By: Othman Chebli
Jay-Z has released another video for a single from his latest album, this one has quite the cast. In fact, the video to the song “Family Feud”, was directed by Ava DuVernay and features several heavy weight actors including: Michael B. Jordan, Thandie Newton, Trevante Rhodes, Brie Larson, Rashida Jones and more. There is bound to be a host of critics and commenting on it. When the song is by Jay-Z featuring his wife, Beyoncé, the attention and expectations sky rocket.
After watching the video for the first time, it’s obvious that it is a bold, deep, and layered piece of filmography. The video was scored by another top artist, Flying Lotus, and features a diverse array of scenes. Including an imagined futuristic world, where a group of eight women that represent the “Founding Mothers,” are gathered around a table to fix the Constitution. We also see scenes of war and peace between that era (2444) and today. Different topics were touched upon in the first few minutes of the 8-minute video, well worthy of the top billing cast. “The first scene focuses on errors,” DuVernay tweeted. “All families hurt each other. Mistakes are made. Expectations unmet. Jealousies fester.”
Jay-Z does not show up until about 5 minutes into the video. The viewer is transported back to today (2018), with Jay accompanying his daughter, Blue Ivy, in an empty church, in a truly epic scene. The rest of the video is basically a confession from Jay to Beyoncé, who is dressed in a headdress and long robes, as a priestess. Throughout the last few minutes of the video the “99 Problems” rapper is seen as weak, and often confessing from a booth or repenting to Beyoncé who is looking down at him from a pulpit.
The video has drawn criticism from the Catholic League, as reported by Rap-up earlier this month. The Catholic League is not officially connected to the Church, however, the organization has often bashed rappers for different reasons loosely tied the The Catholic Church. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, criticized the video, he wrote on the Catholic League’s website: “Is it anti-Catholic? No, it is not a bigoted assault…But it is nonetheless gratuitous as well as exploitative, just the kind of thing we would expect from this genius couple”. This criticism is unfounded in my opinion, had Mr. Donohue actively watched the video or listened to the song’s lyrics, he would not have had much to criticize. Sadly, as is the case with several hip-hop and rap works, the music and lyrics are discounted and there is a lack of focus on the genius they carry.
The song’s lyrics can be interpreted in different ways depending on the listener’s mood and personal connection/understanding of the song. Having followed a theme in Jay’s album 4:44, this song contains Jay-Z’s confession and apology to Beyoncé for his infidelity. This song – and its well-done video – represent Jay’s struggle with his act, his repenting to his wife, and finally his advice to Blue Ivy about how he sees Family, as he raps: “Nobody wins when the family feuds”. The other big lesson from this song is that there are no more “feuds” in the Carter household.
Another interpretation to this piece would be Jay talking to his other family, the “Hip-Hop” culture and community. As visible through the lyrics on the first verse, Jay is noticing that there is a disconnect and schism between the “old school” and the “new school” rappers. He pledges the old school to have patience with the new cats, and reminds the new artists that he never went anywhere, and that in fact, he is still going strong.
The song also featured typical Hov work, as he introduces himself yet again: “Hovi’s home, all these phonies come to a halt, all this old talk left me confused”. We has grown accustomed to the high quality lyrics and well-produced music released by Jay, that we often take for granted.
The first verse ends with the obligatory “I’m Rich” line, except this time it was taken to a whole new level. Jay raps: “What’s better than one Billionaire? Two (two)”, as he and Queen B sing together about their wealth and remind the rest of the industry who sits atop it.
This song is another genius work from , throughout this album, he has shown that he still belongs in the pantheon of the best rappers and lyricists. The tracks on this album are not as deep, textured, and creative as ones on “The Blueprint” or “The Black Album.” Yet it’s nonetheless the second best hip-hop work in 2017 after Mr. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. album that dropped in April.