed a soulful rendition of the National Anthem. “I put some flavor on it. Everybody’s heard the song a million times, so I did my thing. I had fun,” she told TrueExclusives afterwards. Earlier this month, the R&B songstress debuted her new single “Don’t Wanna Dance” featuring A$AP Ferg. Her sophomore album 4 Letter Word is due this fall. “I’m making a very positive shift in my career with this album,” she said. “It’s all about artistry and being authentic and the message. It’s more soulful in the sense that you feel it in different ways.” Watch Elle’s patriotic performance.
  8. The rumor mill is buzzing about Lil Wayne and Christina Milian. After attending the ESPYS earlier this month, the Young Money labelmates were spotted leaving dinner at Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills on Sunday night. Milian exited first, while Weezy looked surprise to see the paparazzi waiting outside. While the photos may suggest otherwise, TMZ claims that the two are not dating and that it’s all part of Wayne’s plan to build buzz for Milian’s music. When asked if she was dating her YMCMB boss, the newly single Milian said, “We make music together,” but didn’t deny the rumors. The “Dip It Low” singer is working on a mixtape called Tina Turn Up that will consist of “some good party records” that won’t be on her upcoming Young Money debut. She recently quoted some lyrics: “Oooo Boy You’re on [fire]… But I’m Not Scared Hold Me Tighter.. Your Loves so [fire].. But I’m Right Here #HoldMeTighter — #TinaTurnUp.” Check out more pics of Tina Turn Up and Tunechi on the town. Photo credit: Splash News
  9. Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse is still causing a rift in hip-hop. While freestyling during his “Deep Web Tour” show in Sydney, Australia over the weekend, Childish Gambino proclaimed his greatness and called out his competition including Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and ScHoolboy Q. “I’m the best rapper, definitely top 5,” declared a shirtless Gambino. “I cut their head off, that’s every rapper living. That’s Kendrick, that’s Drake, that’s ScHoolboy, that’s everyone. I don’t give a f**k. I’ll f**king kill you ni**as.” Fans took to social media to weigh in with their opinions. “Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Q would definitely destroy him….i like Gambino but I’m just being honest,” said one YouTube commenter, while another added, “Kendrick is mostly hype yeah the man can rap but when comes to over all music quality Gambino got him beat.” Watch Gambino unleash a lyrical tirade. [DirectLyrics]
  10. It’s the Unit. The New York crew drops the top and rides out for the summer on its latest original song “Come Up.” Over a sample of The Gap Band’s ’80s hit “Outstanding,” 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, Tony Yayo, and Kidd Kidd boast about getting paid and looking good while doing it. “Grindin’, diamonds shinin’, top reclinin’ / We do it again / Watch a ni**a come up,” raps 50. Hear them chase the paper on their hustlers’ anthem.
  11. Nicki Minaj unleashes her superpowers in an upcoming episode of Cartoon Network’s animated series “Steven Universe.” The “Pills N Potions” rapper lends her voice to Sugilite, the mighty and powerful fusion of Garnet and Amethyst, two of the show’s magically powered “gems” who help protect the world. TV Guide has a sneak peek from the episode, which was screened at Comic-Con in San Diego last week. The episode also features Estelle, who voices the warrior Garnet. This is not Nicki’s first animated feature. She previously voiced a woolly mammoth named Hailey in the 2012 movie Ice Age: Continental Drift and played an animated version of herself on Fox’s “The Cleveland Show.” The full episode, “Coach Steven,” premieres August 21 at 6:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network.
  12. Banks is back. After parting ways with Universal Music earlier this month, Azealia returns with her new single “Heavy Metal and Reflective,” which she released via her own label, Azealia Banks Records. On the throbbing banger, the Harlem spitfire slings some bossy bars, rapping about everything from Billie Jean to Tamagotchis. “‘HEAVY METAL AND REFLECTIVE’ is an ASS-CLAPPERRRRRRRR !!!!!” she said. “All the big butts, little butts, fake butts and real butts gonna be clapping for their LIVESSSSS.” The video, which she teased on Instagram, will premiere August 5, while the song goes to iTunes on Monday. Her debut Broke With Expensive Taste will showcase her diversity. “There’s Opera, Jazz, Hip-Hop, House, Hardstyle, Merengue, Pop, and Soul on ‘BROKE WITH EXPENSIVE TASTE’. It’s truly an eclectic body of work!” tweeted Azealia. Over the weekend, she shot the album packaging with photographer Rankin.
  13. Future gets animated in the video for his new song “Coupe.” The Freebandz rapper stunts on the streets, pushing 140 mph as he races against the devil, but his joy ride comes to an end when his mom finds out. The track is part of Adult Swim’s singles series, and will be available for free download on Monday, July 28. Fresh off his North American tour, Future has announced the European leg of the “Honest Tour.” The 18-date trek kicks off in Birmingham, U.K. on November 2, and stops in major cities including London, Paris, Milan, and Berlin. Watch him push it to the limit. [Noisey]
  14. Just in time for the weekend, Big K.R.I.T. takes it to the strip club on “Pay Attention,” the first single off his sophomore album Cadillactica. The Mississippi MC spits that country grammar (“Show out when you show up”), while Rico Love promises to pay more attention to one particular lady on the sultry hook. K.R.I.T. is gearing up for the fall release of Cadillactica. In April, he dropped the teaser single “Mt. Olympus.” He recently announced a limited edition compilation, The Underground Edition, which will be comprised of his four mixtapes—K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Return of 4eva, 4eva N A Day, and King Remembered in Time. Only 500 CDs will be made and can be purchased for $55 with delivery in September.
  15. Keyshia Cole is not looking back on the cover for her sixth album Point of No Return. The R&B songstress trades her designer gowns for ripped jeans, a white tank top, and shades as she stands alongside a deserted highway. The album has already spawned the singles “Rick James” featuring Juicy J, the personal ballad “Next Time (Won’t Give My Heart Away),” and the DJ Mustard-produced “She.” The feature-heavy set also includes collaborations with Wale, Future, 2 Chainz, and August Alsina, and production from Mike WiLL Made-It, Stargate, Mario Winans, and RedOne. “There’s definitely more sexy songs on this album than I’ve ever done,” Keyshia told Fuse. “I’m excited to see what the people think about that, so we’ll see how receptive they are to the album. I think it’s a great album and I feel like it’s one of my best albums to date.” Earlier this week, she kicked off her “Point of No Return” tour, which wraps August 25 in San Diego. What do you think of Keyshia’s cover art?
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