“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 leaked on August 19, 2009, by MTV Germany. It premiered officially on August 20 on MTV, as well other MTV channels across the world. The video was released to iTunes on August 25, 2009.
The music video involves crowds of protesters in masks, holding torches whilst walking. Rihanna takes a bandanna from covering her mouth and performs the intro of the song in a park area with explosions firing around her. Jay-Z then begins the second verse while in a temple-like area. Kanye West sings his verse in a cave-like area holding a torch and having a bandanna cover his face like Jay-Z and Rihanna. Throughout the video, the trio are on a stage platform with the mob of protesters previously shown surrounding them.