Admittedly, the people and institutions they take issue with don’t come as a shock. The Carters don’t keep their opinions hidden for long, and when they make them known, everyone stops to pay attention. Beyoncé and Jay Z each made bold statements about people, culture, and race as well as their own personal lives in their respective albums Lemonade and 4:44.
In the song “APESHIT,” Jay Z has no time for organisations and institutions who don’t give people their due. “I said no to the Super Bowl / You need me, I don’t need you,” he raps. The artist’s beef with the NFL is layered. Last year, Jay Z reportedly turned down the offer to perform the halftime show with Justin Timberlake. He also takes issue with the NFL for its stance on freedom of expression. Jay Z has made his opinions clear about the football players choosing to kneel in peaceful protest during the National Anthem. This theme is addressed in the music video, which shows a line of athletes kneeling together. "I want y'all to understand, when people are kneeling and putting their fists up in the air and doing what they're doing, it's not about the flag, it's about justice," he explained during a concert in Miami late last year.
Next, Jay Z takes aim at the Grammys, rapping, “Tell the Grammys fuck that zero for eight shit / Have you ever seen the crowd goin’ apeshit?” While Jay Z attended the Grammys this year, he has declined previous years due to hip-hop’s position in the minds of the Recording Academy. While a major fixture at the Grammys himself, hip-hop as a genre has been historically underrepresented at the award ceremony in the nominees as well as the performances. While being honoured at a pre-Grammy party this year, the rapper took a step back from boycotting to share his opinions on recognition. "I realised that art is super-subjective. The Academy, they are human like we are and they are voting on things they like,” he continued. “And we can pretend we don't care, but we do. We really care because we are seeing the most incredible artists stand on that stage and we aspire to be that...Now what happens at the Grammys, it is what it is."
Beyoncé is a queen. She does things on her terms, and no one can demand otherwise. “If I gave two fucks, two fucks about streaming numbers / Would have put Lemonade up on Spotify,” Bey sings on “NICE” about her choice to release Lemonade first as an exclusive on Tidal. For artists, streaming numbers have an indelible impact on how a song performs on the charts. By saying that she doesn’t need the largest streaming platform on the market, she is saying that her impact on music and culture is beyond from what the industry sees as recognised measure of success. She can top the charts even if she chooses to delay or never release her music with them. It’s about creative freedom and making the business decisions she believes will best serve her career.
Next, The Carters air their grievances with a few celebrities we all know: Drake, Kanye West, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner. In “BOSS,” Jay Z reminds us of his long, complicated history with Drake. The Canadian rapper turned down a contract with Jay Z’s streaming platform Tidal in favour of a $19 million (£14 million) contract with Apple. “Rather work for the man than work with me,” raps Jay Z. Drake isn’t the only one feeling the heat from this song — Jay Z also takes aim at Kanye West at various points, perhaps most obviously later in the album. “I ain’t going to nobody nothing when me and my wife beefing,” he says on the track “FRIENDS,” likely a reference to West feeling put-out over Bey and Jay not attending his wedding to Kim Kardashian. The Jenners weren’t spared either. Last summer, Kendall and Kylie Jenner were in hot water for their misuse of copyrighted photos of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. on a series of T-shirts in their clothing line. “Y’all put n----- on a t-shirt, it hurts you ain’t never meet ‘em,” raps Jay Z, calling them out.
Not one to let anyone slide, Beyoncé didn’t leave her beef with her husband off the album. Instead, it’s front and centre on “LOVEHAPPY,” the last song on Everything Is Love. “Yeah, you fucked up the first stone, we had to get remarried,” she sings, referencing the marital struggles and affair the two artists exposed in their previous solo projects. “Lucky I ain’t kill you when I met that B.”
Moral of the story, never cross The Carters unless you want to end up as a lyric in one of their songs. It will be brutally honest, produced to perfection, and catchy as hell.