The "#newrules" promotional campaign for Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta Holy Grail' kicked into high gear yesterday with a live art installation turned interactive video shoot for 'Picasso Baby.' A select group of individuals were invited to the Pace Gallery in New York City to attend the spectacle, which saw Jay perform his song repeatedly in front of a variety of people who seemed to serve as props. Among the people involved were performing arts legends such as Marina Abramovic.
Of course, the whole event was captured on social media. It might have been an attempt by those in attendance to make the excluded jealous, but perusing through the footage and pictures revealed a weird scene that only got weirder as the day unfolded.
So if you weren't invited to Jay's live art installation/video shoot for 'Picasso Baby,' here are the ten most awkward Vines from the event. Consider yourself lucky you didn't make it into any of these scenes.
The Next to Wear the Roc Chain: A Little Girl
Back in the early 2000s, getting a Roc-A-Fella chain from Jay-Z was a rite of passage. Artists like Beanie Sigel, Freeway and Kanye West took that chain and the Roc-A-Fella brand and used it to create hit singles, incredible albums, and legendary hip-hop moments. And then, eventually, the Roc disbanded, Jay moved on to Roc Nation, and the chain was retired by everyone but Curren$y
It is believed that Universal gave Jay the rights to Roc-A-Fella back. So are we supposed to take something away from Jay giving the chain to a little girl and placing her on top of a bench? Is Jay going to be using Roc-A-Fella as a development pipeline for extremely young talent? Or is this yet another sign that it might not be Jay Electronica’s turn after all?
The Three Kings of Picasso
Have you ever wondered why Memphis Bleek has stuck around with Jay for all these years as a hypeman? Just look at the excitement on the faces of these three young men as they get an opportunity to rap alongside Jay here. The guy in the white V-neck looks like he would have pissed his pants had Jay tapped him on the shoulder. The man on the other end looks awe-struck by his opportunity to dance to Hov’s music in front of Hov, but is clearly weirded out by the fact that he likely just took a lunch break at his job or internship to sneak into the video shoot.
What’s abundantly clear in this Vine is that none of the three know what to do with their hands during a rap song. Limbs awkwardly flail and thrash along to the song arbitrarily. The guy in the middle twirls his finger in the air as if he’s swinging a lasso. These three men are eagerly looking forward to a potential cameo in the ‘Picasso Baby’ music video, but it’s likely that Jay revisits the footage and reacts like this. Can’t say I’d blame him.
Jay-Z and Marina Abramovic Get Too Close
Jay-Z has always tried to give off the aura of being cool, detached, and a bit distant from others. Part of that has to do with the fact that he comes from an earlier era in rap music, where rappers were supposed to be scary figures and not as intimate with the fans. But now with the “#newrules,” all of this has gone out the window.
So if you’ve ever wanted to see one of Brooklyn’s biggest moguls get intimate with a middle-aged white woman in a black dress that looks like a cult leader, yesterday was your big opportunity. Jay-Z rapped alongside performance art legend Marina Abramovic, and it looked like a scene straight out of a bizarre ritual. Above, you see Jay and Marina’s arms outstretched, foreheads touching as they walk around in a circle.
Some people call this art. Others just call this weird.
Meet Mr. Too Cool For Jay-Z
Picture this: Jay-Z has invited a select few people to come to the gallery and watch him perform a song. Normally, this costs at least one hundred dollars and forces the concertgoer to sit yards away from Jay as he performs, but in this free performance, everyone is within arms reach from the biggest rapper in the world right now. What would inspire anybody to come to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and act like it all means nothing?
Well, this video introduces us to Mr. Too Cool For Jay-Z, a man who rolls up the sleeves of his t-shirt, wears dark shades inside a white-walled art gallery, and continues to fold his arms together as Jay-Z approaches him, choosing to merely head nod as if he were giving Jay some sort of stamp of approval. Clearly this man must be someone important, as he just had Jay breathe all over him and didn’t even twitch a facial muscle.
And this is why nobody likes performing in New York City.
