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Jay-Z Has Big "Problems"

Rapper battles with MTV over new video

May 4, 2004 12:00 AM ET

"I feel like Madonna," says Jay-Z of what he calls his "battle" with MTV over the disturbing imagery in his superb new video for "99 Problems," from his Black Album.

Made by director Mark Romanek -- responsible for Johnny Cash's 2003 "Hurt" clip -- "99 Problems" contains gritty black-and-white images of Jay-Z returning to his childhood home in Brooklyn's Marcy projects, street fights and, ultimately, his own fictionalized murder.

"One of my ideas was the cliche, like in Godfather, of somebody being riddled with bullets in slow motion," says Romanek. The director says Jay-Z didn't like the idea at first "but became enamored with what it meant symbolically."

MTV asked Romanek to edit about ten scenes, but he agreed only to blur certain images. MTV is airing the clip after 6 p.m.

"We're not interested in what MTV likes or doesn't like," he says. "If you make something good enough, MTV will want to show it."

 

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Song Stories

“Vans”

The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

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