JAY Z and Beyoncé surprised the world this week with the release of their debut album under the moniker The Carters, a brand new collaboration from the husband and wife powerhouse. Released June 16 exclusively on TIDAL – the streaming service co-owned by Jay – the album EVERYTHING IS LOVE debuts the manifestation of the Jay and Bey team as a unified artist while completing the trilogy of the couple’s relationship that was explored through previous albums: Beyoncé’s Lemonade, which revealed JAY Z’s infidelity, followed by Jay’s 4:44 chronicling the family’s heartache and Jay’s apology to his wife.
EVERTHING IS LOVE completes this arc, The Carters using their “art like a therapy session,” culminating in their reunification. Critics have been quick to praise the album, released without any prior marketing or promotion and dropped in the middle of the couple’s OTR II Tour. Being touted as the pair’s final reconciliation and most personal work to date, The Carters explore themes beyond the doors of just their own family: black love and creativity burst through every cadence, while intimate portrayals of feuds and friendships offer a glimpse at the pair’s closest relationships.
In the celebration of “real friends” who are the bedrock of their success and prosperity, Jay shouts out to frequent honorable mention couple OG Juan and Desiree Perez – longtime allies and quiet pillars behind the scenes of the Roc Nation family and its successes. This peek inside The Carters’ world fits into the tell-all style of confessionary writing reminiscent of both Lemonade and 4:44, albums that are deeply personal and offer a raw look into their lives and relationships.
“My friends, real friends, better than your friends / That’s how we keep poppin’ out that Benz, yeah / No faux, real friends, we ain’t even got to pretend, yeah”
The sixth track of the new album immediately hits the listener with a familiar, but fresh sound new to JAY Z and Beyoncé. Riding the wave of current droning trap beats, “Friends” is refreshing, and beside other bangers like the Pharrell-produced and Migos-adorned “Apeshit,” highlights Jay & Bey’s alignment with the popular sounds of the era.
Proving their talents can transcend their previous works, The Carters create a sound experience that is ultimately more than Jay or Bey can do solo. On an album that sees Beyoncé fired up and in rare form – less the silky singer showing her range / more the trap rap Queen spitting fire – the song “Friends” is one of her decidedly more low-key performances. The Queen is vocally intoxicating here, letting JAY Z take the bars while coolly cooing in the background the simple mantra she requests of her best friends: “Pull me up / Never let me down.”
Jay takes to the verse to start shouting out the people firmly rooted in his closest circle. A collection of extended family members, Roc Nation affiliates and old friends, these are people who have been by Jay’s side for decades, in business ventures and in the bars of his rhymes. Instead of name-dropping their famous acquaintances, The Carters make it very clear the “real friends” who have made the cut – including Jay’s cousin Emory Jones, childhood best friend Ty Ty Smith and close friend and Roc Nation co-founder Jay Brown. “Ty-Ty there, E there, Breezy there, Juan there / High here, Chaka there, Law there, they all here, ah yeah / Dez there, Kawanna here, shit feel like nirvana here.” Among this list are Jay mainstays – the husband and wife Roc Nation colleagues, Juan & Dez.
Real Friends: OG Juan & Desiree Perez
First introduced to JAY Z in 1996 through Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke, OG Juan Perez helped run studios with Jay throughout their the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. The friends ventured into now defunct record label Roc-La-Familia and together opened sports bar The 40/40 Club in 2003. Perez has said the connection with Jay was easy and immediate, and received his first shout out in Jay’s The Black Album, in 2003: “OG Juan, Whattup? / Whassup Dez?” The “whattup” line to OG Juan and wife goes on to state, “I’m a little upset you wasn’t involved in this whole process, but it’s all good,” referencing their close collaboration in the studio and Perez’ lack of connection to The Black Album.
With NYC sports the theme of the duo’s 40/40 Club and the driving force in the partnership, the pair launched Roc Nation Sports in a bombshell announcement in the Spring of 2013. Another shout out to OG in The Blueprint 3 hit “Empire State of Mind,” declares that you can find Jay “at the X with OG at a Yankee game,” referencing the pair’s favorite pastime and the foundation of their friendship. Roc Nation Sports was always a project that Jay and Perez discussed as a possible offshoot of the Roc Nation brand.
