LOS ANGELES — Call him Mayor Jigga.
Surrounded by scantily clad "secret service" babes and avid supporters, Jay-Z campaigned in the streets of downtown Los Angeles Tuesday during the video shoot for "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," the first single from his forthcoming album, The Blueprint.
"I'm already mayor of the streets, and I'm up for re-election," Jay-Z said during a break, adding that the "election" is on September 18, the day of the album's release. "It's cosmic," he marveled.
Though Jay-Z's role in the video didn't require much of a wardrobe change — he wore a blue jersey outfit emblazoned with "Sprewell" and the number 8 — it did mean retiring some of the gluttonous behavior captured in his previous videos.
"How many times can we be on an island with pretty girls spraying champagne?" said Damon Dash, co-founder of Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records label. "You gotta grow up sometime."
Standing on a giant float bearing Roc-A-Fella's logo, with his "campaign adviser" Dash and "secret service" girls at his side, Jay-Z hyped up his supporters, who carried placards and wore T-shirts with the message "Jay-Z The Blueprint 09-18-01."
His "guards" took their task seriously. "We have to make sure he doesn't get assassinated," said Kim Chillous, who complemented her microscopic black uniform with retro pink glasses. "It's a big job protectin' Mayor Jay-Z."
While it might seem more fitting for the Brooklyn-raised MC to shoot the clip on a New York street, Jay-Z said it's all about getting the job done with the least hassle.
"In New York I go outside and it's like, so many people, so much love there," he said. "Not to say there ain't no love over here — there's definitely love. But if I go out to that block in New York, there's gonna be 500,000 people out there, so it's tough for me to shoot out there."
Fortunately, said Cypress Hill leader B-Real, who dropped by the set for a visit, "he found one of our streets that looks like a New York street."
"Izzo" features a party beat and hook, but its lyrics are relatively serious — the "mayor" vents about the pitfalls of being a leader and proclaims his innocence in his real-life assault case (see "Jay-Z Trial Date Moved Again"). Jay-Z tells listeners to take his tales of ghetto life not as a guide for living, but as a lesson on what to avoid. "You're acting like I told you to sell drugs," he raps. "No, I told you that so hopefully you won't have to go through that."
"I'm not gonna sugar-coat it," Jay-Z said of "Izzo," which samples the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." "I'm gonna give it to you the way it came out the ghetto, the way I'm supposed to. And it's up to you to decipher it. If I'm talking about a situation and ... give you the results of what happened, I'm not glorifying it. I'm just telling you what happened. I'm reportin' it. It's like holding a newscaster responsible for reportin' the news."
Jay-Z said The Blueprint is "more soulful" than his previous work, because of its personal lyrics and the fact that it's more of a one-man show than before. Unlike last year's The Dynasty — Roc la Familia 2000, which gave generous time to developing Roc-A-Fella artists, the new album features no guest appearances. This was less a conscious decision, Jay-Z said, than the result of a sudden burst of creativity during which he recorded nine songs in two weeks.
"The Blueprint is a makeup of what I seen and what my life is and what made me the way I am," he said. "It's about me — it's more so about my thoughts and my opinions, and I wanted to just go at this on my own. Once I did those first nine songs, there was no chance to bring anyone else in. I [thought], 'I might as well just finish it myself.' "
Jay-Z said he'll mount a theater tour after the album is released to "get the kinks out" before undertaking a larger-scale outing.
"People gotta definitely look out for that — them tickets are gonna be sold out quick," he said.