David Knight - 14th Jan 2010

Jay-Z's fifth single from The Blueprint 3 brings Sam Brown back to promos - he's now usually occupied making ads - to make a compelling, bold and beautiful take on the hip-hop video.

Packed with stunning imagery, and intriguing characters, it's essentially a series of seemingly disconnected portraits and setpieces. And the video has been the subject of a huge amount of web conjecture, based around its apparently references to Freemasonry and the Illuminati.

If anything this is Sam making a point of putting some of the dyed-in-the-wool conventions of the hip-hop video aside, and moving on - his take on the theme of the song.

It's his best for a long time - with a brilliant edit by Amanda James.

Sam Brown on making the video for Jay-Z's On To The Next One

"I was very much into things that capture the music but don't exactly relate to each other. I think that's a more interesting way of working. At this stage, I'm not interested in a conventional narrative or doing a straight performance video.

"The imagery is quite unusual, and people have read things into it. I didn't realize that there have been all these stupid rumours of Jay-Z being in some occult sect. I had no idea.

"It was the sound itself that got me into the dark stuff. The song has a harsh repetitive sample, the first time I heard it I thought it was like a song going backwards - like the ones that get interpreted as demonic messages. The song sounds so oppressive and that's what I wanted - something dark, oppressive and brutal.

"The song is about progress, about not getting stuck doing the same thing, and hip-hop can be oddly conservative, with conventions that are very rarely broken. Jay-Z has been more openminded, looking outside hip-hop for inspiration. So the video is really about being a funeral for clichéd rap imagery.

"You have to destroy one thing in order to create another. Before you can bring in something new. Did Jay-Z get that Well, he gave me the brief, and I showed him a lot of images, but didn't really get to explain my thinking. He really let me get on with it.

"We shot at Coyote Studios in LA for two days with two cameras. No big sets or complicated lighting. The 4:3 format is a reaction to that as well. The characters don't do much and, like the clown-type guy, have a pent-up brooding presence - again, the track is like that. The fluid seeping into objects is like a whitewashing of things, before you can start again.

"We did get the car from Jaguar - I'm pretty new to the world of product placement. But it's the fifth video off the album and the budget was relatively tiny. And it was part of it for me: I'm going to get this and I'm going to destroy it.

"When you get a big opportunity like this, then why not push it a bit And people were receptive. Jay-Z loved the edit, and only really wanted one thing changed. Amanda [James at Final Cut] absolutely killed it. I told her I wanted it to be brutal and she nailed it. I didn't really want anything to happen in it - people don't do much. But what they do, Amanda captured it."

Watch 'Jay-Z’s On To The Next One by Sam Brown' here


DirectorSam Brown
Production CompanyDNA
ProducerJeremy Sullivan
Director of PhotographyChris Probst
2nd unit directorBouha Kazmi
EditorAmanda James
OnlinePaul Wilmitt
ColouristAubrey Woodiwiss
CommissionerDavid Saslow
Production CompanyFlynn
Production CompanyFlynn

David Knight - 14th Jan 2010

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