How We Became Extras in Jay-Z's ‘Picasso Baby’ Video

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When you get an enigmatic email from a friend emblazoned with the words Jay-ZMark Romanek, and “Picasso Baby,” you don't ask any questions. You simply gather your things, step out for an extended lunch break, and check in at the mogul's 40/40 venue where an afternoon of mayhem and Magna Carta Holy Grail awaits.

Mr. #NewRules riled up a diverse audience of chic curators, downtown hipsters, Brooklyn loyalists, and the UES’ high society today while recording a video for MCHG favorite “Picasso Baby.” Studio 94 and Romanek—who's responsible for the “99 Problems” video and clips for Budweiser's Made for Music campaign—produced the spectacle, marking the first of “six pieces of art” Jay tweeted would follow his RIAA record-breaking release. Jay summoned up the same energy he and Kanye West used to perform “N----s In Paris” an astounding 12 times in a row for a live, six-hour run of “Picasso,” inviting artist Marina Abramovi?WaleJudd ApatowAlexander Wang, and Adam Driver along for the ride.

There's more to this glossy work of art than meets the eye, or your Instagram feed. Reporter Channing Hargrove and I were there to experience what it's really like to be part of an epic Jay-Z moment. Keep up with us if you can.

11:24 AM: 

An email from my sorority sister landed in my inbox with the subject line “Exclusive Invitation.” Its contents requested my presence at filmed performance for Jay-Z at The 40/40 Club where my consent via signed release would be mandatory.

11:45 AM:

Anybody who knows NYC knows you're only as good as your entourage. I slid out of my desk and headed to Channing's editorial space with a purpose. “Wanna be my plus one?,” I asked.

11:47 AM:

“Absolutely,” she replied.

12:45 PM:

A swipe of lipstick later and we're in a cab, headed five blocks down and one avenue over to The 40/40 Club where we were greeted with no line. No people. No noise. (Weird!). The saga begins.

12:50 PM:

We sign our life away—it is Jay-Z after all. By the time we dated our releases, Channing and I gave S. Carter Enterprises, LLC the right to our names, voices, and/or video images depicting us for whatever mystery awaited inside the venue.

12:51 PM:

There's no mystery at all. Jay-Z is not popping bottles of D'usse cognac, no Ace of Spades, no party, no people. Just a girl telling us to sit on the side and wait for our numbers to be called to whisk us away to “the location.”

12:53 PM:

“Who is S. Gonzalez?" Luckily, neither of use carry that name, because we were sure he'd violated the afternoon's (kinda sorta) simple rule: no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. Your best friend shouldn't even know you're here. What did we sign up for?

1:00 PM:

It's showtime! We're in the same Mercedez-Benz van that a pregnant Beyoncé traveled around the city in while Blue Ivy was brewing. Our destination, though, wasn't clear... or far. Just five avenues away, across the street from Pace Gallery, we arrived to a hot warehouse (sans A/C). After checking our bags, and signing our lives away again, we were given a stamp. Not just any stamp, though: a Magna Carta Holy Grail stamp. Our pictures were taken with our names and IDs for “tracking,” and then the waiting began.

1:12 PM:

Channing waited for her picture to be added to Jay's database; I waited in an uncomfortable folding chair.

1:16 PM:

Channing joins me in an uncomfortable folding chair... and waits.

1:47 PM:


2:16 PM:

Still waiting.

3:30 PM:

Waiting some more.

3:46 PM:

With our MCHG stamps melting off of our sweaty hands, we, with a group of 50-plus Jay-Z fans, were escorted across the street to the doors of Pace Gallery. Where we waited. Outside. In the sun. And waited some more.

3:57 PM:

While baking, Alexander Wang, his chinchilla coat, and fresh blowout stroll by, unaffected by the heat. Twice. Moments later, “Picasso Baby” blasts from inside the gallery, applause breaks out, and Entourage's Adrian Grenier walks out. He too, was unbothered.

4:32 PM:

After discovering a “VIP” line, Channing and I are forced to wait, once more, because Tyson Beckford, his girlfriend, and puppy have first dibs to Jay-Z's six-hour stint.

4:45 PM:

An eternity—or what seemed like it—later, the doors to our destiny finally opened. We were in and a blast of A/C greeted us against the backdrop of a stark white gallery. There was a rope, sectioning off a center performance space, accented with a white platform, cameramen in all-grey-everything, and a birch bench.

5:00 PM:

A PA, or a hype man depending on how you want to spin it, orders us to get excited (as if we wouldn't), because the man of the longest hour ever was due to take center stage.

5:02 PM:

He does. We go crazy. He raps “Picasso Baby,” live, in front of our faces (literally, a few centimeters away). Across the room, someone's grandmother, armored with a Birkin bag, is rapping along. Word for word. Really.

5:06 PM:

The song ends and Jay-Z sips a Fiji—something we all need at this point, and can actually afford.

5:07 PM:

Encore. We wanted more, and he delivered. This time, a mosh pit was involved, where yours truly attempted to beat box against his effortless flows. That didn't turn out so well, but when you're turning up with Jay, who cares?

5:14 PM:

Just like that, it's over. Security whisks the star-struck audience away, and the greatest field trip ever, like all fairy tales, comes to an end.