Old Favourites: Jay-Z – “99 Problems”

“You can kiss my whole asshole. If you don’t like my lyrics, you can press fast forward…”

I never really thought about it until recently, but I’ve grown up with Jay-Z’s music. Ever since I giggled at the guy rapping about rubbin’ on some chick’s tits when I was seven years old (the classic Hard Knock Life), I’ve always found Jigga to be one of those effortlessly cool motherfuckers that I’ll probably always have a soft spot for, no matter how cheesy his work would get (wanna listen to Empire State of Mind? Me neither.) He’s got so many great songs, and a slew of very cool video clips to go with them. For my money, though, nothing goes past this landmark video – the remarkable 99 Problems.

Shot entirely in black and white, the art-school take on life in “the Projects” and the dark side of New York is explosive and decidedly impactful viewing, no matter how many times you have seen it. Its affecting, daring visuals – everything from a dance posse to Hova being gunned down – immediately grab your attention and won’t let go of your scruffy little neck until the story fades to black (forgive the bad Jay-Z pun). When guns, bitches and bling were all but the norm in major-label hip-hop videos, Jay-Z made a mark with this highly influential and oft-imitated video. It’s for this reason that I perceive it to be one of the most important videos of its time – although, the Rick Rubin cameo is additionally a very clever touch. “You crazy for this one, Rick!” And so was I. Still am, really.

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