Jay Z premiered his long-awaited visual for “Picasso Baby” on HBO Friday night (August 2). The Mark Romanek-directed visual begins with Jay explaining the concept of the video and his thoughts on hip-hop as performance art.
“We’re artists. We’re cousins,” he says. With the video he hopes he’s “Bringing the worlds back together. I try not to have any expectations going into a performance.”
Set in a sparse room at Milk Studios in NYC, Jay walks into his performance space and is surrounded by fans, media personalities and notables. Inspired by Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present” exhibit, select people take turns facing off with Hov as he raps to the “Picasso Baby” track.
Covering the worlds of art, music and film, the cameos include “Macbeth” actor Alan Cumming, actress Taraji P. Henson, hip-hop personality Fab Five Freddy, writer Judd Apatow, several members from the cast of “Girls” like Adam Driver, rapper Wale, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley and actress Rosie Perez.
Performance artist Marina Abramovic has the biggest cameo, engaging in several stare downs with Hov. “It was great. So much energy,” she says after the shoot happens. She said in an interview that she hopes that rap fans will get interested in performance art after watching “Picasso Baby.” “For me, it’s very important that the rapper community and the Twitter [community] actually start Googling to understand what performance art is,” she told NY Mag. “It’s really important that I can shift the public from the one field [i.e., pop music] to the arts, which rarely happens. So, this was really a very meaningful thing.”
By the end of the video, the guest stars turn into a screaming throng of Hov fans, and the performance art becomes a recognizable rap show. Hov sums it up at the end. “Rap is pretty much thinking out loud…It’s there for the world to see.”