For his 1999 hit single “Simon Says,” the Queens rapper Pharoahe Monch used one of the borough’s most sci-fi structures as a post-apocalyptic battleground. The music video is set in the Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science, designed to make visitors to the 1964 World’s Fair feel like they’d entered deep space.
In the video, the Hall isn’t in Flushing Meadows, but a sprawling desert. Aside from that relocation, its slab glass windows, designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison, remain distinct amid the fray of bodies pounding to the sampled beat of Akira Ifukube’s “Gojira Tai Mosura” (“Godzilla vs. Mothra”), from the 1992 Japanese sci-fi film of the same name. Unfortunately, it was an uncleared sample, which ended up leading to a lawsuit, and the album on which “Simon Says” appeared — Internal Affairs — is out of print, also due to its original label Rawkus Records being folded into Geffen, with which Monch refused to record.
But you can still find the video online, and it merits my highly subjective Best Music Video Filmed in a Museum award. The song is a tower of words as high as the Hall of Science’s 100-foot ceiling. The Godzilla rhythm, augmented with some light drums, almost combats with the lyrically complex Monch, embodying an extreme version of rap tropes. (“Rock, clock dollars, flip tips like a waiter / Block shots, styles greater, let my lyrics anoint / If you holding up the wall, then you missing the point.”) In 2013, he discussed “Simon Says” with Complex TV’s The Process, saying that “everything about that song is calculated and thought about even in its freestyle simplicity,” from the energy of the “get the fuck up” chorus against the demanding beat, and his “character mode” responding to the “gangster” persona of rap.
Check it out below, and go to the Hall of Science, which just last summer reopened after a six-year renovation that returned it to its futuristic glory.
The New York Hall of Science is located at 47-01 111th Street in Corona, Queens.
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