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20/06/2018 11:20 PM IST | Updated 21/06/2018 10:28 PM IST

Beyoncé and Jay-Z Are Here To Tell Us Black Culture Is A Masterpiece

In “Everything Is Love,” the couple is at once vulnerable and subversive.

Kevin Mazur via Getty Images
Beyoncé and Jay-Z kiss ending their performance onstage during the On the Run II Tour on June 9.

From outside the Carter Kingdom, the wounds exposed on “Lemonade” and “4:44” still seemed fresh. It felt as though Jay-Z was still putting in hours on his apology tour after Beyoncé revealed on her critically acclaimed visual album that he’d cheated. And the Brooklyn rapper was still far from the good graces of the BeyHive, who still have APBs out on “Becky with the good hair.”

After months of damn near everyone anticipating new music, from the Hive to the haters who somehow know every word to “Formation,” the Carters popped up on a calm Saturday evening with a surprise joint album: “Everything Is Love.” The power couple released the tape at the end of the London leg of their On the Run II Tour. Instead of listing the two artists separately, the nine-track album has them credited as one. This in itself is telling a story: Love won.

But not without hard work, of course. The album is the product of a love that has been badly beaten, wounded and scorned, but then given the time and care it needed — not only to heal but to laugh triumphantly at the things that had come between them. It is love not just in the sense of romance but in all of its iterations: self-love, the love between friends, the love of community, the love of blackness, the love of humanity — flaws and all. At its peak, the album shows the carefree liberation that comes with a love so genuine that it allows you to be unapologetically whole.

It’s the most vulnerable the world has seen of Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a couple. Any rumors clinging to their names, they address head-on with a laugh. It’s almost as if the Carters sent the drama a “I’m good luv, enjoy” text. They’re living their lives, enjoying their wealth, their kids, their happiness. The entire album is an infectious mood — from the waves of “Summer” to the mosh elements of “Black Effect.” It’s a damn good album with solid trap vibes.

On this edition of “Run That Back,” Julia Craven and Taryn Finley do a track-by-track breakdown of “Everything is Love,” discussing the effort that comes with nurturing relationship wounds, how Beyoncé and Jay-Z artfully show the multi-faceted beauty of black culture and how the Carters can do whatever they want and still own our edges.

Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

“SUMMER”

Taryn: Sis, I’m drying my eyes. I just feel so blessed to live in the age of Beyoncé. She’s given us the 2018 we don’t deserve. But she’s so giving. How can you not stan?

Julia: This stage of my life is called: “Beyoncé Owns My Edges.”

Taryn: My edges. My scalp. My money. She can take it all.

Julia: She has taken it all. I’m still wigless, edgeless, scalpless. I’M BALD BITCH, I AM BALD.

Taryn: Everyone is, sis. Everyone.

TWITTER

Julia: LMAOOOOOO IT ME.

Taryn: I’m overwhelmed. You wanna get into the first track?

Julia: I do because it’s my fave track on the album. Beyoncé’s vocals sound like ecstasy. It felt like being washed over by a wave of love, sex, pain, forgiveness and truth. It’s a beautiful song.

Taryn: “Summer” feels like love. And it makes love feel like a vacation. It’s a perfect song and I’m so glad they opened with it. Like they were giving us a glimpse into the best part of their relationship. And we aren’t even worthy of that, but Bey is kind and giving.

Julia: It feels like the happiness after a storm. When the world is still wet, and the pain is still fresh, but it feels new and exciting yet also familiar.

Taryn: Right. It’s effortless because they already put in the work trying to survive the storms they talk about on “Lemonade” and “4:44.” Like, I don’t doubt the love they had for each other before, but it feels really undeniable on here. It’s definitely in my top three off this album.

Julia: It also feels victorious. Very “nigga we made it!” And I love that. Relationships are hard and people hurt each other. What a person chooses to work through is their choice, but the fact is that once you come out on the other side of some bullshit, you really do feel hype af.

Taryn: And I’m glad they’re letting us see that. This is what real relationship goals look like. It’s not stuntin on IG with coordinated fits. It’s doing what you gotta do to work through the valleys while not losing or sacrificing yourself so that y’all can grow together and enjoy the feeling of victory after war.

