Friday, June 22nd, 2018

The Carters – Apeshit

Fun TSJ stat: This is the middlest score, and the highest controversy, we have ever given a song with both Bey and Jay on it.


Alfred Soto: When two years ago she released her pop masterpiece, Beyoncé Knowles used public awareness of her indescribable wealth as Ozymandias might have his implacability. On “APESHIT,” she and Mr. Knowles return to the nullity of “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” celebrating a celebrity as content-free as a Givenchy ad on a Seventh Avenue window front. She can’t get away with “Can’t believe we made it” in 2018, no matter how springy Pharrell’s beat — not when her career to this point has incarnated “We made it.” 

Tim de Reuse: I don’t mind a power couple victory lap on principle, as long as everyone involved actually brings their A-game; and, yeah, they did. Mostly. It’s a great reminder of how good these two can be when they’re not just talking about how good they can be.

Jonathan Bogart: Genre conventions be damned, minor keys and midtempo beats are now as unutterably dull to me as whatever the kids believe was so suffocating and corny before trap came to save them from it. Jay tells dad jokes, Bey makes dumbass flexes in as baroque a fashion as possible. They’re both better than this, which I understand is entirely the point.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I understand that celebrities have an important platform that they can use to inspire and empower people around the world. Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z have done that, yes. But at the same time, the glamour of perfectly manicured PR campaigns and artfully done music videos have led to a celebrity worship-informed delusion that declares a song like “APESHIT” as something far greater than it actually is: second-rate Migos album filler in 2018 (which is to say, extremely middling and painfully dated). People will readily admit this is the case–some already have–yet will happily continue listening. A sign of good music, or good marketing?

Crystal Leww: It annoys me so much that I like this as much as I do. This is just Beyoncé and Jay Z doing a Migos song, right? Yes, it is. And Everything is Love is just The Carters doing a full album of production that doesn’t differentiate from the hip-hop airplay charts, right? Yes, it is. And yet, this is still better. Yes, having access to the best producers and writers plus a (surely) huge budget help, but the level of quality control that Beyoncé exerts over her output is a cut above. We’ve seen a number of olds put out high profile releases in the last three weeks. They all sound like no one is willing to them that their shit sucks. Thank god for Beyoncé.

Thomas Inskeep: Pharrell crafts a bouncy trap beat for Bey to rap over like the BAWSE she is, with the Migos chiming in behind her. Jay-Z wisely drops in for a cameo verse but otherwise leaves the heavy lifting to his wife, who ain’t takin’ shit from you nor anyone else. She sounds fierce with a capital “F,” and your 2018 summer jam has arrived. 

Katherine St Asaph: More functional than song: Watch the Throne II, swapping out Jay’s estranged-due-to-MAGA buddy, or the third-act epilogue to Lemonade, which already had its own finale. But the bar for functional here is obviously pretty high.

Will Rivitz: Pitchfork describes Beyoncé’s performance on “APESHIT” as that of “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper,” high praise for a woman who’s been outrapped by three other women in the past two weeks alone. I’m all for this song and the album it’s on conceptually, as Bey and Jay flaunting their wealth is always fun (THEY RENTED OUT THE GODDAMN LOUVRE! WITHOUT ANYBODY ELSE KNOWING! HOW?!?), but the fact of the matter is that the beat sounds like it was made in twenty minutes, Quavo sounds like he recorded his ad-libs in ten, Jay sounds like he both wrote and recorded his verse in five, and Bey, while solid, is punching well below her weight. Each Carter’s previous solo release saw the artist in question pushing 95 on the freeway; “APESHIT” (and EVERYTHING IS LOVE in general) is them going 45 in the passing lane.

Andy Hutchins: I called the Carters’ last collaboration “compellingly weird” and docked it points for Future bleating aimlessly. Here, there is no Future but the future as soundtracked by a Pharrell-smithed car alarm for UFOs, and both are less weird and more wired, red-dotting targets specific and general — for Shawn Corey, Trump, the NFL, and The Recording Academy; for Beyoncé Giselle, haters far and wide — and sniping with precision. Jay sounds as committed to ripping into a track as he has in years, but he’s out of pocket enough to make what his better half does, in making Migos-style (and likely Migos-penned) double-time sound rich rather than rushed, as much an upstaging as an outrageous display of talent. Beyoncé is certainly among the more versatile and powerful singers of her generation, but her flow here suggests she could probably be one of the better rappers of her generation, too, if she had wanted that as more than an avocation, and that she is currently a better rapper and flexer than her husband, widely considered one of the greatest to rhyme bars ever and perhaps a better braggart. Yet my takeaway from all this fantastic flexing is the sincerity of it: Jay and Kanye went gorillas on “Niggas in Paris,” but that “married Kate and Ashley!” groaner certainly didn’t move Big Brother to praise his wannabe protégé; here, Jay declares “She went crazy!” in astonishment after the Secretariat-speed third verse, and it sounds as true and loving as anything he’s ever said.

Reader average: [6.14] (14 votes)

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4 Responses to “The Carters – Apeshit”

  1. It’s interesting that those who made note of the music video saw it as a class thing instead of a race thing. I saw less “flashing of wealth”; more like reclaiming a white colonialist space for Black art. I mean, it can definitely be both. It just seemed more in line with the Black Panther inspiration / Lemonade imagery from their previous work than a simple “fuck you I’m a millionaire.”

  2. Girl, Nicki did NOT outrap Beyoncé on ‘Rich Sex’

    I have to laugh

  3. I think there’s definitely both elements of race and class discourse here (I mean, just look at the song’s title), but I guess my initial reaction here was to think of the immense amount of wealth and influence it would require to rent out the entire Louvre in total secrecy, regardless of who’s doing the renting. (Also, others have already talked about this album’s relevance to conversations on racism today much more eloquently than I’ll ever be able to, so I figured I’d hold my tongue on that.)

    even more controversial take that I left out of my blurb: Bey was also outrapped by Jennie in “DDU-DU DDU-DU.” how bout them apples

  4. Glad we can all agree that Rico Nasty outrapped Beyoncé though. Rage is one of the Great rap songs of the year.