Beyonce and Jay-Z's 'Apes**t' video is a celebration of independent African-Americans and their success
In their video of 'Apes**t' from their new album 'Everything is Love', Beyonce and Jay-Z have given Juneteenth another reason for rejoicing in the past.
The Carters are known for dropping surprise bombs at their fans, and have done it once again with their first-ever joint album 'Everything Is Love'. Signifying the couple's victory over sorrow, angst, anxiety, self-doubt, and betrayal, the album is everything that tells its listeners and viewers just how strong their bond is. The album was launched during their On The Run II Tour on Saturday.
The album serves as the culmination of a trilogy which began with Beyonce's 2016 album 'Lemonade' followed by Jay-Z's 2017 album '4:44', which is almost like a response to Beyonce's album. Both the artists have amalgamated in their respective albums the interludes of dream-like poetry that often sends out messages of love, betrayal, and resolution, at the same time making a statement about the situation of the African-American community in Trump's America.
NBC has reported, following the attacks of Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, around 28 percent of the public — which includes 24 percent whites and 40 percent African-Americans — believe that the race relations are "very bad". Another 42 percent believe that it is "fairly bad".
In this regard, the Washington Post quotes Jay-Z saying to the New York Times in an exclusive interview, "Yeah, there was a great Kanye West line in one of [his] songs: 'Racism's still alive, they just be concealin' it.'" The rapper reportedly believes that Trump's election as the President of the United States has opened up the necessity to engage in dialogue. "Well, an ideal way is to have a president that says, 'I'm open to dialogue and fixing this.' That's ideal. But it's still happening in a good way because you can't have a solution until you start dealing with the problem: What you reveal, you heal."
This is probably what gets reflected in the video of the song 'Apes**t' from their new album 'Everything is Love'. The video, directed by Ricky Sair, sees Beyonce and Jay-Z amidst dancers inside the Louvre in Paris, where the shots are sequenced through the tourist-trodden paths of the Pierre Paulin's circular gray banquettes, IM Pei's entrance pyramid, Jacques Louis David's gigantic 'Coronation of Napoleon', the Venus de Milo in the ground floor, the Winged Victory of Samothrace right at the end of the Daru staircase, the Mona Lisa in the Denon wing, David's 'Oath of the Horatii', and the portrait of Madame Récamier.
The video is a lot more sophisticated and genuine in its portrayal of an entire community's call for independence, and its final position in a society where it has always been treated as slaves. While fans are of the opinion that it was practically a cakewalk for Queen Bey to hire the entire Louvre for a shoot, and it was all the "swagger" which is the noted factor of the video, it cannot be denied that the Louvre has a much deeper role to play, significantly in the racial perspective. It, in a way, portrays the race, which has been excluded from all of its narratives of art, taking over the Louvre and owning it by virtue of their talent, hard work, and, of course, their acquired wealth in a foreign land. It presents the community as both the outsiders and the ones who are here now to rule over it.
The video has several interesting images such as a close-up shot of a woman combing a man's hair with an Afro pick in front of the Gioconda. The couple is in the forefront, whereas the painting almost fades into the background giving out the perception that there are a lot of interesting things happening other than the artifice around, which is almost lifeless in this perspective. A similar observation can be made in the first tracking shot where Beyonce and Jay-Z are seen standing in front of the Mona Lisa, Jay-Z wearing a silk sea-foam green suit and Beyonce looking absolutely ravishing in her orchid pink silk suit. The frame might recall the couple's selfie which was taken in the same place in 2014, however, this time their face is more serene and looks blankly into the camera.
Black Frenchmen were a common subject for the painters at the time of Louvre's founding, however, the museum has offered very little to the black artists. The spanning shots of the video isolate the black figures in Louvre's French and Italian paintings. Beyonce sings, "can't believe we made it." While this line reflects Beyonce's satisfaction with their marriage which has overcome several hurdles over the years, it also holds an underlying indication to the June 19, 1865 proclamation in Texas, that has led to the celebration of Juneteenth (June-nineteenth).
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, the Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger reached Galveston in Texas, almost two and a half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The attempts to explain the delay has led to several arguments. Some believe that a messenger was killed on his way to delivering the message, while others are of the opinion that the news was deliberately held back by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations for one last harvest. However, over the years Juneteenth has received reactions ranging from shock to jubilation. The celebration is a time for reassuring the community that it is now free, and is a ruler of its own, with its own attained political wealth.
This sense of cultural empowerment goes hand in hand with personal avidity in the video of 'Apes**t', especially the parts where the couple is seen standing in front of the Great Sphinx of Tanis, where Beyonce boasts that she "bought him a jet". The final shot of the video zooms into Marie-Guillemine Beronist's modest and exquisitely crafted painting of a black woman, who was painted between the French revolutionaries' abolition of slavery in 1794 and Napoleon's restoration of it in 1802. The woman is seen seated, with her chest bare to the viewer, sporting an intricately wrapped, laundered headdress. Her stare is an enigmatic expression, almost like what Beyonce holds up in the very first shot of the video. It symbolizes the absence of black women from being the common interest of painters. However, the next few shots of a black man standing on a horseback, once again bring back the works of French photographer Mohamed Bourouissa, who is best known for depicting the lives of the youth in contemporary France. It actually depicts the progression of art in including all races and completely doing away with the "superior race" factor.
Jay-Z and Beyonce have taken the role of art within the art to a whole new level by projecting paintings and real-life dancers through camera pans of long hallways and close-ups on subjects. The visual splendor of the video lies in the fact, that the renowned paintings are no more depicted as the chief characters. Instead, they are almost dumped in the backdrop like wallpapers for the dancers, and the couple. In the end, unlike their selfie, Beyonce and Jay-Z take a long look at the camera, look at each other, and then turn to face the Mona Lisa, letting the viewer realize that art is to be admired for its own sake, because that is the only thing common among all races, and combines humanity as one unifying race.