“Run This Town” by Jay-Z (ft. Rihanna and Kanye West)
“Run This Town” is a dual-sentiment song. On one hand it is obviously meant to big up Roc La Familia, i.e. Jay-Z’s circle of artists at the time, which most notably included Rihanna and Kanye West. Or as Jigga personally explained it, this piece is symbolic of his transition from being an employee of Def Jam to establishing his own entertainment company, Roc Nation. And he wanted to celebrate that power-move alongside ‘the two greatest artists that he found’.
Secondly and along a similar vein, this track is espousing what can be termed as a takeover mentality, i.e. ‘running this town’ pointing to the notion of it being better to lead than to follow, in a manner of speaking.
Going back to Jay-Z’s own explanation, this is a communal effort. In other words, this song isn’t about individual achievement per se, as ‘running this town’ is meant to be presented as a collective endeavor.
And with that in mind, this track is largely known for its somewhat unforgettable, gang-oriented music video, which visually sports a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max reminiscent motif. And there’s definitely what can be deemed a counter-mainstream slant to it all, i.e. Jigga for instance speaking to rockin’ “all black everything”, i.e. black “fatigues”, “black cars” and even “black cards”. But as for that latter notation, it is actually a reference to what is known as the American Express black card. The said care is a credit card with, most simply put, is only available to the wealthy.
I Made It!
Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that this song does in fact feature the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West. These are rappers who are known to regularly celebrate having made it rich in their songs. Jigga, who holds down the first two verses, drops enough metaphors and analogies alluding to such himself. But as for Yeezy’s verse, unlike the rest of the song his come-up is actually the passage’s main topic.
That noted, “Run This Town” is one of those kinds of tracks where the chorus, as recited by Rihanna, is so powerful that the accompanying raps may get lost along the way. And she does an effective job of establishing that the thesis sentiment is in fact sort of this, shall we say domineering mentality that Jay-Z and his cohorts possess. And indeed, it can be argued that thinking in such a manner is a prerequisite for the levels of success they have experienced.
So conclusively, it’s can be safely postulated that this is meant to be an exercise in positivity thinking – an attempt on the part of La Familia to imbue the listener with a never-say-die, f*-k-the-consequences type of mindset in terms of achieving their goals. But considering that this is Roc-A-Fella and all, the way the rappers themselves go about relaying that encouragement is largely within the context of boasting about their own riches.
When was “Run This Town” released?
This track was dropped on 8 September 2009. This was at a time when the music careers of Rihanna and Kanye West especially were at their peak. And the overall success of both of these mega-artists is in part attributable to Jay-Z. For instance, West established himself in the game as a musician working under Jigga’s Roc-A-Fella Records.
Whereas Carter did not formally sign Fenty, to his Roc Nation label, until 2010, it was he who personally facilitated her big break also. Jigga signed Rihanna to Def Jam Records (where he was at that time CEO of) in 2005.
As such, the labels behind this track are in fact Roc Nation and Roc-A-Fella Records, in conjunction with Atlantic Records.
Credits for “Run This Town”
The three vocalists wrote this song alongside three others, namely:
- Jeff Bhasker
- Athanasios Alatas
- No I.D
It was also No I.D. and West, the former being known as a mentor to the latter, who produced “Run This Town”.
Anthony Mandler directed the memorable music video to this track. The clip was filmed in a part of Queens known as Fort Totten. This is a facility in New York City that was formerly utilized by the US Army.
Despite the close professional relationship between Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye, “Run This Town” marks the first and apparently only time to date these three titans actually collaborated altogether, and even that wasn’t intentional per se.
As the story goes (according to No I.D.), this was originally a solo Rihanna cut, but the songstress went on to reject the tune. However, both Jigga and Yeezy were feeling it and subsequently jumped on the track themselves, and it eventually wound up on Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint 3” album.
Success of “Run This Town”
With all of that in mind, it should be noted that this track does in fact possess a pretty unique sound for a hip-hop song. And it has been further reported that Kanye was vehemently against the idea of “Run This Town” being issued as a single.
However, it still went on to serve as the second single from “The Blueprint 3”. Issuing it as such proved to be a wise decision. For example, this song earned the vocalists a couple of Grammys in 2010, specifically in the following categories
- Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
- Best Rap Song
Beyond that, this track also charted in approximately 20 countries – including the likes of Israel and Slovakia. In the process, it topped the following relevant music charts:
- UK Singles Chart
- UK Hip-Hop/R&B Chart
- Billboard’s US Hop Rap Songs
- Billboard’s US Rhythmic
In the United States, it has also achieved double-platinum status.
Also interesting to note is that “Run This Town” actually earned Jigga an Emmy Award in 2011. It won in the category of Outstanding Music Composition/Direction/Lyrics, as the song served as part of CBS’s presentation of Super Bowl XLIV of 2010.
Other venues in which Run This Town has been utilized include the 2012 Summer Paralympics, in addition to the track appearing on a couple of videogames, etc.
Chart Performance in Other Nations
In addition to being a number 1 hit in Britain and the US, “Run This Town” also enjoyed success in these places:
- Switzerland (9)
- Norway (5)
- Netherlands (10)
- Ireland (3)
- Canada (6)
- Australia (9)
Jay-Z and the crew did get into a bit of legal beef over this song.
“Run This Town” reportedly makes use of an indistinct sample from of a 1969 track titled “Hook & Sling” by one Eddie Bo (1930-2009). This is actually a tune which itself has somewhat of a notable (sampling) history in hip-hop. At the end of the day, said lawsuit didn’t stand.