The Evolution of “B”: A Deep Look into Beyoncé’s Rap Persona
Beyoncé has earned the moniker Queen Bey thanks to her versatility as an artist. From belting out ballads, creating vivid visuals, and performing live with precision, she continues to reign by reinventing herself and elevating her artistry with each project.
After retiring her alter ego known as "Sasha Fierce," she adopted a new one simply named "B." Known as her rap persona, B has blossomed into one of the nicest MCs out, she even has her own page on Tidal.
Rapping is nothing new to Beyoncé or B for that matter. With influences from her hometown, Houston, her husband, one of the greatest rappers alive Jay-Z, and her various hip-hop and R&B collaborations, B had existed for some time, way before Beyoncé gave her a proper name.
Beyoncé's transition to B is iconic and innovative, as her rhythmic melodies and sticky staccato have shaped R&B and possibly paved the way for hip-hop's current path toward more melodic driven music.
In celebration of B getting more spotlight, The Boombox has created a timeline of Beyoncé's ever-evolving rap alter-ego.
"Say My Name"
Beyoncé's early MC skills emerged with the Destiny's Child hit, "Say My Name." Although an R&B song, her rhythmic staccato throughout the song were rap-like and refreshing. In an article for The New Yorker, journalist Jody Rosen described her verses on the track saying, "those sounds didn’t exist in the world before Beyoncé." Even Queen Bey herself admitted it "inspired a whole movement in R&B" in a 2011 interview for Billboard. Not only was Bey a budding rapper, but a trendsetter as well.
"If Looks Could Kill (You Would Be Dead)" from Carmen: A Hip-Hopera
We received the first glimpse of Beyoncé's true rap talents in the MTV musical film, Carmen: A Hip-Hopera. Starring as Carmen Brown, she tag-teamed with Mos Def on a track that's tempting as well as tongue twisting in "If Looks Could Kill (You Would Be Dead)."
"8 Days of Christmas"
Hip-hop meets holiday harmonies with Destiny's Child and their holiday album, 8 Days of Christmas. In the album-titled lead single, Beyoncé revisits her technique from "Say My Name," in which her rap-like rhythmic singing is shared with riffs and runs.
"Sexy Lil Thug"
"Go shawty; it's Beyoncé," she said at the beginning of her remix to 50 Cent's monster smash, "In Da Club." Before her solo-debut album, Dangerously In Love, the rising superstar released the throwaway single with rap flair as she flirts with her inner hip-hop star. In her edgy edition to "In Da Club," she dresses up her verses with fashion name drops about her designer shoe game. She keeps it gangsta like 50 as her structure is similar to his throughout this song.
Beyoncé's inner rapper couldn't be contained as she gave a couple of quick bars on the intro to her sultry song, "Signs." While the rest of this song was sung as a ballad, there were plenty of rap elements throughout the song. Co-written by rapstress and super producer Missy Elliot, then-boyfriend Jay-Z inspired the song as he was the Sagittarius she seductively sang about throughout the song.
For her second solo album, B'Day, we met a more mature Beyoncé full of fierceness and fortitude, with her rap skills in full form. For "Kitty Kat," Beyonce blessed us with a few bars on the bridge by sampling Smitty's "Diamonds on My Neck":
"Got diamonds on my neck
Got diamonds on my records
Since sixteen I was coming down ridin' Lexus.'
How you gon' neglect this? You is just a hot mess
You can call Tyrone; you ain't gots to lie Craig
What about my body, body?
What about my body, body?
I'm in the house all alone; you'd rather go and party?
What about my body, body?
You don't want my body, body?
Acting like I'm nobody
You gon' make me call somebody."
Beyoncé continued to keep her hip-hop persona alive and well in "Upgrade U." Over the hard-hitting drums and horns, she channeled Jay-Z's bossy bravado and impersonated his mannerisms in the music video.
On the double-disc album, I Am..Sasha Fierce, listeners received two doses of Beyoncé, showing the full personality of the songstress. The first disc is full of contemporary ballads while the second disc contained uptempo dance songs with a bolder side of Bey emulating her stage personality, "Sasha Fierce." On "Diva," she gave fans her classic sing-rap formula at full force for a hit dedicated to every female-version of a hustler that stays on the grind, a homage hip-hop's hustle.
After releasing several songs with some hip-hop flavor, Beyoncé sauced up another one on "Video Phone." On the track, she spits a few sexy lines and makes the steamy Bangladesh-produced banger even hotter:
"You know them Gs, they be hollerin', 'specially them hot ones
Brooklyn, Atlanta, Houston, to New Orleans
When they see me, they be like 'Yo B, let me call you'
You breakin' my focus, boy, you cute and you ballin'
You like it when I shake it?