“We talked about doing this maybe [2008 or 2009],” Perez told the NY Post of starting a sports agency with JAY Z. “It’s just the time wasn’t right. Jay just brought it up to me again. ‘Why not just add the sports to [Roc Nation]?’ We always talk about how entertainment and sports go together, but nobody has put it together … let’s do it.” Fast forward five years and Roc Nation Sports is stronger than ever with president OG Juan Perez at the helm. The Roc Nation Sports mission statement followed the values of its namesake: “supporting athletes in the same way Roc Nation has been working alongside and advocating for artists in the music industry for years. Roc Nation Sports focuses on elevating athletes’ career on a global scale both on and off the field.”
OG Juan’s wife, Desiree Perez (often referred to as “Dez” in Jay’s tracks), has also been close to the Carters for decades. As serving COO of Roc Nation, Dez is the authority behind the contracts made for streaming music app Tidal and a core member of the Hova Circle of Influence. This elite group that collectively runs the Roc Nation empire and its offsets includes OG Juan (President, Roc Nation Sports), Jay Brown (Co-Founder and CEO, Roc Nation), Ty Ty Smith (head of A&R, Roc Nation Records), Chaka Pilgrim (President, Roc Nation Records) and Jana Fleischman (Marketing & Communications, Roc Nation) – the core of the mentions in EVERYTHING IS LOVE’s “Friends.”
According to insiders, Desiree Perez has been Jay’s righthand woman over the years at the negotiation table. Running the show at Roc Nation, Dez is credited with the $150-million deal with concert-promotions giant Live Nation in 2008 – one of the biggest music contracts ever awarded at the time. She negotiated a breakthrough $25-million collaboration with Samsung in promoting Rihanna’s ANTI tour in 2016, cementing Riri’s superstar status that same year; and lead the discussions at TIDAL’s negotiations with Sprint’s $200-million investment in January of 2017 – a move which advanced the release of 4:44 to reach platinum status in record-level time even before the official release.
This year, Dez and OG Juan made front page celebrity news when Hova reportedly dished out over $100,000 for a night out with friends on OG’s birthday. Celebrating with a small group, the Roc Nation Sports president and Carter-Knowles bud rang in his 50th year with a lavish night on the town and the now-infamous $91,000 bar tab. According to Page Six, JAY Z and OG Juan, Desiree, Roc Nation execs and friends started the extravagant night out at well-known Bey & Jay fave, Japanese restaurant Zuma with a $13,000 dinner.
The group then headed to restaurant-club Made in Mexico in Inwood, reportedly splurging another $9,000 on Jay’s own D’USSÉ brand Cognac. The Roc Nation Boys ended the night at Playroom Nightclub where the news of the outing really spread. The receipt posted to Snapchat by the crew’s waitress quickly turned the story viral, exposing the table of 6 racking up a $91,000 bill on 40 bottles of champagne. With a friendship that has spanned decades and businesses, it would be no surprise that Jay splurged for OG’s 50th celebration.
Celebrity news went wild for the story of the “splurge heard ‘round the world,” on OG’s birthday, but Jay set the story straight in DJ Khaled’s 2018 track “Top Off” featuring The Carters: “$91,000 for a wine bill / Keep it real with you, that was Juan’s bill / My whole team ball E / Everybody’s a star but the team ball.”
Referring to the notorious tab, Jay keeps it real and admits that the credit for picking up the huge tab wasn’t his as reported, but it was actually OG Juan who footed the bill. Hov uses this bar to reiterate one of the main messages also found in EVERYTHING IS LOVE: his successes are his friends’ successes – it doesn’t matter who paid the tab because the whole Roc Nation family are legends in their own right and have all made it to the top as a unit.
No Faux: Kanye / Kendall / Kylie
While “Friends” is full of mentions of Jay and Bey’s closest, so too are there some pretty obvious signs of beef, most notably with the absence of “little brother” Kanye West. Earlier this year, before the release of his new album Ye, Kanye let out a bombshell two-hour interview with the Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne Tha God in which the rapper is extremely vocal about where he is with big brother Jay.
Though Kanye says the root of his current feud with Hova revolves around money and the Live Nation deal, the excerpt that really got the world’s attention was Kanye’s statement that he was mostly hurt over Jay and Bey not attending his wedding with Kim Kardashian in 2014: “I understand they was going through some things. But if it’s family, you’re not gonna miss a wedding,” he said. This, after the weird Beyoncé diss on Yeezy’s Pablo tour, has obviously taken a toll on the famous friendship. Kanye went on to tell Charlamgne that really the diss on Bey comes down to how Jay perceives their relationship: “If we’re brothers and we are family, then it’s my family, too. If we’re business associates, then it’s too far.”
