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"Run This Town" is a 2009 song performed by American rapper Jay-Z. The song features Barbadianmarker R&B singer Rihanna and rap artist Kanye West, who also produced the song alongside No I.D. It is released as the second single of Jay-Z's eleventh studio album The Blueprint 3. After the song was released to iTunes on August 11, 2009, it jumped to the third position and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, making it his highest peak as a lead artist to date until Empire State of Mind which peaked at #1. It is also Jay-Z's first Top 5 Rap Song since 2006's "Show Me What You Got". Jay-Z, Rihanna and West performed "Run This Town" on the series premiere of The Jay Leno Show on September 14, 2009. It is Jay-Z's first number one in the UK as lead artist.


"Run This Town" samples 1970’s Greek band The 4 Levels of Existence's song "Someday in Athens". The second official single was originally planned as "Off That" featuring Drake but has since been changed to "Run This Town" with Rihanna and Kanye West, as confirmed by Jay-Z in an interview with Tim Westwood, "We basically run this town. It's myself, Rihanna and Kanye. It's pretty much it." The song made its radio debut on July 24 at 9:11 a.m to coincide with the album's release date, September 11, 2009. The official single was released on iTunes on August 11, 2009. It was officially released to urban radio the week of August 9, 2009. Its UK release followed on August 31 2009. Rihanna's contribution was her first musical appearance following her February 8 altercation with her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown.

Critical reception

"Run This Town" has received mixed reviews. felt that Jay-Z lacked presence, writing, "It looks like someone finally got tired of being bullied by 'Big Brother'.” Roc Nation dropped the ball on the song credit though; it was supposed to read ‘Kanye West Featuring Rihanna,’ because ‘Ye murdered Jay on his own track. But that's not saying much because Jay was running this race on one foot. In other words, Kanye didn’t win, Jay lost".

Pitchfork Media however, praised the song: "There's something for everybody: Jay sounds engaged in a way he rarely has since unretiring, Rihanna coos those "ay ay"s the radio loves, and Kanye West, as you may have read, once again upstages the guy he's producing. Rihanna's hook may not be Auto-Tune'd, but it's definitely autopilot."

Digital Spy was in the middle saying:

"Boasting three of the biggest stars from the worlds of hip-hop and R&B, 'Run This Town' was never going to be a flop, but neither is it a roaring success. Kanye's slick rapping ("Reebok baby, you need to try some new things, have you ever had shoes without shoestrings?") and Rihanna's "hey-hey" chorus hook make Jay-Z seem surplus to requirements, which surely can't have been the aim. The chaotic military march beats are impressive - and hats off to Jigga for snubbing Auto-Tune - but this track still doesn't seem fitting of an artist considered a groundbreaking rap legend.

Music video

The video was directed by Anthony Mandler and was filmed on August 6, 2009 at Fort Totten Park in New York City. The video was leaked on August 19, 2009 by MTV Germany. It involves people in masks, holding torches whilst walking. Rihanna takes a bandana from covering her mouth and starts to sing in a park while explosions are going off around her. Then Jay-Z sings his verse whilst in a temple-like area. At one point the trio are on a stage-like platform with the mob surrounding them. Kanye West sings in a cave-like area holding a torch and having a bandana cover his face like Jay-Z and Rihanna.

The video premiered on August 20 on MTV, as well other MTV channels across the world, and the internet. Anthony Mandler the director of the music video had this to say:

"There's a tone and feeling to the song, there's a militia, a march and a kind of rambunctious energy to it that, for me, I immediately wanted to tap into. I showed [Jay] some references from the classic rebellious zones of the world. We live in very orderly society in America, but when you get into Brazil, you get into the Middle East, you get into Africa, you get into Eastern Europe, when you get into places like that, there's a different sort of 'we run this town' [going on]. There's less order and more chaos. So we looked at a lot of those references, new photos and historical photos, to capture that kind of falling-apart feeling."

"We wanted you to feel uneasy throughout the piece," he said. "We wanted there to be a constant layer of tension through the piece. Even in the way I shot — where the camera comes by Jay, it doesn't stop on him, it goes to Rihanna — there's kind of this chaos of revealing and covering and concealing. And things happen offscreen that you don't see. I think people are really gonna flip on this". The video was released to iTunes on August 25, 2009.

Track listing

  • US/UK CD single
  1. "Run This Town" (feat. Rihanna & Kanye West) - 4:36
  2. "Run This Town" (Bad City Rollerz Disco Mix) (feat. Rihanna & Kanye West) - 6:17
  3. "Run This Town (G-Style)" (Cashis feat. Rihanna) - 4:40

Chart performance

"Run This Town" climbed to number three during its third week on the Billboard Hot 100 after debuting at number 88 and climbing to number 66 in week two. The song peaked at number 2. It is Jay-Z's 2nd highest charting song of his career as a lead artist. The song has so far sold 1,437,573 copies in the U.S.

It also debuted at number 16 on the Irish Singles Chart, based on downloads alone, and peaked at number four the following week. The song was released digitally on August 30 in UK. During its second day of release it reached number one on the UK iTunes Chart. According to the UK Midweek Chart, "Get Sexy" by Sugababes was set to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart but "Run This Town" outsold it and went to number one. On September 6, "Run This Town" entered the UK Singles Chart at number one, giving Jay-Z his first UK number one as a lead artist and fourth overall. He had already topped the chart twice with Beyoncé Knowles with "Crazy In Love" and "Déjà Vu" and had had a ten week stand at number 1 with Rihanna in 2007. It was the third number one each for Rihanna (following "Umbrella" and "Take A Bow") and Kanye West, who had previously topped the charts for a total of six weeks with "Stronger" and "American Boy" (with Estelle). The song sold 62,000 copies in its first week,

On the issue dated September 14, 2009, the song debuted at number 66 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart. On its second week it jumped to #25 and has currently peaked at #10.

"Run This Town" has so far appeared on charts in 15 countries plus the Eurochart, reaching the top ten on eleven of them. In the UK, it has reached number one on both the UK Singles Chart and R&B Chart, while it has done the same in the U.S. on the Rap Songs and Rhythmic Airplay Charts.


Chart (2009) Peak

Australian Singles Chart 9
Austrian Singles Chart 29
Belgium Singles Chart 28
Canadian Hot 100 6
Danish Singles Chart 20
Dutch Singles Chart 10
Eurochart Hot 100 Singles 5
German Singles Chart 17
Irish Singles Chart 3
Japan Hot 100 40
New Zealand Singles Chart 9
Norwegian Singles Chart 5
Swedish Singles Chart 8
Swiss Singles Chartmarker 9
UK R&B Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 3
U.S. Billboard Rap Songs 1



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