Saturday, Beyoncé and Jay Z — in the midst of their joint tour — dropped their long-rumored joint album, Everything is Love. Naturally, the resulting public hysteria consumed the internet for the rest of the day as many caught themselves up on what the Queen had just done. What had transpired exactly? Besides sending fans into a frenzy, it was quickly revealed that she and Jay Z had shut down the Louvre in Paris for the music video for their song, “Apeshit.” It immediately proved to be an apt title.
The most essential art by the world’s most essential artists winds up in the Louvre. (For starters, it’s the home of the Mona Lisa.) By positioning themselves in the iconic museum, Beyonce and Jay Z aren’t just asserting themselves as belonging among the best of the best; they’re defying the tradition of exclusion, classicism, and straight-up racism that have long kept work by black artists from halls like these.
The Louvre is both among the most elite places on the planet and the most-trafficked museum on Earth — which means it signifies the ultimate in quality and popularity. The Carters are positioning themselves as the same: Worthy of both mass adulation (which they already have) and critical acclaim (which they feel they haven’t gotten enough of, as Jay’s line about going “0 for 8” at the Grammys makes clear).
To roll up to the Louvre with their Versace, triumphantly hedonist dance moves, trap beats, and Quavo all says, “Look, we are on this level.” It’s awe-inspiring. And it’s also true.
Add to that the fact that they’re parading around, using “important” art dating back centuries as the backdrop (not the setting) for merriment while rapping about how much the current institutions and systems don’t matter to them, and you get bravado on a level Kanye hasn’t even hit yet. With “Apeshit” Beyoncé and Jay Z are setting a new status quo.
The question of whether or not black artists and black art belong in places like Louvre doesn’t interest them, they know it does. What they are doing here is demonstrating what it could look like, what it should like, and also more or less what it would have to look like if you allow us in these spaces. It’s going to be opulent in ways our culture hasn’t had the chance to be for as long as others. It’s going to be “extra” because we’re proud and feel the pride of the many who couldn’t even dream of it. We’re going to go apeshit.
The Carters have referenced Paris throughout their careers. It is clear that Paris is meaningful to them and their story. Visually, it completes a story set in motion on their tour, inspired by the 1973 Senegalese movie Touki Bouki, about a pair of lovers who dream of finding their fortune in Paris:
So, I think APESHIT ("AS") is intended to serve as the epilogue to Touki Bouki (1973), the Senegalese film that they crafted the narrative of their tour around.
A film about escape, Beyonce's singing "I can't believe we made it" in AS feels arrived.
Some thoughts: pic.twitter.com/xuH5ZFXJlJ
— KYLE A B (@kyalbr) June 17, 2018
Musically, it picks up a thread Jay Z’s had in his discography for years. On his 2011 joint album with Kanye, Watch the Throne, Kanye and Jay Z rap about “going gorillas” on the track, “Niggas in Paris.” The song is a celebration — a turn-up fit for kings after the hard work has finally paid off. At one point Jay Z says, “If you escaped what I’ve escaped // You’d be in Paris getting fucked up too.” Paris is a place, an accomplishment, a metaphor, and an ideal.
The Carters have certainly escaped a lot, starting with the drug-dealing past Jay referred to on “Paris.” Together, they have prevailed through a marriage rocked by infidelity, risen above multiple Grammy snubs. For all their obvious mass appeal, they have been dogged throughout their careers by racism and, in her case, sexism; by dated attitudes about whether or not rap is “real” music or whether a pop star can be a “genius.” They have had to make the case for their excellence every step of the way.
And so what we get here is one final explicit act, them reveling as a unified duo running through the halls of the freaking Louvre, going apeshit.