Run the Jewels makes their VR debut with Wevr for ‘Crown’ music video
Run the Jewels’, Crown is currently available on the New York Times VR app.
We think Run The Jewels is one of the most important artists on the current musical landscape, operating at the zeitgeist of contemporary culture, both artistically and politically. It’s precisely why Wevr is so excited to help the duo, who consist of Killer Mike and El-P, explore virtual reality with their provocative new video “Crown.” The project was directed by our creative collaborator Peter Martin who first saw the duo perform at the Coachella Festival. “ They just floored me,” Peter says, “They were doing this socially and politically driven rap music that I didn’t know even existed anymore. It reminded me of the glory days of hip hop like Grandmaster Flash. I wanted a band and a song that would tell a story and they seemed perfect.” For their part, Run The Jewels say they had an existing interest in VR. “I always thought it would be cooler to play video games from the inside,” says Killer Mike.
The resulting experience is everything we could have hoped for – emotionally charged, visually powerful, and a perfect accompaniment to the band’s track. Shot in a stark black and white, the piece features two simultaneous narratives from band members Killer Mike and El-P telling separate but equally provocative stories.
With his narrative, Killer Mike delivers an unlikely and moving story of redemption involving his youth dealing drugs, a chance meeting with an old customer years later and the unexpected effect he had on her life. “It’s about me coming to terms with the guilt of being a low level drug dealer and that part of my life. This song gave me an opportunity to kind of exorcise those demons. Peter’s vision was always to do his best to bring our words to life and the actors that accompanied us were a big part in that.”
EL-P’s story is less personal and more political, addressing the government practice of manipulating kids into joining the armed forces, going to war and the potentially devastating consequences.
His delivery mixed with the stirring subject matter proved an ideal match for the immersive qualities of VR. As EL-P elaborates, “For my part, being able to take on the role of the army recruiter as well as the shadowy, military industrialist style puppet master was the task, but being able to communicate directly and confrontation-ally with the viewer was what made the VR aspect exciting. The idea for my verse was to embody the the spirit of “the great lie” of war, not only by presenting a realistic physical appearance, but by trying my best to convey the sliminess of the whole transaction. We wanted the viewer to feel a connection to the characters in the song that they couldn’t if they weren’t looking right in to their eyes and feeling like they were in the same physical space. There is an emotional connection that comes with your brain feeling like you are actually in front of someone that cant be replicated in a regular two dimensional medium.”
The merging of the music with two simultaneous narratives resulted in a powerful work that exceeded our already high expectations. Everything imagined was realized and more. As director Peter Martin explains, “The visual reference I first gave was the fight scenes from Raging Bull. I think in terms of story telling the project opens up a whole new genre. This idea that you can have multiple stories going on, multiple angles of the same narrative, all running in parallel. I love that depth of story telling that’s happening.”
The collaboration between Run The Jewels, Peter Martin and Wevr, has been both enjoyable and creatively dynamic. The end result something that excites us as fans and makes us proud as creatives who believe in the possibilities of VR.
“Peter and the Wevr team were consummate professionals,” offers Killer Mike. “ It’s always fun to work with people that are as excited and serious about their craft as much we are about ours. “Crown” is the song that might be the most dearest to us so it was important to do something special for it.”
Run The Jewels’ co-manager Amaechi Uzoigwe adds “When the opportunity arose to work with Wevr on a virtual reality music video for RTJ, my first response was “Hell yes!”, followed by “So what the hell exactly is VR again?” We knew little about it other than it felt like an incredible medium for story tellers where we could create a multi-dimensional experience for fans. Thankfully, working with Wevr and Peter Martin, we’ve been able to achieve just that – an engaging visual narrative that brings to life the imagery, power and poignancy of the song via a completely immersive experience. VR is officially changing the game and we couldn’t be more excited to be exploring this brave new world with Wevr.”
El-P says the duo is more than ready to explore VR more in the future. “The possibilities are endless. The idea of meeting and interacting/performing for fans globally in a virtual space that feels real is obvious. Less obvious might be my plan to literally live in a computer and eventually rule a small chunk of virtual space with a loving but stern, godly fist.”
Run the Jewel’s Crown is featured in The New York Times’ article 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music is Going.