Julia: That part!

Taryn: I imagine this is what Gucci and Keisha felt when he got outta jail.

Julia: jsladhkdhfueieygdhjkhsad

Taryn: Sorry. I just had to be the one to cut up.

APESHIT”

Julia: But, yeah, that song is a wave. It’s a victory lap. It’s the calm after the storm. It’s an affirmation of love that sustained. But “Apeshit”? That song is a STUNT. It’s a FLAUNT. It’s a MOOD.

Taryn: If “Summer” is the epitome of love, “Apeshit” is “HAHA, WE IN LOVE AND YOU HATERS CAN STAY MAD!” Bey repeating, “I can’t believe we made it” is exemplary of that. The shit they went through was so rough that you can’t help but to celebrate and rub it in the naysayers’ faces. I’m here for it. And I’m glad this is the first song we’re getting visuals for.

Let me tell you a lil story about the first time I went to the Louvre.

Julia: 👀

Taryn: In 2015, my friend Jasmine and I went to Paris to celebrate graduating. Of course, the Louvre was on our list. We get there and unsurprisingly it’s white af. From the patrons to the art. We’re walking through trying to find as much black representation as we can. We make it to the Egyptian exhibit and spend so long there, taking it all in independently, that we get separated from each other. I couldn’t find her anywhere and our phones weren’t working.

So here we are, two black girls looking for each other in a sea of whiteness at the Louvre (which is the biggest museum in Paris so duh, it’s taking forever). In between asking museum workers if they’d seen her, in very basic French at that, I’m also on a quest for all the black art I can find. Of course I see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, but, like we see in the video, many of the black faces I saw were in the background save for a few that don’t get as much glory as others.

Long story short, Jasmine and I found each other at the very center of the museum. I was so happy I damn near cried. Flash forward to Saturday night when I see Beyoncé and Jay-Z stunting HARD at the Louvre and I DID cry. They weren’t there to glorify this already hyped-up artwork. They were there to show that we, too, are masterpieces. Our curves, our hair, our skin, our style. It’s the feeling I couldn’t quite locate when I was there.

Julia: That is a beautiful story. And it speaks volumes. I noticed in the video that they highlighted all of the black faces in the background of the paintings while placing the black dancers in front of the ones without black faces ― like when she got the girls in FORMATION in front of Napoleon, who in the early 1800s re-established slavery and the slave trade to French colonies. It was a beautiful contrast, and your story affirms that reading of the video tremendously.

Taryn: And over a trap beat no less. “I can’t believe we made it” speaks to so much. Not only their relationship surviving and their careers thriving, but black people just getting through the bullshit thrown at us for centuries, bruh. I can’t believe we made it either. I can’t believe we survived.

The odds have always been stacked against us so I can’t believe we’ve been able to become doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, homeowners, college grads, hair stylists, musicians, THE PRESIDENT and insert whatever else you see fit. I can’t believe we get to witness two global superstars who are unapologetically black put on for the culture at all times. And Bey and Jay put it over a Migos-inspired trap beat and, my God, how Beyoncé RODE. THAT. BEAT.

And if y’all think that’s a reach, I don’t care! Don’t email me. Don’t @ me. Cause next time you see me at the Louvre I’m gonna do a hip roll in front of “The Coronation of Napoleon” and throw a party with the Great Sphinx of Tanis. Fight your mother over it.

Julia: One other thing that stood out to me was how Jay and Bey positioned themselves and other couples as black counterparts to these art pieces. In front of the Great Sphinx of Tanis, they stood as king and queen. When Bey was on the stairs in front of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, she was a black goddess.

After the close-up of “Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta Appraised by Dante and Virgil,” where the woman was holding onto the man and positioned beneath him, it immediately flashes to a black couple where the man is holding onto the woman and she’s sitting higher than him. Her strength, the way that man needs her, is the focal point. Beyoncé also further played with the idea of the Black Madonnas, which is something she’s been doing for a while.

Taryn: Mmmhm. I definitely recall her doing this in recent history (Grammy performance, maternity shoot, after she had Sir and Rumi) but I’m getting old and can’t remember too much before I started paying bills. I wanna hear more. She also would’ve shut y’all lil Met Gala down this year because the theme was her lane.

