I went to Jay-Z’s music video shoot for ‘Picasso Baby’, and wrote about it for Mass Appeal. Check it out.
Six hours of the same song, the same Jay-Z, in the same white shirt, the same dark jeans and the same white kicks — and yet every hour the people and the experience changed entirely. In a swanky New York art space, Pace Gallery in Chelsea, the first tangible taste of Jay-Z’s #newrules goes live in the form of a music video shoot for the track “Picasso Baby” off his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Just as I tweet that I’m sweating my face off in a holding pen across the street from the gallery, a production crew begins rounding up the crowd of “guests” huddled around floor fans trying to keep cool, and announces we can go in now. We’re ushered into the gallery, already partially filled with art world elites, and are told to spread out around the edges of the gallery walls and to stay behind the roped off line. Staring at the people on the other side I can’t help but wonder how everyone else got here, as a professional camera crew buzzes around me getting shots of the crowd.
Suddenly, with no introduction, Jay enters the room, no microphone in sight. The crowd is cautiously cheering, as he starts rapping. “I just want a Picasso.” No one knows what to do, or what exactly is happening. This awkward excitement is filling the room. I can’t help but notice there are a lot of old people. A white haired woman joins Jay at the center of the space as he name drops his favorite artists, “Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner / Go ahead lean on that shit Blue / You own it.” Jay is in her face rapping these passionate words like a young artist bearing his soul to the one person that can make his wildest dreams come true. The woman is grooving along to Jay’s lyrics in her refined grandmotherly way, she leans in, and embraces him with a hug.
An art world academic in his 50s, renowned art critic Jerry Saltz, takes a seat at the bench in the center of the room in front of Jay. Through raps about Basquiat, Jay is insisting Saltz leave his post at the bench and take a walk with him. Saltz obliges and chums it up with the rapper, laughing and nodding to the lines, “I’m never satisfied, can’t knock my hustle / I wanna Rothko, no I wanna brothel.” Jay is bouncing to the beat and motions for Saltz to follow, I start to cringe. The art world power player dances awkward and uncomfortably and yet Jay doesn’t even blink, he keeps up his enthusiasm and a smile, as he spits the lyrics “I’m Pablo Picasso baby.” As if signaling to Saltz, he’s in Jay-Z’s world now.
“Picasso Baby” is nearing the three minute mark and Jay motions for the crowd to cross over the rope separating the art from the viewer and to join him in the center of the space. I rush towards Jay trying to get as close to him as a can, mostly so I can take pics and post them on Instagram and Twitter immediately after. The crowd is smiling, bobbing and for the most part dancing, as Jay raps in a 360 degree circle, giving hugs, high fives, and ensuring he makes eye contact with just about everyone. All of a sudden I realize I’m no longer trying to snap a million pics and videos, and I’m actually just taking in what’s happening right in front of me.
If the success of a work of art can be judged by its ability to move you, then Jay’s “Picasso Baby” experience is doing just that. Even if that feeling is awkward and confused. All that matters is that I’m here right now. #thisishappening
With so much accessibility and saturation in the digital space today, the method of how artists connect with fans is changing. In 2013, it’s not enough to have fans, followers and likes. Fuck hashtags and retweets, nigga /140 characters in these streets, nigga. In 2013 it’s about touching them. Jay-Z didn’t invite a bunch of old people to brag about his art knowledge and immense wealth, (well maybe a little), he did it to grab you, in the process, make you feel. As ridiculous as it sounds, the ability to get a room full of people to put down their phones and just be in the moment with you is a true testament to power of an artist today.
Yesterday six different groups of Jay-Z fans(?) stood inside an empty gallery and took part in a multimedia experience. How the footage of each crowd and their encounter with Jay will be edited together is yet to be revealed, but there’s no doubt the “Picasso Baby” music video shoot is progressing the artist-to-fan experience. #newrules