Friday, August 21, 2009

Can You Dig It? Dissecting the "Run This Town" Video

Jay, Kanye and Rihanna are followed by a mid-sized militia, which reminds me of the video for “California Love”:

Which is a direct tribute to Mad Max but also reminds me of the Bronx street gangs in The Warriors:

The video’s director, Anthony Mandler (who also did the videos for Jay’s “Lost Ones” and “D.O.A.”) claims that he was influenced by the rebellious areas of the world, and the street militias that form there (via Examiner):

"There's a tone and feeling to the song, 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 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."

"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.

Plus that chant built into the beat lends itself nicely to crowd scenes! What other influences can you guys spot?

Also: does anyone know whose face is on Kanye’s jacket at 2:52?


  1. can you say illuminati! do your research and youll see jay for what he really is...a sad puppet

  2. that's mao zhedong on ye's jacket

  3. Damn, knew he looked familiar. Thanks Anon!

  4. There looks to be plenty of people of color as extras in this video.

    Do you think that's a reference to the other countries the director mentioned?

    I like to think that We Run this Town is implicitly suggesting that, for example in the US, the racial makeup is changing rapidly, from predominately white to a multiracial populace and hence a shift in power (who runs this town) is happening. Don't tell Pat Buchanan.

    You could also say that the masks/bandannas, while taking away from the individuality of the subjects, creates a sort of universal, darker feature narrative that represents many people from different groups all together in the "town".

    Of course it's all disguised under running the music industry and supposed international influences so if people don't want to see what I suggest, they don't have to.

    lol. Film Majors.

  5. Of course, a diverse populace doesn't necessarily equal diverse leadership. However, considering how Obama and Sotomayor both recently made it and a lot of scared and angry gun toting white folks coming out of the wood works, fearful that the America they know and love is changing forever, one has to wonder if Mr. Victory is reminding people how things are just gonna be.

  6. Quanmadrid: I took a lot of film courses last semester, I feel you.
    Thanks for the analysis. I think the diversity is definitely being used as a signifier for change here. We'll see what happens though - Jay's been right about a few things.

  7. Jay's first verse about cash, WEAK, we know you rich nigga, give us something more. If your the best or claim to be the best, give us something new and different, push a fuckin boundary. His second verse sounds like something he wrote or umm, freestyled to a different verse all together. I love some jay but this shit is garbage. PEACE.

  8. f$#k pop! never liked it, never will.

    They even got you guys saying this is hip-hop ... please.

    yall can disect this all day, in the end its all weak.