Julia: Oh that’s what I meant by “a while.” My bad. I exaggerated bc I’m black and extra.

Taryn: I, too, am black and extra so I should’ve known better.

Julia: She also mimics the head wrap that adorns “Portrait d’une Négresse” throughout. And it’s done in a very regal, powerful way that makes me feel like it was an intentional statement.

Taryn: They did an amazing job at reminding us how regal we are. Like you said, the juxtaposition was a key tool in doing that without trying to take away from our blackness or making us feel like we should aspire to white spaces. I love how they explore this with motion, like you pointed out. Some other things I noticed were the dancers’ choreography reflecting the arts’ movement throughout and the way Bey rolled her hips in front of ole girl and put the Venus de Milo to shame.

There’s also this one moment that you might miss if you blink. When the camera cuts to the black people in the backgrounds of these paintings, she says “All of my people, I free ‘em all / Hop in the whip, wanna see the stars,” referring to her people as “the stars.” This song, this visual — she’s saying we’re masterpieces. Despite whatever spaces they try to keep us out of or police us in, we are truly art. And we gon’ shine regardless.

She did that with “Formation,” too. That’s why these visuals are so important.

Julia: All of this is why I cringe at tweets that encourage the Carters to “be humble.” They’re greatly missing the point and, tbh, them niggas sound mad. Paris has deep links to the slave trade and colonialism. This expression of free blackness in Paris, in the Louvre, is incredibly important. It’s not JUST a stunt. It’s a black couple wildin the fuck out in a historically white, oppressive space.

Also, what white folks you know done rented out the Louvre?

I’ll wait.

And if we wanna get really deep? “Touki Bouki,” the film their narrative seems to be centered around, is a Senegalese film and Senegal was a French colony. So if Beyoncé is extending that narrative into Paris and drawing on the love black folks have for the city, as Twitter user @kyalbr points out, she is also calling out the country’s oppressive, racist treatment of black folks and reclaiming that space for us in this video. The Carters are making a very specific statement. This isn’t about flaunting wealth. This is political. This is black as fuck.

Taryn: MESSAGE! They don’t hear you, though, ’cause they’re as deep as an inflatable kiddie pool. I digress, though, for a pertinent question: What hairstyle you getting while you sitting in front of the Mona Lisa?

Julia: Hip-length, pointer-finger-wide box braids. Wbu?

Taryn: I’ma do Senegalese twists with the S-curl baby hairs.

Julia: I retract my initial hairstyle. I want dookie braids. The white folks who read this may have to Google that, but it is what it is. And I want a hard burnt end.

Taryn: YES! I live for a hard burnt end. Brought to you by BIC.

The lighter, not Blue Ivy Carter.

Julia: I remember my baby hurr with my dookie braidssssssssssssss.

Provided by Julia Craven

Taryn: “BOUDIN IN THE PARKING LOT”

Julia: It was Cook Out in the parking lot for me. North Carolina. Raise up.

Taryn: Waffle House for ya girl. That’s exactly who Bey is summoning on this album. “I Been On” Bey. That may be my fave genre of Beyoncé.

Julia: YES! “Kiss my mama, show that love.” Very, very Southern of her.

Taryn: “Pop them bottles in that club.”

“BOSS”

Taryn: She takes that spirit into “Boss,” too.

Julia: She sure does take that spirit into “Boss.”

Taryn: That’s for the real stans. My IG followers finna be sick with all the IG captions I use from “Boss” — but that’s their problem, not mine.

Julia: I like to think of myself as BeyHive adjacent. I’m not a full-blown stan, but I cry whenever she releases anything because it affirms every corner of my black womanhood.

Wait, I almost fought my bf over Beyoncé. Maybe I am in the Hive. Nvm.

Taryn: I’m glad you’re self-aware.

The queen knew we needed this album. She didn’t drop it when we wanted it, but she dropped it right on time. Taryn Finley

Julia: I BEEN ON I BEEN ON I BEEN ON. TELL ME WHO GON TAKE ME OFF, TAKE ME OFF, TAKE ME OFF ― “Bow Down” or “Boss”?

