On June 16, 2018, Beyoncé and Jay-Z released “Apeshit”—a trap-styled hip hop track featuring a chorus of “I can’t believe we made it / Have you ever seen the crowd going apeshit?” The much-commented-on music video for the track was framed as a hip hop takeover of the world’s most visited museum—Paris’s Louvre—featuring pop’s reigning power couple, marketed as “The Carters,” making themselves at home with a collection of dancers in flesh-colored black, brown, and beige bodysuits. While the video was generally received through the split-screen frame of either a cutting decolonial takedown of this monument to Western civilization or the ultimate in money-flaunting bling spectacle, a more subtle and complex set of issues is at play. This article examines the deep historical ambivalences at play in this pop cultural artifact. Employing multi-modal methodologies that combine visual and musical arts perspectives articulated via the frames of postcolonial studies, this analysis theorizes the cultural “traps” in effect. Ranging from the track’s “trap” sonic production and lyrical rhetoric of escape (“we made it”), to the historical trap of musealized colonial plunder and the Louvre’s labyrinthine, oft-subterranean floor plan, to the “trappings” of consumption, bourgeois self-making, and aesthetic contemplation, we seek to illustrate how this socio-cultural text destabilizes Enlightenment universalism and its public/private split.
Trapping Ecosystems: Apeshit’s Fugitive Politics of Post/coloniality
Carlos Garrido Castellano is a lecturer at the Department of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies at University College Cork, where he coordinates a BA program on Portuguese studies and the MA in Global Languages and Cultures. He is the author of Beyond Representation in Contemporary Caribbean Art (2019), Art Activism for an Anticolonial Future (2021) and Literary Fictions of the Contemporary Art System (2022). He has recently edited two special issues on anticolonial and decolonial aesthetics (one in Third Text in 2020 and another in Interventions Journal in 2022) as well as a volume on contemporary museums and coloniality in the Iberian context (2022).
J. Griffith Rollefson is professor of music at University College Cork, National University of Ireland and principal investigator of the community-engaged ERC research project, CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation, which is mapping global hip hop knowledge flows. Rollefson is author of Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and Critical Excess: Watch the Throne and the New Gilded Age (University of Michigan Press, 2021). He has served on the faculties of music at the University of Cambridge and at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also served as UC Chancellor’s Public Scholar. His website is https://europeanhiphop.org/.
Carlos Garrido Castellano, J. Griffith Rollefson; Trapping Ecosystems: Apeshit’s Fugitive Politics of Post/coloniality. Journal of Popular Music Studies 1 March 2023; 35 (1): 20–45. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2023.35.1.20
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