(Part 14) SAT, July 28, 2007. SCANNERS 2007 Video Festival. Film Society of Lincoln Center. CRITIC Armond White's "Official History of Music Video: An Introspective" Presentation (15th Annual).
American Gangster? Gangsta?
Listen to the critic mention the Sam Peckinpah reference, among others...Oh yeah, check out the cameos by music producer/exec RICK RUBIN and actor VINCENT GALLO.
PANTHEON Exhibit D
CRITIC Armond White on
Jay-Z "99 Problems"
Director: Mark Romanek
Here's a link to an article promoting the event.
here's an essay where the critic writes about the "99 Problems" music video.
Critic Armond White can be reached courtesy of the weekly newspaper The New York Press
or the newsletter First of the Month
Here are some Armond White quotes on the music video (from his extended essay on the 99 Problems music video)...
"hiphop hit a brick wall at its most influential moment with booty-clapping, money-tossing imagery and lurid, greed-driven lyrical content. but filmmaker mark romanek and jay-z have finally broken through this ethical stagnation with the new music video 99 problems. it's a strong, strangely beautiful fiction that subverts hiphop cliche and achieves a streetwise definition of new york city that film and music fans have been waiting to see updated since mean streets..."
"...in stevie wonder's 1973 "living for the city," a tourist famously (and naively) exclaimed "new york! just like i pictured it!" ironically, romanek proves that in the hiphop era most people's idea of new york comes from videos (and movies) that dishonestly construct a stereotypical new york of loiterers, thugs and reprobates. black and white film gives it a documentary effect, as if casting an anthropological eye on graffiti, tenements, break-dancers and flashy cars. the stylized look distances ghetto life, but romanek's structure shifts from borough to borough, playground to jailhouse—a series of interlocking actions from a crazy-quilt travelogue of new york city. 99 problems shows a young black man's new york as it has never been seen before. jay-z spins a tale of common aimlessness and selfish survival ("ya havin' girl problems?/i feel bad for you, son/i got 99 problems/and a bitch ain't one"). his delivery is terse yet eloquent—swingsong, but the world he walks through is ferocious..."
"...no rap fan watching 99 problems would sensibly long to partake in its spectacle. the jail scenes (with frontal nudity of inmates being sprayed for lice) are controversial, restricting the video's airplay even on cable outlets. this is a tribute to romanek's visual intensity. he has an iconographic gift to make commonplace things memorable or (as in hurt for johnny cash) numinous. in 99 problems, images and words become a wrecking ball against the familiar edifice of ghetto-fabulous determinism. 99 problems breaks through the nyc truisms of poverty and deprivation that hiphop culture has romanticized. romanek sees the place clearer, tougher and poetically. the cliches will no longer stand."
"every other music video director will have to face up to this and respond. romanek's esthetics are informed by a rare social consciousness. (he not only shows what new york folks look like, but how they actually live, mixing harshness and lyricism.) that's the subversion. this video questions what all the others say is fly, def or cool by showing that hipster perspective to be limited; simply sexy rather than shocking; and laughable instead of tragic. "we're trying to show the artistry side of hiphop," jay-z told a reporter. "i just really wanted [mark] to shoot like where i'm from in brooklyn and shoot the hood, but shoot it like art, not just shoot a bunch of dudes or a bunch of cars."
"...as romanek's images keep coming at you—pulsing to producer rick rubin's sullen, reverberating beat—they fall into line as maybe the truest-ever hiphop portrait of new york life. from the marcy projects to a church in brooklyn, it's a visual parade of around-the-corner confrontations, whimsical children, lost adults, desperate hedonism—the things most hiphop videos treat blithely. no bling-bling allowed. romanek never pauses for condescension, but a couple shots that dolly into a funeral home, then a coffin, are appropriately stunning. only the inevitability of death impedes on the velocity of life..."
Director MARK ROMANEK can be reached at:
You can also see the director's cut of the Jay-Z "99 Problems" music video at http://www.markromanek.com
NOTE: In the mid-90's (not sure of year, perhaps 1995?) Critic Armond White devoted an entire music video presentation to the work of Director/Filmmaker MARK ROMANEK, director of this music video.