Sorry.

Taryn: “Bow Down,” of course. But them trumpets on “Boss” made me think hard about it. Cause “Bow Down” told me to get my shit together and pay respect while “Boss” told me I’m broke as hell and everyone around me is, too. It’s close.

Jay said: “Everybody’s bosses ’til it’s time to pay for the office.”

I sure did pass that invoice down yonder. I ain’t there yet. Then he said: “We measure success by how many people successful next to you / Here we say you broke if everybody gets broke except for you.” And killed my spirit. That’s not riches. That’s WEALTH. Looking out for your own. I aspire.

Julia: That line TOOK ME OUT! And it’s a fair analysis. Are you ballin’ if your circle is hungry? What’s the energy like around you? Who are you surrounding yourself with? And if you’re not giving back in the form of favors, connections, etc. ― are you really helping your people? Are you helping us?

“Boss” is also her humanizing herself and her family a bit further. Of course a married couple has issues. But her proclamation that “I got real problems just like you” really made me think about the glimpses we have gotten ― like her miscarriages ― and how much she is like us even though she’s kinda not.

Taryn: Right. And I’m glad you put it like that cause being a boss isn’t always about wealth. It’s about handling your shit, taking accountability and, as you said, looking out for those around you (more to come on that w/ “Friends” because WHEW).

I also love how she takes Blue to school every morning.

Julia: She’s a good mama, which we knew. It seems like the album is doing two things: 1) It’s a victory lap and proclamation that they can do whatever they want and we will still fuck with them. 2) It’s humanizing them by contrasting the wins with the losses and the fight to win.

“NICE”

Taryn: And the fact that they’re showing that you can do both is what matters. It’s like, yeah, we face obstacles, we get through them and when we win, we win big and we deserve to celebrate that. They’re literally telling us “I can do anything” on Pharrell-produced “Nice.” Talking their shit while we eat it all up.

Julia: I loved when she said that her success can’t be quantified because it honestly can’t. She and Jay are much bigger than numbers. They resonate with people. She affirms black womanhood, he affirms black success. They’re more than just some rich performers. And they’re fairly philanthropic so that money isn’t just serving them. They spread the wealth. That messaging plus what they do give back means something. It’s like you said, you can do both.

Taryn: Mmmhmm. They know who they are and won’t let anyone or anything put them into a box. I’m so in love with the hook cause it’s such a vibe but still boldly defiant. I really want to blast this song while driving a golf caddy through the same country club that called the cops on that group of black ladies while me and my crew are wearing FUBU jerseys.

Julia: Buys a FUBU jersey. Let’s fucking go.

Taryn: Bet. This is also my summer song. The queen knew we needed this album. She didn’t drop it when we wanted it, but she dropped it right on time.

Kevin Mazur via Getty Images
Another snapshot from the On the Run II tour.

“713”

Julia: I have a “713” take.

Taryn: Let’s hear.

Julia: It’s an awesome love story of what happens when a fuck nigga meets a queen who completely changes his life. HOWEVER:

To all the good girls that love hustlers
To the mothers that put up with us
To all the babies that suffered ’cause us
We only know love because of ya
America is a motherfucka to us, lock us up, shoot us
Shoot our self-esteem down, we don’t deserve true love
Black queen, you rescued us, you rescued us, rescued us

Taryn: Please let the choppa sing! I’m ret.

Julia: I have a major issue with the narrative that black women have to be damaged by men before we are appreciated. Maybe that wasn’t the intent. Maybe the intent was to say, “Thanks for dealing with my trash ass all these years.” But this album comes post-trauma, post the brokenness we saw on “Lemonade” and “4:44.” So ....... the outro could have been chopped for optics’ sake AT LEAST. However, my primary point is that I shun being uplifted by men for my sacrifices. I don’t need that. I need you to act like you got some fucking sense.

I tell the men in my life all the time, stop praising black women, as a whole, for the misogynoir we so ***flawlessly handle and praise us for our successes. I don’t consider dealing with a broken man and being broken in the process ― no matter the outcome ― to be a success.

This also kinda solidifies the idea that men need to lose everything or have a daughter or both to see women as people. Now I wanna fight.

