If you were on the hunt for a hands-in-the-air summer anthem, look no further. The "All The Way Up" remix just dropped, and, after spitting just one verse (and a chorus) on it, Jay Z has proved he's still every bit as talented and relevant a rapper as he is a producer. The remix, which is exclusively available on Tidal, is getting a lot of buzz for one obvious reason: it's the first time Jay Z responded to Beyonce's Lemonade thing. But, if we look beyond the "All The Way Up" Lemonade lyrics, the song as a whole is kind of cryptic. Lines like "Crack hit Bleek on the jack like let's make it happen" got me going back for a second reading. So what does this vague, ultra positive song mean, exactly?
Two major themes are at play here: the rappers' professional reputations and — more simply — feeling happy. In the book Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-hop and the Politics of Postmodernism, Russell A. Potter argues that hip hop anticipated postmodernism long before philosophers like Derrida's ideas had entered mainstream discourse. We see this postmodernism in the self-consciousness of rap in general and this specific rap about the rapper's reputation in the wider world, with lyrics anticipating/dictating what the general public thinks about rappers.
The chorus involves the line "Nothing can stop me, I'm all the way up," while in French Montana's verse, he spits "My n****s run the game, we ain't ever leavin." These rappers have all been in the game a while, but, by the repetition of how great they are, they remind us: we're still here, we're still relevant. Get used to it: we're not leaving. This is an important reminder: Remy Ma is less than two years out of prison, and she was incarcerated for six years. It's never been more vital for her to remind the world a) that she exists and b) that she's bigger and better than ever.
This song-as-PR-piece is significant. The remix shows the world that these rappers, once scrapping, are now united. In the lyric "They ain't wanna see the Squad and the Roc," Fat Joe references the longstanding beef between his Terror Squad and Roc-a-fella (which Jay Z co-founded) that dominated the hip hop media for years. That "Crack hit Bleek on the jack like let's make it happen" lyric is a clear reference to some legendary trouble, when Terror Squad's Big Pun hit Jay Z in the head with a bottle. Who would have ever thought that Jay Z and Fat Joe would be rapping alongside each other? This song is a public declaration of peace: it's like them saying, let's end this war and just have fun together.
But this is far too feel-good a track to be all about reputation and setting the record straight. The song is also, more simply, just about enjoying being on top. According to genius.com, the term "all the way up" means "to be high and excited; at the pinnacle of your emotional spectrum." There's obviously lots of other evidence in the lyrics to support this. They've got twelve cars to your paltry one luxury vehicle ("You got V12, I got 12 Vs"); they've got a wide range of mood-altering substances ("Got bottles, got weed, got molly"), Jay Z's marriage is "worth millions" and he doesn't even need cups — he's got so many Grammys, he drinks his D'usse cognac out of them ("Twenty-one Grammys that I use for D'usse cups"). Sounds like the good life.
In short, the rappers that used to have beef with each other are over it; they're rich, talented and successful and life is sweet.