Music video director Sam Brown, spoke to VIBE about the controversial imagery shot in Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One”.
There’s been a lot of talk about Jay’s video containing Freemason imagery such as the horned animal head, an eagle and skull. What are your thoughts about such talk and why do you think music fans are so quick to believe a conspiracy narrative?
I’m aware of the stir the video has caused and what people are saying. I think when you’re dealing in abstract imagery people are going to want to draw lines between things and make sense of it. However, I’ve always felt that the viewing public was, in general, extremely visually literate. They don’t always want or need things to be spelt out for them. One of the great things about music videos are they can be enjoyed purely visually—it doesn’t need to mean anything or make any sense. Conspiracy theory is another thing entirely, and seems to me to be about projecting pre-existing beliefs and desperately looking for things that confirm them. There is imagery in this video that is drawn from all over the place. None of it is owned by any one culture or belief system. You can connect anything if you try hard enough, and make it mean anything you want it to.
…So what was the overall direction Jay was looking for?
He gave me a very loose brief, and made it clear that we should be progressive with the video. All the imagery was thought up by me and was a response to the track itself. For those interested, the idea is actually about a funeral for old imagery and ideas, hence all the gothic and oppressive stuff. I was also trying to contradict the excess of hip-hop videos by making something brutally simple and claustrophobic.