On Friday, Jay-Z dropped a video for “Moonlight,” the latest single from his critically acclaimed album, 4:44. Never mind this video being new. You’ve seen it somewhere before.
In the premise, director Alan Yang recasts the popular ‘90s sitcom, Friends with an all-black cast. Issa Rae of Insecure is Rachel, Tiffany Haddish of Girls Trip is Phoebe, and Tessa Thompson of Creed is Monica. Actor Jerrod Carmichael plays a very paranoid Ross, while Lakeith Stanfield and Lil Rel of Get Out play Chandler and Joey. It’s a virtual who’s who in comedy.
As the title suggests, “Moonlight” alludes to the best-picture fiasco at this year’s Oscars, when La La Land was mistakenly and momentarily given the award instead of the real winner, the Barry Jenkins-directed Moonlight.
“The hook is ‘We stuck in La La Land/Even if we win, we gonna lose,” said Jay-Z to Genius about the track. “It’s like a subtle nod to La La Land winning the Oscar, and then having to give it to Moonlight. It’s really a commentary on the culture and where we’re going.”
Despite our often romanticised view of the ‘90s, the era, like so many before it, was problematic. However, the overall message in Jay-Z's video is clear: create something authentic. It’s funny, yet awkward seeing Issa Rae and crew mirror characters in a world that was so clearly melanin-deficient it’s uncomfortable to watch now. This is also true when the debate of Friends, ripping off the all-black sitcom Living Single is tossed into the mix.