And of course I don’t know the ins and outs of what Jay has done to rectify what he did. She’s forgiven him. That’s all that matters. But if we’re discussing pushing a narrative, that verse is trash.

Taryn: The entire track, he’s talking about his fuck-ups. Bringing his friend to their first date, failing to communicate his emotions, not telling folks he was married. All trash-ass things I’d expect from a Sagittarius man. So I’d really like to think that it’s a “thank you for staying” rather than praising her for dealing with his shit, but the way niggas are set up, I wouldn’t be surprised if it really was the latter. I hate that culture has really conditioned folks to view black women from the lens of perseverance and struggle. It’s limiting, it’s unfair, and it’s dehumanizing. Yes, black women save men time and time again (as hinted at with the “rescued us” echo at the end), but that’s not all she is or all she’s done, bruh.

Let’s do this. Homework time, fellas: How about we A) let black women rest their capes for a min, B) deal with y’all own trash before involving a woman, and C) respect, appreciate and uplift black women for things other than surviving what she’s been through. This narrative is so tired.

Julia: Extremely. And that’s why I appreciate Bey’s presence on the album so much because she kinda trumps that. It’s a complicated topic. I still see this couple as victorious, but I really hate viewing women through the lens of suffering, even if it is a “thank you for staying.” But, at the same time, what else is he supposed to say?

It’s hella tricky. I do love one thing about this track though: She is monetizing his infidelity and making him constantly apologize. I love it.

Taryn: It is. And I appreciate how he’s going on this apology tour and she’s collecting the coin from it. One thing that irks me, though, is how often men get lauded for admitting that they’ve fucked up at the expense of a woman. Literally for doing what they’re supposed to do. Yes, I’m happy he acknowledges that he wasn’t shit and he’s now grown from it, but why should he get a cookie for that?

Julia: Right. Thankfully, he isn’t asking for cookies himself. It’s easy to see how sorry he is and I appreciate that. I don’t appreciate the men who are lauding him for being sorry for hurting someone he loves. That being admirable is honestly frightening.

Taryn: SCREAMING:

Julia: LMAOOOOOOO!

Taryn: Idk who found this footage of me but I’m pressing charges. 

Kevin Mazur via Getty Images
Michelle Williams, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child performing at Coachella in April 2018.

“FRIENDS”

Taryn: How you think Kanye felt after he heard “Friends”?

Julia: Idk how he felt and idc but I lived.

Taryn: I’m just glad they’ve purged toxicities from their lives and leaned into the Kellys, Michelles and Ty Tys that they deserve. Plus, this song is a gem. On an album about love, I really fucking appreciate a song about the necessary and supportive love from your tribe. It’s so important.

Julia: YES! THAT PART! Friends are so important when you’re going through something. My homegirl sent the lyrics to our group chat and we all started gabbing about how much we love and appreciate one another. Funny enough, we all met at a “Lemonade” watch party.

Taryn: That’s so beautiful! Beyoncé out here strengthening bonds. I love the third verse when she’s like, “They pray and pray for me, they pray and pray for me / See better things for me.” There are so many ways to be a good friend, but a friend seeing you go further than you see yourself going because it’s hard to at that time is so invaluable. We’ve all been low and felt pessimistic about things at one point or another but for someone to tell you to cut that shit out so you can soar higher than you expected. Let me just take this moment to shout out my nigga Demetria because she’s that for me. We all need that.

Julia: Amen 🙌🏽

“HEARD ABOUT US”

Taryn: You know what else I felt? The way Bey sang “nigga” on “Heard About Us.” I wish I could get audio tatted because listen.

Julia: I, too, felt that in the depths of my soul.

Taryn: One thing that I love is that they don’t give info for free. No interviews with the exception of Jay’s apology tour. We’ll hear about it when they want us to know. They don’t leave their truth in the hands of others. All the noise outside of that is just speculation and rumors. But regardless, it’s none of our damn business anyway. At least that’s what I got from this track.

Julia: I, too, got the same meaning from “Heard About Us.” They are so in control of their narrative and that’s powerful. I want that for Cardi B, too.

Taryn: rhefuutrtgrtf. Hopped up off that wall and onto a subway.

