Everything Is Love: 5 Timely messages in Beyoncé & Jay-Z’s new album that are bigger than the music
On Saturday, Beyoncé and Jay-Z decided to drop their much anticipated joint album that they’ve been teasing us about for years!
By Sunday night, everywhere I looked people were posting clips from their stunning new video “Apesh*t” (more on that later) and already using Bey quotations as captions for their Instagram posts.
However, there were also those already complaining about the sheer trendiness of the project; with it sounding more like something you’d expect from Cardi B and Offset than the Carters.
At first I thought the same thing, because music-wise, their lead single “Apesh*t,” is such an obvious homage to Migos, one can’t help but wonder if Beyoncé is planning to give up singing ballads and start battle rapping with whatever is left of Drake’s ego after Pusha T ethered him.
To be honest, the idea of Beyoncé the Rapper has always been more icing than cake – an eye catching bonus to her actual talents that could give you a tummy ache if you consume too much of it on its own.
But now that the hype is wearing down, I decided to sit down and actually LISTEN to Everything is Love with an open mind, and put away my initial misgivings about how much Auto-Tune they decided to use.
Once I pushed past the obvious marketing ploys sprinkled throughout to keep us all buzzing – there were a few surprising gems in there that even the biggest Beyoncé and Jay-Z dissenters have to admit are bigger than the music.
Forgiveness and accountability don’t have to be pretty to work
Usually when a husband cheats on his wife and is forgiven, women are told to either shut up and leave him, or shut up and stay. Either way a man is going to be a man so whatever you decide to do about that is your cross to bear.
“You knew he wasn’t sh*T when you got with him so what you complaining for?”
I’ve heard that phrase uttered a LOT more than, “Bruh, you knew she was amazing when you got her so what are you cheating for?”
Because deep down, even the most intelligent folks amongst us still find themselves hard wired to think women are the moral compass of their relationships and therefore the ones who are tasked with the heavy lifting of setting boundaries. While men are misbehaving dogs that simply need to be home trained.
Apparently Beyoncé missed the memo on how to quietly forgive a cheating spouse. And I’m kinda here for it.
Her man messed up and when she was ready, rather than be stoic, she spoke about it as honestly and as greasy as she wanted to within reason. Despite the initial blow of heartache, she didn’t blame herself for any of his shortcomings, and instead held him accountable by actually making him do ‘the work’ with a therapist. And then when it was all said and done, she made it clear to him and the rest of us that she’s a prize that needs to be earned, repeatedly.
The fact that the Carters nearly broke up has been spoken about pretty brazenly since Lemonade and this album continues in that tone.
“He went to Jared, I went to J.A.R. out in Paris,” Jay-Z raps.
To which Beyoncé’s reply: “Yeah, you f***ed up the first stone, we had to get remarried.”
“Yo, chill man,” Jay teases
To which Bey responds “We keepin’ it real with these people, right?”
While playful in execution, this moment is the antithesis of everything that every respectable Southern woman has ever been taught. It’s almost like Beyoncé saw how gracious her mama was when he dad cheated, realized that doesn’t really fix anything, and decided that if she was going to fight for her marriage, she wasn’t gonna bother pretending it was pretty.
The message here is simple: Ladies, you don’t deserve to be mistreated. And if you both put in the work and decide to stay, no one has to shut up about how painful it was afterward. Not even you.
True wealth is generational
For the most part hip-hop is about flexing your muscles and showing the world how worthy you are of its admiration. Many people have chastised the genre for this. While true hip-hop heads know that when it was created in the South Bronx it was always meant to be an outlet for Black and brown kids living in meager circumstances who were speaking aspirationaly about the lives they hoped to have some day.
And it appears those kids were onto something because a lot of them actually did rap their way right into rooms they traditionally never would have entered.
So hip-hop without a little bragging, is almost unheard of – by design. Vainglorious peacocking, is as much about casting a spell into the universe as it is about exciting an audience. We can’t clap at self-help books that tell people to “claim your destiny” then in the next breath get mad at urban artists who are literally doing that in their lyrics.
But with all things, at some point evolution is necessary.