Without mentioning Kanye by name, Jay sheds his side of the story – the placement of his comeback into “Friends” is obviously important to note: “I ain’t goin’ to nobody nothin’ when me and my wife beefin’,” Jay snaps. ”I don’t care if the house on fire, I’m dyin’, n—a, I ain’t leavin’ … If y’all don’t understand that, we ain’t meant to be friends.”
Jay takes to the track to essentially tell the world that he’s prioritized his relationship with his wife above all else, and Kanye’s wedding took a back seat to the marital issues he and Beyoncé were suffering through at the time. Hov declares that even if their house were on fire he’d never leave without Beyoncé, and the verse ends with him suggesting that if Ye can’t understand this, they may not be the friends that they once were.
Earlier in “Friends,” Hov also throws shade to Kanye’s sisters-in-law, Kylie and Kendall Jenner. The girls used images of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac on their “KENDALL + KYLIE” line of tees last year, generating major public backlash. The designs were eventually pulled from stores after condemnation from both camps, including Biggie’s mom Voletta Wallace personally calling the designs “disrespectful, disgusting exploitation.”
Jay calls his beef with the line, “Y’all put n—as on a T-shirt, it hurt you ain’t never meet ‘em.” Leaving the girls’ names out of the line keeps the shade ambiguous, leading others to conclude that the spit may not be directly aimed at the Jenner sisters. Jay could also be referencing the general commercialization and use of artists’ likenesses without their approval, while other reviewers have guessed that this line could be connected to Drake who found himself in hot water after wearing a Meek Mill tee – an artist closely tied with the Roc Nation family. We may never truly know the meanings behind each lyric, but the way Jay masterfully skills every phrasing, you can bet he had more than one complaint on his mind with this diss. Regardless of the recipient, Jay makes it clear that in his “tight circle, no squares” – the Hova Circle of Influence – there’s no room for outsiders. “I’m geometrically opposed to you” and to any others not listed in the crew.
“I don’t know what I would do without all of my crew, yeah / I ain’t makin’ no room, yeah, I ain’t makin’ no new friends / Closer than kin, I’m blessed, you blessed”
In their intro to the world as The Carters, JAY Z and Beyoncé are as much introspective as they are boisterous. They give us a very candid glimpse into their intimate moments as a couple while also sharing enough information that there’s no question who’s in “all of [their] crew.” The couple brags on their well-documented wealth and successes throughout the album to supplement broader themes: “My great-great-grandchildren already rich / That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes list,” Bey sings on #3 “Boss.” The couple brags their billion-dollar net worth will be carried down for generations to come, making them and their children’s children permanent fixtures on the Forbes’ most wealthy lists. In the album’s celebration of black history and the road ahead, Beyoncé indicates that the future of Forbes is set to change with the expansion of their family.
It’s on me
This incredible wealth carries over to everyone the Carters touch. As he did on Khaled’s “Top Off” track bragging that OG Juan actually picked up the birthday bill (courtesy of Roc Nation dollars), Jay continues here in his own work: “Everybody’s bosses ’til it’s time to pay for the office / ‘Til them invoices separate the men from the boys, over here / We measure success by how many people successful next to you / Here we say you broke if everybody gets broke except for you!” Jay and Bey’s status as industry titans has allowed the couple to lift the people around them, and they find their true value in their ability to provide for their “closer than kin” crew: childhood friends Ty Ty and Emory, the Perezes, the Browns – The Carters continue to shout out all the friends who have proven their loyalty and support over the decades.
Keeping a group financially stable is an idea that stretches back to Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt: “If every n—a in your clique is rich, your clique is rugged / Nobody will fall cause everyone will be each others crutches.” For OG Juan and Desiree Perez, being in Hova’s entourage has established their livelihood and fortified their status as titans of business alongside the famous power-couple. Jay’s rags to riches rise made way for his friends to be mega-rich at his side, the entirety of his vision for the Roc-A-Fella fam. With the drop of the new album, The Carters show the world an incredible celebration of love, reinforcing their status in the industry with their ability to adapt to and influence the current trends while continuing the tradition of bringing their friends along for the ride.