When Jay-Z started recording the Black Album he began by hand picking the best beat makers in the business including Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Timbaland, DJ Quick, and Rick Rubin. The Black Album went on to sell over 3 million copies in the US alone. Rick Rubin’s contribution 99 Problems was the third single released off the album and is considered by many an instant classic.
The video was directed by Mark Romanek who has helmed some of the most memorable and controversial music videos ever made. His credits include the Nine Inch Nails classics Closer and Perfect Drug (one of my all time favorites), the unforgettable Johnny Cash cover of Hurt, En Vogue’s Free You Mind, Beck’s Devils Hair Cut, Criminal by Fiona Apple and on and on.
As controversial as this video was at the time of its release, it still managed four nominations and three MVPA awards. It also cleaned up at the MTV Video Awards winning Best Rap Video, Best Editing and Best Director while also being nominated for Best Male Video and Video of the Year.
The video it’s self is simple and very straight forward yet still manages to leave a lasting impression. I’m not sure if it’s the images of dog fighting, county lockup or Jay being shot to death by an unseen gun man, but this video manages to stick with you. Sometimes less is more and Romanek managed to include both more and less. Ultimately it comes down to this video being a piece of art.
Like all art the video is open to interpretation, and that is what I believe makes this a great video. At the time of its release The Black Album was supposed to be Jay’s final album. The imagery of him being shot, was it meant to signify the death of an area or perhaps something else? Please decide for you’re self.
Please do enjoy.