Spirit J Hus
They're music's biggest power couple, but how well do you know Beyonce and Jay Z? Here's the story behind some of their most famous music and collaborations.
Back in 2002, US record producer Rich Harrison was struggling to convince colleagues that the first draft of 'Crazy In Love' was a winner, none of them "digging" the beat. Harrison remained convinced he was onto something special but decided to keep it in his bottom drawer until the right artist came along. Enter Beyonce, who also initially had doubts about the track, which she deemed "too retro". After some convincing, Beyonce gave Harrison two hours to complete the track and its lyrics – something he later confessed was very difficult to do as he had such a bad hangover. Jay Z became involved at a later date, writing the rap elements of the song in ten minutes during the early hours of one morning.
The bridge of 'Crazy In Love' - during which Beyonce sings 'You got me looking so crazy right now' - was inspired when Mrs Carter caught sight of herself in a mirror during her fateful meeting with Rich Harrison (see previous slide). She was wearing mismatched clothing and her hair was a mess and Harrison later called her to insist that her own summary of her appearance was the missing element from the track.
After the birth of their first child, Jay Z released the track 'Glory' via his social networking site, with Blue Ivy (B.I.C) credited as a contributor, owing to her cries being included at the end of the track. This means that Beyonce and Jay Z's first born, at just two days old, became the youngest person to ever appear on the Billboard 100 (the song debuted at number 74 on the R&B/hip-hop chart). Picture: helloblueivycarter.tumblr.com
It is rumoured that the recording session of the track (which was to be Jay Z's second and Beyonce's first top ten single) was the first meeting for the husband and wife to be. Inspired by the real life bank robbers, the single's music video also drew on the 1993 film True Romance starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. Prince, Kanye West and Tupac Shakur all had a hand in the song's composition.
With lyrics reminiscent of their previous collaboration '03 Bonnie And Clyde', the 'Magna Carter… Holy Grail' collaboration 'Part III (On the Run)' also tells the story of a young couple being hunted by the authorities. Jay Z raps: 'She fell in love with the bad guy/ The bad guy/ What you doing with them rap guys/ Them rap guys/ They ain't see potential in megirl/ But you see it/ If it's you and me against the world/ Then so be it.'
Jay Z's stage name (his real name is Shawn Corey Carter) has several layers of significance. As a child regularly waking up his siblings by playing a beat box he was nicknamed 'Jazzy'. However Jay Z is also a nod to early mentor Jay-O and also to the J/Z subway services which run through the Brooklyn area where Shawn Carter grew up in a housing project – an experience which features heavily in his lyrics. Beyonce too plays with pseudonyms, revealing even before the release of her 2008 album 'I Am… Sasha Fierce' that she uses the alter ego Sasha Fierce while on stage as a way to shake off her inhibitions.
Fans paying close attention to the lyrics on Jay Z's 2013 album 'Magna Carter… Holy Grail' have identified at least eleven references to his wife among its track list. In some cases the references are explicit (in 'Beach Is Better' he raps: 'You better look like…Beyonceeeeee…then we getting married', while in 'Picasso Baby' he likens his sleeping wife to a 'modern day Mona Lisa'). Since marrying in 2008 some of Beyonce's music has focused on past lovers, with an emphasis on lucky escapes (most notably in 'Best Thing I Never Had') – although she did reference her married name in her 2013 tour 'The Mrs Carter Show'.
The Supremes singer has played a key role in the development of both artists. Beyonce has cited Ross as a primary influence in her musical style (even playing a pop star based on Ross in the 1996 film Dreamgirls), while Jay Z is on record stating that his most perfect moment of all time was seeing Ross perform in the rain at a Central Park concert. He has also referenced the singer in his lyrics.
All artists need the special someone who is the first to get a peak at the fruits of their labours, and as far as Beyonce is concerned, Jay Z is it. During the production of her fifth studio album, Jay Z revealed that Beyonce has "like 100,000 songs" contending for the track list (a mild exaggeration – Beyonce went on to reveal that 72 tracks were delivered for the record company's perusal). He also revealed that he and Beyonce deliberated over the tracks at home while "dancing in [their] socks".
Both Beyonce and Jay Z have found themselves at the mercy of online video parodies of their own music videos. The black and white video for 'Single Ladies' sparked a dance craze, but also a frenzy of parodies, with comedians in all shapes and sizes donning a leotard and a pair of heels. Jay Z's creations have also been scrutinized and regurgitated on YouTube, with Alicia Keys collaboration 'Empire State Of Mind' in particular ringing in a host of parodies – everything from 'Newport State Of Mind' (the lyrics changed to reflect the Welsh town) and 'Taiwan State Of Mind'.