Shawty on a mission, what yo name is?
What, you want me naked?
If you likin' this position, you can tape it."
Proclaiming her love for Jigga on "Countdown," Bey counts all the ways she's in love from ten to one. She raps about the ups and downs in love, brags about having her own money and doing anything she wants for her man. The flip of Boyz II Men's "Uhh-Ahh" also adds another flavor of hip-hop, the art of sampling.
"Drunk In Love"
With 16 years under her belt leading up to the release of her fifth studio album, Beyoncé, Queen Bey felt like she earned the right to express herself openly, and let loose with her fans. Now a mother and a wife, she created an album that explored her creativity with songs and visuals related to feminism, sexuality, and personal life experiences. Finding her freedom, she also found a way to rap on several songs, such as "Haunted," "No Angel," and the lead single, "Drunk In Love," featuring Jay-Z. According to Bey, the second verse was a freestyle, and something completely off the dome. Something she did a lot while recording self-titled.
Bey reached rapper of the year status after she rapped on the first half of "Partition":
"Drop the bass, mane; the bass get lower
Radio say speed it up I just go slower
High like treble, pumping on them mids
Ya man ain't never seen a booty like this
And why you think ya keep my name rollin' off your tongue
'Cause when you want a smash, I'll just write another one
I sneezed on the beat, and the beat got sicker
Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor."
Referring to herself as "Yoncé" throughout her verses, the video had Bey posing with Chanel Iman, Joan Smalls, and Jourdan Dunn, three of the sexiest models in the game.
Here we have "the Queen of Rap slaying with Queen Bey" as Beyoncé recruited rapper Nicki Minaj in the remix to "Flawless." These two joined forces for a women's empowerment anthem that brought out the best in both of them. Beyoncé also flexes her femcee skills opening her verse with some ferocious bars. And who could forget her addressing the infamous "elevator incident" with finesse in the line,"Of course some shit goes down when there's a billion dollars on an elevator."
On another song from Beyoncé: Platinum Edition, Bey gets playful on "7/11." This dance-inspired track has a fun-filled flow that makes it impossible to sit still. With catchy repetitive lyrics like "wave your hands side to side, put it in the air," and "clap, clap, clap, clap it in the air," this high energy tune will keep you hype at any party.
Following the release of her rap-filled tracks on Beyoncé, Bey upped her rap skills on Nicki Minaj's "Feeling Myself." Instead of singing on their second collab together, B raps the hook and the bridge of the song. Could it be possible Nicki had something to do with jump-starting Beyoncé's new name? Onika opens up the song saying, "Yo B, they ready? Let's go!"
B is in rare form and ready to slay, all day in her hip-hop hit, "Formation." Beyoncé killed the competition with the Swae Lee-written single as she big ups black girl magic, Red Lobster after sex, and working hard. She's giving your favorite rapper a run for their money with this one from the album, Lemonade.
Fusing together elements of reggae and rap is Beyoncé on "Hold Up." On her album Lemonade, she shed light on marital problems brought on by her husband's indiscretions that she kept from the public eye. Each song describes a stage in the emotional roller coaster she went through, and "Hold Up" came after she asked, "are you cheating on me?" Jamaican horns blare in the background as Beyoncé's boastful bars about being the perfect wife effortlessly flows over the beat. Go ahead Beyoncé, "'gwan big up yourself!"
Don't try to slow her down. Bey flosses "all of this winnin'" in her first collab with DJ Khaled featuring Jay-Z. She certainly shined with her sped up flow in a verse that could be worth comparing to her husband's rhyming style.
In a feature that's both charitable and charismatic, Beyoncé went across the country for the collaboration with J Balvin and Willy William. She used her voice in the remix of "Mi Gente" for the greater good by donating the proceeds to humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Bey delivered her call to action to help and also brought attention to her relaxed and confident rapping ability. She's a triple threat here. She can sing, rap, and do both in Spanish! What can't she do?!
Needing no introduction, "B" made her official debut on DJ Khaled's "Top Off." With a big three feature including Future and Jay-Z, B brought nothing but the heat with her standout verse. She let us know that she was the realest one in the hood hollering "free Meek."
SKRRT! SKRRT! SKRRT! Beyoncé's rap career has officially taken full speed, fast, like her Lambo. On "Apeshit," from her and Jay-Z's joint album, EVERYTHING IS LOVE, you'll hear the inner hip-hop artist Bey was teasing all these years let loose on the Migos-written track. With her rapid flow and explicit expressions, Beyoncé takes a backseat as B's flow is good enough to make her the fourth member of Migos. In EVERYTHING IS LOVE, The Carters took their talents to new heights with this release. Maybe it's time for B to make a solo rap album next?