Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann knew he wanted to include hip-hop in his script adaptation of the 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but it wasn’t until star Leonardo DiCaprio connected him with his friend Jay-Z that the soundtrack for the film really took off.
“We wrote hip-hop ideas into the script,” Luhrmann told VF Daily at a screening for the film this weekend. “I was telling [Leonardo] about the hip-hop idea, and of course, when it comes to hip-hop, there is kind of a chairman of the board. He turned around to me and said, ‘I think the chairman’s up at the Mercer if you want to meet him.’ And it was actually a very nice, natural, instant connection.”
Luhrmann said he promptly visited Jay-Z at the Mercer, where he was recording.
“He turned on a microphone, and Jay said, ‘It’s great to meet you. I just want to finish something,’” Luhrmann explained. “And he said: ‘Lies on the lips of a priest, rolling in the Rolls Royce Corniche,’ and he said, ‘I’m just going to finish that. It’s called ‘No Church in the Wild.’” Viewers will recognize the rhythmic opening hook from that song from many of the endlessly repeating Gatsby ads playing on television this month. Luhrmann continued: “He played all of this album to us, and then I explained to him what I was going to do, and before I’d even finished, he said, ‘We shouldn’t be talking about it. We should be getting on and doing it. It’s that important, to make the connection between jazz and hip-hop, that this is the African American storytelling street music of our time.’”
Jay-Z became the executive music producer of the film and brought on fellow artists like will.i.am, André 3000, Fergie, Lana Del Rey, Bryan Ferry, Florence + The Machine, Gotye, Sia, Jack White, and, naturally, his wife, Beyoncé. “He was there. He’s a true collaborator—a serial collaborator, as he called himself,” explained Luhrmann. “And yeah, Leonardo brought us together.”
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