And I legit think Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who are easily one of the most frowned upon couples for their capitalism loving posturing, are telling us that even they realize that talking about just personal gain isn’t enough anymore. Over their last few albums they’ve started talking more and more about generational wealth as being the true marker of success.
“Here we measure success by how many people successful next to you,” Jay states in a track titled, “Boss.” “Here we say you broke if everybody is broke except for you.”
Did Shawn ‘Big Pimpin’ Carter, the same man known for cutting ties with those he considers a liability, (*cough* Dame Dash), (*double cough* Kanye) – just admit that personal wealth isn’t enough if those around you don’t also have the access and ability to make the same kinds of strides?
Why, yes. Yes, he did.
To further get this point across Beyoncé the Rapper elaborates, “Aint nothing to it, I bought my mama a whip. My great great great grandchildren already rich. That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes list.”
A lot of times when we talk about the wealth gap in this country scholars will tell you pretty directly that much of the reason why white America has a leg up on their Black counterparts isn’t because of a disparity in intellect, character or work ethic but more so because of the generational wealth and knowledge about financial planning that white communities were allowed access to several generations ahead of Black people.
It’s easy to win when you’ve have a massive head start, and White America as a whole is still benefitting from the sins of their forefathers.
Which is why it is so deeply important that we not gloss over this timely pivot in discussions about what wealth really looks like in the Black community. Even if that truth bomb is part of a heavily curated narrative by hip-hop’s most strategic power couple. In fact, the Carter’s notoriety for being so cunning in their execution of… well everything, is exactly why they’re who we need to pay attention to on this topic.
Whether you personally like them or not, Beyoncé and Jay-Z handle money the way rich old white men do. And like those same rich old white men, several generations of their family will be reaping the benefits of their legacy.
Imagine what our community would look like if we stopped telling kids to simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and instead told them to think bigger than themselves, by building a financial portfolio that would not just feed them, but also their loved ones for generations to come?
If you’re anti-capitalism and this message is a bit hard for you to swallow, that’s fine.
But we need to stop pretending that it’s revolutionary to stay broke. Freedom has never been free.
We’re socialized to find Black Excellence offensive
Some of the most socially conscious moments on this joint project comes from Hov. He gives his wife space to flaunt her super powers, while still using his moments in the spotlight to champion causes he’s personally become passionate about behind the scenes.
On a track entitled “Nice,” what sounds like young Black men can be heard singing, “I can do anything.” followed by a decidedly less optimistic, “Hell nah, hell nah, hell nah.”
That conflicting chorus repeats for almost 40 seconds before Hov steps in with his first verse, leaving a lasting impression about the internal dialogue a lot of us experience as people of color in the country.
That dichotomy of wanting to believe in yourself while being painfully aware that so many things are stacked against you, is a sobering reality.
“Time to remind me I’m Black again huh?” Hov asks further cementing that point. “All this talking back, I’m too arrogant huh?”
“And I’m nice. Up all night. Running from the lights. Covered in ice,” Hov later responds. But this part is rapped as if he is out of breath and actually running from the cops.
Look – nobody said these lyrics were Shakespearean, but that doesn’t make the commentary any less timely or accurate.
Lets keep it all the way honest here, a lot of people find the Carter’s wealth grotesque and are offended by the way they don’t pretend to be anything other than rich. And while you’re allowed to feel that way about any individual, we have to ask ourselves why THEY get so much more flack for this than their equally rich and shameless white counterparts.
On some level we have to admit that we expect white wealth.
It’s the way of the world and so common place we don’t even register it or react to it anymore. Of course Bob and Susan are on a yacht in St. Tropez, cause “thats that white people sh*”t.” Doesn’t even matter if we know what Bob or Susan even does for a living, we just accept their access to the high life as a birthright that they cashed in on at some point.
But let a Black couple, who we literally watched build their wealth, be on that same yacht, and now it’s “Look at these n***s! Who do they think they are?”
Even though we hashtag #BlackExcellence all over the place, the fact that we even need that hashtag speaks for itself. Successful Black people are still a visual and emotional anomaly in this country and those who have it are either dismissed as ratchet superstars who lucked out, or expected to conduct themselves like a facsimile of the Obamas.
