Love it or hate it? Jay Z’s new performance art video for “Picasso Baby”

Love him, hate him, think he’s the greatest rapper of all time, or the greatest manipulator of all time, one thing can’t be argued — Jay Z knows how to make a statement.

The mega emcee, who recently garnered plenty of flack for the marketing of his new album through a 3-minute-long Samsung ad (the word “sell-out” was bandied around more than a few times), is making headlines again — and raising a few eyebrows — with his just-dropped video for “Picasso Baby.”

Less a music video than a performance art piece, the video recalls Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present,” a 736+ hour performance art piece at the MoMa for which the New York-based artist sat in a room, silently, and let viewers interact with and respond to her.

For “Picasso Baby,” Jay has invited a crowd of fans — celebrity friends, contemporary artists, and everyday people alike — into a large white room to essentially do the same thing. Except he’s sure as hell not sitting there silently. Jay raps in the middle of the room while, one-by-one, the participants take their turn in front of the legendary rapper.

Some merely sit (some clearly feeling awkward, awed, or both), some dance, and some — including Abramović who appears frequently in the video — literally get up HOVA’s face.

Famous cameos in the video include Alan Cumming (love him), “Girls” actors Jemima Kirke and Adam Driver (who looks rather perplexed), Rosie Pérez, Wale, Michael K. Williams, and many more you may or may not recognize. (Key moment at 3:22 when Judd Apatow, seated in front of an energetically rapping Jay, pretends to take a call on his cell, holding up his finger as if to say “yeah, yeah, hold on one sec.”)

The video, clearly designed to stir up conversation and not a little controversy, is definitely going to have its share of fans and detractors. Not the least of which will come from those miffed that Jay is comparing himself to some of the great artists of our time, and past. We’re personally divided. But one thing is true — from beginning to end, this thing is fairly captivating and all involved seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves — Jay Z included. And it’s a good ass song.

Got an opinion? Leave it in the comments, we’d love to hear ‘em.


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