Beyonce, together with her husband, Jay Z stopped the world Saturday (16 June) by dropping their long rumoured joint-album. It's called Everything Is Love and the artist credited is The Carters.
The drop came about as music's most powerful couple wrapped up the European leg of their On The Run II world tour in London. Towards the end of the show, new visuals of Jay and Bey at the Louvre were beamed on the massive stage screens. The screen abruptly blacked out and then in all caps communicated the all-important message: ALBUM OUT NOW.
Naturally, the album is currently available exclusively on Tidal though you can watch the music video to one song from the album called, "Apeshit." The Louvre visuals from the concert closer were taken from the video.
It's a critically important visual in the canon of black art. For all of modern time, the Louvre has served as a beacon for what the finest of all art is and can be. But it's all white art. That's why, of all the visuals in the "Apeshit" video, the most critical is when a model is seen tending to a man's kinky afro right in front of the Mona Lisa. The visual is so iconic, a shot from it happens to be the cover art of Everything Is Love.
"Apeshit" is an important first single, no less because it emphasises what we've long known: Beyonce is a rapper. More importantly, the refrain in the song, "I can't believe we made it" does two critical jobs. On the surface level, it puts the infidelity that's coloured this era of the Carters' careers and personal lives behind them but it also says, look at us - can you believe we're this black and this powerful?
Ask Jay Z. "Tell the Grammys fuck that 0 for 8 shit," he spits in response to his total snub from all his eight nominations last year. He also confirms that he turned down an NFL offer to do a Halftime show. "I said no to the Super Bowl / You need me, I don't need you / Every night we in the end zone / Tell the NFL we in stadiums too." (His relationship with the NFL has always been fragile. See "La Familia" from 2013's Magna Carta...Holy Grail.)
In the world we live in today, there's nothing more important than black people growing up with the two most powerful pop stars in the world being black -- and very black.
If you're wondering why Everything Is Love is a Tidal exclusive, Bey has this to say on a track called, "Nice": "If I gave...two fucks about streaming numbers woulda put Lemonade up on Spotify. Fuck you." When you're Beyonce - and Jay Z - it's easy enough to dismiss an entire platform which the majority of the world is subscribed to. If we're keeping our heroes responsible, we'll acknowledge that this is an irresponsible move. This isn't about whether Beyonce cares about streaming numbers, this is about the fact that she has fans who love her and want to support her. They shouldn't have to be told how they can support her and how they can't. To whom much is given, much is required.
As problematic as the Tidal thing may be, we can all but guarantee that Everything Is Love will eventually make its way onto the other streaming platforms. If it makes a difference to you in deciding whether or not you'll sign up, there's an A-list of major - and in part questionable - collaborations on this project. "Apeshit" features Pharrell and Migos. Migos' homophobia is well-documented and we also know that Beyonce works with plenty of queer people on a daily basis. There's a song called "Boss" which gets assistance from Ty Dolla $ign and Blue Ivy. Blue also makes a cameo on a song called, "Salud!" which is on Tidal but doesn't feature on the Everything Is Love project itself.
All things considered, Everything Is Love has solidified Jay Z and Beyonce's place in the pantheon of legendary black artists and we will forever look back at this moment as a time you needed to be alive to witness, perhaps even more so than Beyonce's 2013 surprise effort, BEYONCE.
Rifumo Mdaka is a Johannesburg-based music writer who champions South African queer artists. When I'm bored, I watch iPhone keynotes and commercials. Read my website FDBQ Music and follow me on Twitter, @rifvmo