But the idea that people can work hard, get super rich from working hard, and then folks have the nerve to be mad at those hard-working rich people publicly expressing excitement?
To quote the album:
Hell nah. Hell nah. Hell nah.
Healthy friendships are necessity not a luxury
The media often paints Beyonce as this unstoppable, workaholic robot who sits around plotting world domination and never shows any real emotion in public. And to some degree that facade of the untouchable, strong Black woman is intentional on her part. But anyone who has ever been at an industry party will tell you that to be truly successful in this business you have to have a lot of relationships with people you can trust.
So even though Everything is Love is clearly the third installment of a trilogy about the Carter’s marriage, first started with Lemonade and followed up with 4:44, in the track “Friends” both Bey and Hov take a moment to take their eyes off each other and sincerely thank the tribe that’s held them down and supported them through everything.
“Real friends, better than your friends/ SMS them, they know all my bidness/ I don’t know what I would do without my crew/ I ain’t makin’ no room…we fly, I cry, our souls exposed/ We smoke, we laugh, your stress, my stress/ Closer than kin, I’m blessed, you blessed,” Beyoncé, sings about her tight-knit sister friends.
Now when it comes to Jay Z’s friends, of course the first one who comes to mind is Kanye, who was not just a collaborator but also a brother to him. And last month, Yeezy admitted in an interview with Charlemagne The God that he was deeply disappointed that the Carters didn’t attend his wedding.
“Respectfully, I have to say I was hurt that they didn’t come to the wedding,“ he said. “I understand they were going through some things, but if it’s family, you’re not gonna miss a wedding.”
Hov obviously heard that clip, and addresses it pretty directly on the album.
“I ain’t going to nobody for nothing when me and my wife beefing I don’t care if the house on fire, I’m dying, nigga, I ain’t leaving Ty Ty take care of my kids, after he done grieving If ya’ll don’t understand that, we ain’t meant to be friends.” he raps, about what it was like dealing with marital strife while also giving a shout out to his longtime friend Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith.
This is far beyond the shallowness of #squadgoals tagged on Instagram and shouted out in catchy pop songs. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Nobody but nobody can make it out here alone.”
If deep, transformative friendships (as opposed to the ones based on great photo ops) suddenly become trendy, I would be so ok with that.
“What would I be without my friends?” Bey asks at one point. Luckily, it appears she’ll never have to find out.
Keep Sacred Things Sacred
2014 is when the Carters marriage almost felt apart and imploded on itself. Since then they’ve had intensive therapy, streamlined who and what they have around them, then very methodically chose which pieces of their private lives would be offered to the public for nibbling.
Even now, four full years later, we’re still feasting on the flimsiest of scraps about what they went through behind the scenes, and salivating over details that are more of a “duh” than an “omg”.
“You did some things to me, boy you do some things to me / But love is deeper than your pain and I believe you can change / Baby, the ups and downs are worth it, long way to go, but we’ll work it / We’re flawed but we’re still perfect for each other / Sometimes I thought we’d never see the light / Went through hell with heaven on our side / This beach ain’t always been no paradise But nightmares only last one night (Happy in love).”
While the production value and the visuals of this project are over the top and opulent as hell, the lyrics are incredibly self-contained, a fact that has made many critics annoyed but caused me to smirk in amusement.
With a world tour, a surprise album, and a new video that has brown girls grinding all over the Louvre (to a trap beat no less), the power couple is still making it clear that while they have no problem capitalizing on our nosiness, the things they hold most sacred are still none of our got-damn business.
At 36 and 48 years old respectively, Bey and Jay have a tendency to live their lives in present tense, and share from a safe distance well after the fact. More couples should take note of this and maybe think twice about prematurely oversharing their own vulnerable moments. There truly is power in discretion and that is easily the most poignant lesson these two and their messy love story have taught us over the years.
So while perhaps not their best work (I give it a 3.5 out of 5), Everything Is Love is definitely the end of a conversation these two were gracious enough to have with us in the first place.
Our opinions are just icing at this point, as they should be.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric