Drunk on Beyoncé

“I get filthy when that liquor gets into me.”Beyoncé, Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z)

I’ve talked about little else other than this album since it released Thursday night. Beyoncé’s self-titled visual experience is worthy of all the acclaim and as people, like myself, have spent an inordinate amount of time listening to it over the last few days, the critical discussions have been interesting dealing with a wide variety of topics far more lofty than simply what is good music, what makes a pop star, and is non-marketing the new marketing.

In the case of the first single, Drunk in Love, I got caught up in a facebook conversation  (of which I’m not going to quote others directly because it’s not a public thread) with Oliver Wang and some other knowledgeable music folks over Jay Z’s below average guest verse on the track. Specifically, the lines

Catch a charge, I might, beat the box up like Mike/Baby know I don’t play…I’m Ike Turner…now eat the cake Anna Mae.

— Jay Z

Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous argues that this is a glorification of violence against women and pretty much indefensible. This seemed to be the take of those in our FB conversation as well. 

I have a more forgiving take. Here’s what I said in the thread

I’m not here to defend the rhyme because it is pretty weak sauce but I think I get the POV. There’s a lot of drunken sexual aggression in the song as a whole and jay z’s rhyme furthers that reckless abandon. They are f’n up the fine art. He’s too aroused to remove her clothing. He’s “beating the box up like mike”. In the context of their relationship and this moment, he’s “in charge” and maybe because the power dynamics of their relationship are well understood and agreed upon by both parties, this metaphor, while lunk headed is part of their sexual role play. My less kind take is that on an album filled with moments of Beyoncé’s power and dominance, that’s his moment to express his own power in an ugly, mysoginistic way. I’d like to think its the former.

— me

The retort from others is that there are lines that are hard to defend once crossed like Lil’ Wayne’s usage of Emmitt Till earlier in the year. I was going to respond in the thread but felt like this was now blog worthy, so, here I will say I struggle less with this particular Ike Turner reference than I do with Lil’ Wayne’s invocation of Emmitt Till or Rick Ross’s date rape line or Robin Thicke’s questionable wordplay earlier this year because of Beyoncé’s agency in the creation of this song, her music as a whole, in how she presents herself, and in her relationship with her husband. Perhaps without that context, I would find it more offensive but the imagery associated and the lyrical content of the song and the album as a whole diffuses it a bit for me. 

Not just a bit. A lot. As me and Samhita Mukhopadhyay discussed later on twitter








I respect the idea, particularly in a week when we are revisiting the awful-ness that are R.Kelly’s aggressions against women, that we shouldn’t make light of domestic abuse and referring to myself as Ike Turner or threatening to “beat the box up” aren’t really part of my own bedroom playbook (but I’m terrible at dirty talk so what do I know. Also, I’ve said too much) but I’ve found it difficult to look at any parts of this album through anything other than Beyoncé’s POV. Even in this video, as her husband raps, it is she who stares into the camera. I read this as the night talk of two people expressing how they are drunk on each other. A love and lust so deep that statements and actions clearly inappropriate in mixed company are okay here. Desired even. In a relationship of equals you can get as nasty as you wanna be. Because the respect is a given.

Jay Z and Beyonce are not only partners—they’re artists. They both seem to respect each other’s creative freedom and expression. I have to imagine that they’ve both done or said things in their music that the other doesn’t love, but if this is your spouse, the person you face the world with, aren’t you supposed to let them be an individual? Jay Z clearly supports Beyonce being her own woman and likewise, Beyonce respects her man. That’s not a ho conceding to her pimp. That’s adult understanding and compromise.

-Kara Brown for Vice

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