Throughout [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist]'s career, the Brooklyn MC has worn the King of New York crown, turned the Hot 97 Summer Jam stage into an annual exhibit of his greatness and probably increased sales of Yankees fitted hats more than Derek Jeter.
So you would think the video for a track called "Run This Town" would be an ode to his hometown, right? Not exactly.
Despite the clip being filmed in the Big Apple, at the historic Fort Trotten Park in Queens, the director, Anthony Mandler, said he wanted to avoid any semblance of New York's iconic imagery.
"I wanted something that didn't fit into 'this is New York, this is a building or a street [you know],' " he explained to MTV News. "I wanted it to feel more ancient. I wanted it to feel more European but on American soil. I didn't want it to have a framework, like, 'Oh, we're riding in New York.' "
Instead, the "Run This Town" video is a nihilistic, chaotic account of militia-like entities revolting, complete with Molotov-cocktail explosions, riot-like activity and the high-powered trio of Hov, [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist], and [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist] performing in the midst of it all.
Mandler said the piece was more culturally inspired from current events, compared to the clip for "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)," which referenced the Italian film "Zabriskie Point."
"There's a tone and feeling to the song," Mandler said of the Blueprint 3 track. (Check out the album's full track list here.) "There's a militia, a march and a kind of rambunctious energy to it that, for me, I immediately wanted to tap into. I showed [Jay] some references from the classic rebellious zones of the world. We live in a very orderly society in America, but when you get into Brazil, you get into the Middle East, you get into Africa, you get into Eastern Europe, when you get into places like that, there's a different sort of 'we run this town' [going on]. There's less order and more chaos. So we looked at a lot of those references, new photos and historical photos, to capture that kind of falling-apart feeling."
Through the use of lighting effects and editing techniques, Mandler said he played up the aggression in the shots, creating more stark and tension-filled imagery. Mandler has worked with both Jay-Z ("Lost Ones," "D.O.A.") and Rihanna ("Disturbia," "Rehab") multiple times, but this was his first time collaborating with West. The director said he was able to successfully capture the essence of each artist while still retaining the original focus for the video.
"We wanted you to feel uneasy throughout the piece," he said. "We wanted there to be a constant layer of tension through the piece. Even in the way I shot — where the camera comes by Jay, it doesn't stop on him, it goes to Rihanna — there's kind of this chaos of revealing and covering and concealing. And things happen offscreen that you don't see.
"I think people are really gonna flip on this," he added.
"Run This Town" premieres Thursday on MTV.