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V Exclusive: “On To The Next One” Director Sets The Record Straight

When Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One” video premiered New Year’s Eve, the black-and-white clip, with its ominous images of animal horns, crucifixes, and skulls, sparked a barrage of conspiratorial questions. Was Jigga a Freemason? Was the clip backed by the all-powerful Illuminati? And just how in the hell did Jay get the new Jaguar XJ before it even hit the U.S.? Award-winning UK-based video director Sam Brown, the visionary behind clips for Corinne Bailey Rae (“Put Your Records On”), James Blunt (“You’re Beautiful”) and the Foo Fighters (“Wheels”), has the answers to all those questions and more. After all, the man directed Jay’s avant-garde statement. Brown goes on the record. ––Keith Murphy

VIBE: When you were first approached about directing Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One” did you feel you had to shoot the video differently considering it was hip-hop?
Sam Brown: It was important to ignore the fact that it was a hip-hop video, and simply make a video. It was going to be radical almost by default because the hip-hop video is an oddly conservative genre…it seems more stuck in its message than other types of music videos. But also, I wanted to make a video that appealed to hip-hop fans.

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.

Were there any differences between filming the more low-key likes of the Corinne Bailey Rae and James Blunt and an in-your-face artist like Jay-Z?
I tend to approach all types of artists in the same way. I try not to have preconceived ideas of who an artist is, or what they’re going to like. Whoever they are it’s good to take chances with them, and to ignore what they’ve done before.

Did Jay come up with the avant-garde treatment for the video? If so, do you think he (or yourself) was aware of the talk that some of the imagery would ignite?
[To] tell the truth, I wouldn’t speak for Jay. I know he really liked the video. He strikes me as a very intelligent and forward-thinking person and I have huge respect for him and his label for wanting to bring something different. As the man says, he uses his cojones.

Touché. 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.

How were you able get the new Jaguar XJ before its commercial US release?
Jay-Z’s a very influential man.

You have also done television commercials. Is that how you got your start in the industry?
Actually I started in music videos and moved over into commercials. Budgets were plummeting in videos, and it was becoming very hard to do what I wanted to do creatively. [As for the future], I’m filming two commercials back to back, one in Buenos Aries and one back home. I hope to do another video after that if I can.

Has “On To The Next One” wet your appetite to direct more hip-hop videos?
Yes, I think so. But there would have to be a reason to do it, I guess. With Jay-Z, there was.

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Meek Mill Is Surrounded By His Day Ones In Visual For "Intro"

Self-proclaimed "Champion of the United States" and Philadelphia-bred rapper Meek Mill delivers the official music video for "Intro" on Monday (Dec. 10).

Directed by Kid Art, the three-minute visual frames Meek's mental state as he re-enters the rap game as he continues to battle the justice system as a young, black man. Presumably surrounded by those he considers family, "Intro" retrospectively takes a look at the 31-year-old's come up as a notable rapper out of North Philly.

Juxtaposing his current lifestyle with not-so-distant memories of the trenches, the video shuffles scenes of club confetti, bullet holes, poured out bottles of Ace of Spades and dirt bikes– a presumed nod to Meek's unjust jail sentence.

"Pouring champagne 'cause all my n***s dead/ If they ain't in the graveyard, then they in the feds/ I give a f**k if that crown heavy, put it on my head" spits Meek over the instrumental to Phil Collins' "In The Air."

Last week (Dec. 2) music engineers Young Guru and Anthony Cruz spoke to VIBE about Meek's choice to sample Collins' "In The Air Tonight" on the track, stating that "Meek had this vision" to flip the classic track since he first heard it in Paid In Full and was glad to finally make it happen in a standout fashion on "Intro."

If you haven't already, be sure to take a look at the official music video for "Intro" up top.

READ MORE: Young Guru And Anthony Cruz Discuss Engineering Meek Mill's 'Championships' Album

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Gucci Mane, XXXTentacion, & More Friday Releases You Need To Hear

Another week, another list of Friday music releases. The week's of 2018 are dwindling, but there is a little more time left for some last-minute music releases. From Gucci Mane, to XXXTentacion, and Ice Cube, here are the albums and singles that you need to hear.