Julia: Or as Bey said, quoting Young Jeezy before her, Mona HOPPED UP OUT THAT PRETTY MUHFUCKA LIKE HELLO !

Taryn: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BRUH! Bey LEANED into Southern hip-hop on this album and my country ass LIVED!

“BLACK EFFECT”

Taryn: I love how hood this song is.

Julia: I love how the hook is “I’m good on any MLK Blvd.” because it hits on the fact that those roads are always in the hood. And I feel “Fuck a false arrest” deep in my soul. Because, well, FUCK A FALSE ARREST. Long Live Kalief.

Taryn: HELLO! Trayvon comin’s next! I can’t wait until that docuseries airs. They shouted out some many undeniably black staples/figures. Essence Fest. Dapper Dan. Sarah Baartman hips.

Julia: Me either. This song makes me wanna put my black power fist in the air but also wild out while mobbin. And they went back to the Napoleon imagery with “I will never let you shoot the nose off my Pharaoh.” Apparently, Napoleon’s soldiers broke the nose fucking around with a cannonball during the French campaign in Egypt. That line is very: “You cannot ruin this legacy.” NOT THIS ONE!

Taryn: It’s “you won’t ruin this legacy or this aesthetic.” This “negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils” is here to stay and get passed down to my children’s children. Stay mad.

Julia: AND THEY ALREADY RICH!

Taryn: I also think this is their reminder that, yeah, we can rent out the Louvre and produce this beautiful masterpiece among masterpieces, but don’t get it twisted, we’ll still pull up if need be.

Julia: It was very hood rich while also reminding us they rich for real, rich foreva.

Taryn: I heard somebody blasting this song earlier today as I was leaving Brooklyn and it made my heart smile. It’s a bop and black as elbows at the same time. My favorite things. Plus Bey’s ad libs make me feel like chin-checking a gentrifier.

Julia: I also like how they’re lifting MLK and Malcolm. I feel like we don’t see that enough. Of course, people do it, but mainstream-wise, I love that. When it comes to blackness, I think a lot about the narrative music and culture is pushing and whether it’s responsible or not. That strikes me as responsible.

Taryn: Yeah, in pop culture references we see more MLK vs. Malcolm rather than recognizing them both as critical thought leaders. Like, yeah, it’s easy to juxtapose their ideologies, but it can often come across as lazy and shallow in some music. I won’t go too deep into that, but I’m glad Jay did it the way he did it.

Julia: As am I. They’re just both sides of the same coin.

Taryn: Hello!

“LOVEHAPPY”

Taryn: OK, I think my favorite track switches with every listen with this album. Cause right now, “LoveHappy” is everything. Like they’re talking big shit on this track. Plus, I feel very seen when Beyoncé cusses.

Julia: I love it when a woman curses, and I really love it when it’s with purpose. Because I just be cussing just because, so I appreciate it when it feels crafty. This song also reminds me of the dream I had last night.

Taryn: She got on the track and told this man he “fucked up the first stone, we had to get remarried.” A drag and a strong cuss in one line is what I stan for. They’re being so vulnerable on this track in such a fun and carefree way and it reminds me of the photos in their tour book when Hov is looking like ... well ... he’s looking like himself. This album is the equivalent of an artful nude.

“I’ma show you the good, the bad and the ugly but I’m make it look sexy.” — Bey and her husband, 2018.

Shit, does that make sense? I just be talking.

Julia: That makes sense. I loved that, too. This is what happens when you and your partner are best friends who have moved beyond a major falling-out. Now, you can reflect and even laugh about it all.

Taryn: I wanna hear about your dream though.

Julia: I dreamt that I had won $125,000. And this song started playing in the background when I called and asked for my money. Why? Who the fuck knows? But that was basically it.

Taryn: I could see you starring in “Lottery Ticket 2” and the instrumental for this song playing as you jump for joy on the couch, damn near knocking over your pitbull puppy and red bag of Doritos. All of this is playing out in slow-mo, of course.

Julia: I do not eat Doritos. FIGHT ME.

Taryn: You don’t, but you might have to for the plot’s sake. Issa blockbuster. Trust me.

Julia: I’m done.

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