The unexpected release of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s joint album “Everything Else” is the visual representation of a unified community. Despite their marital problems becoming a cultural debate due to their groundbreaking “Lemonade and 4:14,” their new single “Apes**t” changes the narrative into one of success rather than struggle. The Carters’ collaboration embodies the message of forgiveness and unity that our current political climate lacks. But more importantly, the lyrics and imagery of “Apes**t” are a beautiful and unabashed demonstration of Black power. It is a video that celebrates the accomplishments of their community and tells those struggling to keep fighting because victory is within reach.
The music video for “Apes**t” was filmed in the Louvre in Paris. The Louvre was the residence of French aristocracy until 1682, when Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, where it remained until the French Revolution in 1789. The Louvre’s transformation into one of the most famous and beloved museums did not start until after the 18th century. Nowadays, it serves as home to one of the largest art collections in the world. The Louvre is a pillar of Western culture, so it does not come as a surprise that The Carters chose it as the backdrop for their first single.
More than just a music video by two powerhouses from the entertainment industry, “Apes**t” is a testimony of resilience and determination. The title and the lyrics allude to racist imagery regarding apes and black people, as if asserting that they can succeed despite being treated as animals and exploited for centuries. Beyoncé echoes the feeling of winning against all odds by reiterating the phrase: “I can’t believe we made it” while posing in front of iconic symbols of the culture that has positioned itself as superior to her own. After all, it is Queen B reinstating her reign with “The Coronation of Napoleon” in the background, and she dances hypnotically in front of the “Nike of Samothrace” as if she has become the embodiment of the goddess of victory.
The music video portrays The Carters as the equivalents of these great art pieces, or at least their cultural influence is comparable. They make a statement of black excellence surrounded by imagery of colonialism and exclusion. In a sea of white faces and bodies, The Carters and their dancers proudly display their strength and wealth. The white superiority embedded in the paintings and the Louvre itself serve as context to the story, but the protagonists are, and will always be, The Carters. They are most than just a Hollywood “power couple.” Beyoncé and Jay-Z are symbols of hope for a community that continues to face systematic discrimination. They have succeeded despite the ever-growing racial wealth gap and are so widely beloved that the market seems to have forgotten the significance of their skin color.
“Apes**t” is evidence that despite the commercial success of The Carters, they have not assimilated into white culture. Their lyrics are unapologetically about resistance and black power. The Carters are telling black people, and other minorities, that they cannot give up. The fight for equality is far from over, and there is hope for success if we attain unity. Jay-Z reminds us to protest against injustice, even if that means to take a knee like Colin Kaepernick or to challenge the people and institutions that enact racist and classist policies just as Barack Obama did as president. “Apes**t” is a manifesto of unity.