Gucci Mane – Evil Genius

Gucci Mane's 13th studio album is here. The rapper dropped his new project, Evil Genius, featuring an all-star list of talent, including, Quavo, Kevin Gates, Lil Skies and 21 Savage. The LP also features production by Metro Boomin, Murda Beatz and Southside.

The latest music drop marks the perfect finish to an eventful year for Guwop. He previously dropped DropTopWop, Mr. Davis, and El Gato The Human Glacier this year. Even so, the rapper suggested that he wants to make a bang with Evil Genius.

"I think this time, this album was like the first time I kind of had more fun making the records," he said during an interview with Beats 1. "With the intentions of just going in the studio and just had fun and this is what came out. But before, I was kind of going and expressing myself, talking through the mic, like I had a lot of my chest. This album was like, let's find the best beat, make the best song and put it out."

XXXTentacion – Skins

In celebration of XXXTentacion's posthumous album, Skins, his estate and friends through a livestreamed event at 9p.m. EST, featuring Trippie Redd, PnB Rock, Ski Mask the Slump God, Matt Ox and more.

There has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding the late rapper's new release. It's his first since his death in June 2018. The album features only one guest appearance from Kanye West. On the track, which is entitled "On Minute," Ye reportedly addressed abuse allegations brought against X. In support of the album, Kanye also released a Yeezy capsule collection, commemorating their single.

Since X's death he has been regarded as a young legend, gone too soon. His sophomore album ?  peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Listen to Skins below.

Ice Cube – Everythang's Corrupt

Ice Cube is make with Everythang's Corrupt. The album's only feature is OG rapper Too $hort.

Cube already got fan excited after released the one of the LP's single "Arrest the President." The track takes aim at President Trump's corruption and racist policies. The album's cover art features Cube holding a 100-dollar bill in his bloodied hands.

Everythang's Corrupt is Cube's tenth studio album and his first in eight years. It's a follow-up to 2010's I Am the West.

Sneakk Ft. YG & Tyga – "Spray"

New artist Sneak has joind forces with YG and Tyga to bring their new banger "Spray." It's Sneakk's first track released through Def Jam. The single definitely sounds like the new stripper anthem or the perfect track to ride down the block to.

Ahead of the single's release, the rapper's shared a teaser on social media featuring a behind the scenes look at their music video.

Michelle Williams – "Fearless"

Michelle Williams is back. The songstress – best known as a member of the popular girls group Destiny's Child – recently dropped a new solo record entitled "Fearless."

The pop record is an inspirational anthem, encouraging fans to face their fears and chase their dreams. This is a huge moment for Williams, as it is her first single in nearly four years. It also follows an overwhelming year for the singer, who got engaged in Apr. 2018, as well as publicly revealed her battle with depression and mental illness.

Listen to the new track below.

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Premiere: Fuego And A. Chal Take Over The Strip Club In "Dancin" Music Video

Dominican trap artist Fuego has created an ode to the art of stripping with his new single “Dancin,” featuring producer and R&B extraordinaire A. Chal. The visuals for the track are laced with bright blue club lights and brief salacious interludes of voluptuous young ladies dancing provocatively.

The two are seemingly in a never-ending party in efforts to promote strip club etiquette through their tantalizing lyrics. There's no denying that Fuego's sound is reminiscent of today's prominent trap artists like Migos and Future, but he packs in a Latino flair, like his contemporaries Bad Bunny and El Alfa. The Washington D.C. native's sound is similar, but it's worth noting he's been on the scene for a while, steadily etching his mark as his musical prowess rises within hip-hop and Latin audiences.

“For some reason, I've always wanted to do a sound that American hip-hop has, and then break that my way,” he tells VIBE. “When it comes to putting stuff together and making fusions of music, I've done it all my life. When I first started out, I did reggae beats, but I was rapping over them. There’s a little more urban, hip-hop sound in the Latin community. Before, it was mad reggae. It either had to be a tropical type song or reggaeton song. I've always wanted to come out with hip-hop music."

Watch the video for "Dancin" below.

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