Jay-Z’s ‘Moonlight’ reimagines an equal racial playing field in media
Jay-Z does it again with another mind-bending visual for the eighth track off of 4:44, “Moonlight.” Directed by Master of None co-creator Alan Yang, the video portrays an alternative view of Friends where the cast is all Black.
There’s definitely a fine list of prominent Black actors and actresses. The video for “Moonlight” casts Jerrod Carmichael, Lil Rel Howery, and Tiffany Haddish of the critically acclaimed Carmichael Show as Friends characters Ross, Joey, and Phoebe.
HBO’s hit show, Insecure co-creator Issa Rae plays Rachel. Alongside Rae, Lakeith Stanfield of FX’s ATL and actress Tessa Thompson of Creed assume the roles of Chandler and Monica.
The video also casts Hannibal Buress at his best – himself.
As the “Moonlight” video is exclusively available for Tidal subscribers it will become available to the public via YouTube at some point later this week.
For now, peep a clip which shows the entire cast in an unorthodox introduction to Friends. The fact that the intro song is “Friends” by Whodini is sick AF.
— TIDAL (@TIDAL) August 4, 2017
“Moonlight,” as you should already know, is a very controversial song that addresses how Black people are portrayed in the media. Jay-Z only goes in for around two minutes but the lyrics present a very powerful message.
Do you remember when there was an envelope switch up at the Oscars this year for the Best Picture award? Nah, let me remind you.
This was the inspiration behind the song. “Moonlight,” which samples the Fugees hit single “Fu-Gee- La” on the hook while Jay-Z spits,
Y’all stuck in La La Land
Even when we win, we gon’ lose
Y’all got the same fuckin’ flows
I don’t know who is who
We got the same fuckin’ watch
She don’t got time to choose
We stuck in La La Land
We got the same fuckin’ moves
Before HOV get’s into a lyrical slaughter of the TV media and the current rap game, the seven-minute video takes viewers into an alternative Friends universe of Black doppelgängers.
The actors are portrayed in the same way, dress the same way, and act the same way as the characters in Friends. After going through a couple of lines the actors break for five. Jerrod Carmichael discusses the idea with fellow comedian Hannibal Buress who critiques the project as straight trash.
After getting ripped apart by Buress the cast resumes their positions but Carmichael is out of focus.
Upon realizing Carmichael is out of touch, Issa Rae’s character positions a finger on her mouth in the shush position and takes Carmichael through a door that is filled with studio lamps. Carmichael’s character then walks down the empty hallway and opens a back door to a revealing a room with grass, trees, a bench, and a big ass moon.
I’m guessing where Rae takes him is La La Land.
The video mimics what could’ve been. A year before Friends debuted on NBC a show with the exact same concept (six single friends living in NYC) debuted on Fox called Living Single. The only difference is that the Living Single cast was all black.
According to an interview with the LA Times done back in 1996 with the cast and creators of Living Single, the show wasn’t getting the same push as its copy cat Friends.
The shows creator and executive producer Yvette Lee Bowser, said,
“It’s disappointing that we have never gotten that kind of push that ‘Friends’ has had. I have issues with the studio and the network over the promotion of this show.”
At the time Bowser was one of the very few black female producers in the industry. Queen Latifah who was a part of the cast spoke out as well regarding the push Living Single wasn’t getting:
“It just pisses me off every time I see that ‘Friends’ billboard and the little piece of our billboard. I mean, how much more of a push do they need?”
This shadow cast over the accomplishments of African-Americans in the media is exactly what Hov is trying to articulate in the “Moonlight” song and video.
Every time Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is brought up in conversation La La La Land will be associated with who won The Best Picture just because of an “accidental” envelope mix up. That’s just one example portrayed in the song.
Check out the song and video for yourself and let us know what you think.