JAY-Z's new video "Family Feud" made headlines for teasing an appearance by Beyoncé, but now that the video is finally here, it's clear there are bigger things on the rapper's mind than just his personal life. Things like politics, specifically Donald Trump, which explains all the Trump references in JAY-Z's "Family Feud" video. The newest video from JAY-Z's 4:44 album was directed by Ava DuVernay, who co-wrote the short with the rapper. And it's clear that the two worked closely together to create something that might foster hope in the American government and what it could be.
Instead of being solely an indictment of Trumpian politics, "Family Feud" takes a look at what could happen moving forward. As a result, the direct references to Trump are few, but there are plenty of subtle jabs and thinly-veiled insults peppered through the video that are hard not to see as meaningful critiques of the President's administration. This should come as no surprise to JAY-Z fans. The rapper campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and has been a vocal critic of Trump. "This guy, I'm looking at him like, man, this is a joke, with all — I can't even say with all due respect — with all disrespect," JAY-Z said in an interview with BBC Radio 1 in September. "I just think that, you know, he's not a very sophisticated man, especially to the idea of 'until everyone is free, no one is free.' Period," he added. Watching "Family Feud" in this context, it's clear that the video is JAY-Z's response to what he sees as a detrimental way of governing. These five Trump references in "Family Feud" are just the beginning.
1. Make America Great Again
The year is 2050, and America's Founding Mothers are meeting to revise the Constitution and write the Confessional Papers. The women have gathered, Mr. President tells us, "at a time, mind you, when some thought that 'Making America Great' meant making us afraid of each other." The line is a direct jab at Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, and a pretty succinct analysis of what it really means. As many have pointed out before, the idea of "making American great again" suggests that we would all be better off going back in time, perhaps to an era where racism was even stronger and more socially and culturally and legally acceptable than it is now.
2. Toxic Masculinity
"Family Feud" opens with a dramatic scene, in which a man yells at his sister for disrespecting the family and having "no honor." It's clear, based on his tone, that he isn't worried about the family name, he's worried about his name. It's the kind of bombastic, self-aggrandizing attitude we've come to expect from Trump (a man best known for putting his name on everything). In "Family Feud" it's an attitude that can only end one way: with him dead.
3. Constitutional Violations & Journalism
Mid-way through the video, we see Mr. and Madam President being questioned by a reporter. A story has broken revealing "violations to both the Confessional Papers and the Constitution." The reporter isn't necessarily a positive force in the video, but the decision to include the scene is significant. With the current President consistently attacking the freedom of the press, one can't help but view the scene as a direct rebuke of Trump's contempt for journalists.
4. Protecting the Law
In 2148, "Family Feud" shows a two people protecting the law from a "disturbance in the peace." The language "protecting the law" is important here. They're not protecting people (although, that's a nice bi-product), they are protecting the rule of law itself, something many people are worried about in this current administration. The night before "Family Feud"'s release, Trump declared in an impromptu interview with The New York Times, "I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department." JAY-Z appears to be pushing back on Trump's signature move of disregarding the law by creating a future in which there are people dedicated to protecting the rule of law and creating justice for all, not just the ruling class.
In "Family Feud," the Founding Mothers debate the Second Amendment, a debate that Trump and his administration have proven unwilling to have. There are no direct jabs at Trump here, except perhaps the inclusion of the debate, which marks a stark difference between JAY-Z's imagined better world and our own. Another Amendment brought up during the Founding Mothers sequence is the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery and involuntary servitude "except as punishment for crime." The Amendment is only briefly referenced — "Ladies, this is just like the 13th Amendment. Some people have their liberties and some people don't." This could be an allusion to the corrupt justice system and the Prison-Industrial Complex, which some view as a form of modern-day slavery. (Yet another issue President Trump and his Justice Department seem uninterested in tackling.)
I hope Trump sees "Family Feud" one day. He might find it enlightening.