A conversation with Willo Perron, the mind behind Jay-Z’s 4:44 campaign
The creative director sits down with Crack to talk Jay Z’s 4:44 artwork and the visuals for the forthcoming tour
Willo Perron is a creative visionary who’s worked with some of the most high profile names in the music industry to create large-scale bespoke sets for the stage. Music can often transport listeners to a different world, and Perron’s expertise lies in constructing fantastical worlds that encapsulate the musician’s narrative and universe. Straying far from traditional formats, Perron creates dizzying visions for the stage across not just music, but also fashion and interior design. He’s worked with Kanye West on set designs, and his lightning spectacle for one of Rihanna’s 2016 MTV shows electrified her performance. Perron’s black and white visuals of African American culture formed the backdrop of Kendrick Lamar’s set at Panorama Festival, and revolving mirrors that reflected and fractured strobe lighting gave The xx’s I See You tour dates a glowing, effervescing intensity.
Having orchestrated the mysterious 4:44 teasers that brewed a storm of anticipation, the director will be following up with the visuals for Jay-Z’s upcoming tour. Below we catch up with Perron to discuss the collaboration.
You’ve worked with Jay-Z a number of times before. What felt different for this project?
It felt like something had changed in him. He’s always someone that pursues his own growth, he’s always challenging himself. I think he’d arrived at a new understanding of himself, his relationship with people and his environment.
Can you describe what you provided for Jay-Z in your role as creative director of the project? Was it more than just the artwork?
These conversations start way before the records come out, so we just discuss what we want to communicate. We went through multiple versions before landing on where we landed with the campaign and the rollout of the record.
Yeah, I think it’s strategy, the feel of the campaign… the artwork’s just one of many components.
How did Jay-Z describe the vision of the album to you?
It’s difficult to say. I think that it’s almost like every song addresses a difficult subject matter. Well maybe not all difficult, but very honest subject matter. I think that was clear very early on.
Did you have any other ideas for the artwork which didn’t get used?
Yeah, a bunch.
How big a part did the billboard campaign play in the work?
We wanted to do something that releases don’t really do anymore, which is have this really aggressive out-of-home campaign. Build wonder and anticipation and be boastful a little bit too at the same time. I don’t even think it’s necessary. I don’t think the campaign would have affected what the outcome of the record is. It was more of an attitude than anything else.
How do you think the creative direction connects with the sound and narrative of the album?
Stripped down and honest. Simple, not trying to do too much. It’s committed to doing one thing.
Will you be contributing to the 4:44 live shows which recently got announced?
Yeah, we’re currently finishing the design of the tour.
As a fan, where do you think 4:44 ranks in Jay’s albums?
That’s like a woman asking you what age you think she is. That’s a lose-lose for everybody.
I think it’s an important record in his catalogue. I think it’s also an important record for the culture, that somebody is capable of making a mature rap record.