Jay-Z can do a lot of things. He is an incredible rapper with a sharp business acumen that has driven the conversation of pop culture and changed the way a generation dresses. He has run two successful labels and managed the careers of some of music’s brightest stars. He’s working on becoming an incredible father as well. But it looks like yesterday’s video shoot revealed the one chink in Jay’s arsenal: his inability to bow.
Jay’s competitive spirit likely makes bowing to anybody repulsive, even if it’s just a gracious bow to show appreciation for the hundreds of people who came to watch him film a music video and perform his single. That spirit has likely prevented him from getting much practice at bowing. Now this is what performance art is all about. Does he look like a bad actor pretending to die, an aspiring ballerina trying to pirouette, or a young bird trying to fly for the first time? You decide.
Have you ever been unsure of how to greet someone, and you try to go for a pound but the other person extends his hand out for a handshake? Remember how awkward and that feels? Well imagine being a little boy who does this with Jay-Z in front of hundreds of people with cell phone cameras.
The scene starts cute and innocent enough, with Jay bringing the boy into the center of a circle as he struts forward with his best impersonation of a “rapper walk.” The kid actually goes for a handshake first, and then he remembers that the tall man in a white button down shirt was just rapping to him about how he “wants a Picasso,” and so he curls up his fist for a pound. Jay wasn’t having it.
The good news is that the boy has a story he will always be able to tell his friends for years to come. The bad news is that his awkward exchange with Jay-Z will forever be immortalized on Vine and the Internet. Lesson learned: it’s good to be decisive.
Normally, when one breaks a leg and wears a cast, there tends to be crutches involved. But maybe this gray-haired woman is onto something with her fancy scooter-like device. It looks a little uncomfortable, as she has to propel her “scooter” forward by pushing down with her healthy leg, but it probably beats hobbling around everywhere.
As for why this woman emerged from the crowd to perform a scooter orbit around Jay-Z… that remains a mystery. Even Jay has to turn around as he’s performing to stare at the lady. And it looks like she’s only wearing an oversized dress shirt, so there’s that mystery as well. No further details needed.
Rapping Acapella to One Person
In this video, Jay-Z starts rapping acapella. Normally this is one of the highlights of a concert experience: a good emcee can generate energy from the audience rocking acapella, and Jay is a pretty good live performer. But the moment gets turned into an awkward one thanks to the cameo from Rick Rubin’s long-lost cousin.
Okay, so the bearded man sitting on the bench probably has no relationship with Rubin, but why is he sitting right in front of Jay as he’s rapping? It’s tough to read the expression on the man’s face, but it looks like he’s nonplussed, as if he’s either used to people rapping to him acapella on a regular basis or if he’s being paid to sit there silently and watch. Either way, it will be interesting to see if this scene would make the eventual ‘Picasso Baby’ video, or how it would look on camera if it did make the cut.
“#Newrules” and technological difficulties have been going together like peanut butter and jelly ever since the Magna Carta app took nearly two hours to work for most people who tried to download Jay’s album on the 4th of July. So naturally, the speakers prematurely blew out during the middle of the video shoot. What better way to pass the time than to watch a random woman from the crowd perform ballet?
This video is a definitive sign that Monday’s Twitter session was a pre-determined promotion tactic. Killing time, it would be logical for Jay to get on social media and perhaps answer some more questions, or even just tweet out the iTunes link to ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail.’ Instead, he’s just content with leading a clap for the ballerina on stage. Within a few moments, the bearded man (whom he is sitting next to now) and the crowd join in.
The man in the gray shirt standing right in front of Jay-Z is mean mugging as if he was about to turn the corner and rob somebody in broad daylight. On its own, it’s a reasonable reaction listening to ‘Picasso Baby’ and its Adrian Younge-sampled instrumental. And then you remember that this is all taking place at the Pace Gallery, and the scene becomes surreal, the mean mugging out-of-place.
This video epitomizes everything that was awkward about yesterday’s exhibition. But maybe Jay was going for awkward. After all, there he is shooting a music video for ‘Picasso Baby’ two days after revealing that he’s never owned a Picasso painting in his life. “Oh what a feeling” indeed.