At 4:44 PM on Friday, as he has been for the last month, JAY-Z shared a new video on Tidal. This time, it was the bitingly critical "Moonlight," one of 4:44's most pointed tracks, that got visuals. It's directed by Master of None co-creator Alan Yang and, to the point that it's a music video at all, it's one of the best music videos of the year.
The conceit is an all-black remake of Friends with Jerrod Carmichael (The Carmichael Show) as Ross, Issa Rae (Insecure) as Rachel, Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) as Phoebe, Tessa Thompson (Selma) as Monica, LaKeith Stanfield (Atlanta) as Chandler, and Lil Rel Howery (_Get Ou_t) as Joey. In what looks like an identical apartment, wearing almost identical clothing, they act out "The One Where No One's Ready" line-for-line, replete with canned laughter. Beyond the change in acting personnel, the only difference is the theme song—now "Friends" by 1980s Brooklyn hip-hop trio Whodini, not The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There for You."
Things take a turn halfway through when the cast takes a break and Carmichael walks off to have a conversation with Hannibal Buress. "It was terrible, man," Buress says. "It was wack as shit. It was just episodes Seinfeld of episodes with black people. Who asked for that?"
Carmichael says he "thought it would be subversive."
"Well you did a good job of subverting good comedy," Buress responds.
Then the video flies off. Carmichael can't concentrate on the performance when they resume shooting, and his head wanders. Rae catches his eye mid-scene and leads him away from the set—as "Moonlight" picks up in the background—past the set lights and towards a door out back. It takes Carmichael to a moonlit park bench and the sound of Warren Beaty and Faye Dunaway announcing La La Land as the winner of Best Picture at the Academy Awards—not the real winner, Moonlight—cuts in over JAY-Z's lines.
When JAY-Z spoke to iHeartRadio about "Moonlight shortly after its release, he was understandably vague and non-committal: "It's like a subtle nod to La La Land winning the Oscar, and then having to give it to Moonlight," he said. "It's really a commentary on the culture and where we're going."
There's no "subtle nod" to the Oscars fuck-up in Yang's video—but, then again, "Moonlight" wasn't as subdued as JAY-Z said. "Y'all stuck in La La Land / Even when we win, we gon' lose," he raps in the intro before launching into a tirade at an record industry and the people who prop it up. Yang's task was to be as angry, pointed, and funny as JAY-Z is on 4:44, while still adding something fresh to the concept. Somehow, he pulled that off.
Watch the video for "Moonlight" at the top of the page. If you have Tidal. Obviously.
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