Beyonce’s star power is more than a few catchy hooks and nayhoos. The Earthstrong Queen’s artistry has allowed her to play with the best of them, including her partner in crime JAY-Z. Before Everything is Love blessed our ears this summer, their previous collaborations blasted from cars, middle-school dances and bae-worthy playlists.
The icons have always had their hand in each other’s creative projects. From JAY’s Blueprint trilogy to Bey’s debut album Dangerously in Love, the artists have proven over the years how to control their narrative while giving us hits on top of hits. While music duets of the past included jams from one genre (Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), hip-hop and R&B duets have always carried a special magic (Mary J. Blige and Method Man, Faith Evans and everybody else). As acts like Ja Rule, Ashanti and Jennifer Lopez kept the hip-pop tunes going in the 2000s, JAY and Bey’s contributions have been rich in funk and lush drums. Songs like “Déjá-vu” play up innocent love vibes while “Family Feud” showcase their sonic growth.
On this holiday that is Beyonce’s birthday, two VIBE writers take a look at Bey’s work with Mr. Carter, ranking them from meh to yay.
Check them out below.
Editor’s Note: Cuts from Everything is Love have been purposely omitted because an album that lovely stands on its own.
15. “Top Off,” with Future and DJ Khaled | Father of Asahd (2018)
In theory, music’s most powerful duo collaborating with one of the most popular producers in the world sounds like a recipe for success. However, between Future’s whiny, unneeded assistance during the chorus and Jay’s lackluster bars, there’s no bright spot on the track other than “B’s” brash braggadocio. Moral of the story: The Carters should stay away from Khaled outside of playdates (or business deals) between their mini-moguls. J.J
14. “Pt. II (On The Run),” Magna Carta Holy Gail (2013)
To be honest, there’s nothing truly that bad about the Magna Carta Holy Grail track; its lyrics feature the Carters singing and rapping about their ride-or-die relationship (a bit of a cliché but what can you do?), and its title sparked two entire joint tours. But compared to their other declarations of devotion, it’s a bit flat and passionless. J.J
13. “I Got That,”** Amil Feat. Beyonce | All Money Is Legal (A.M.I.L.) (2000)
Noted as the first collaboration between Jay and Bey, “I Got That” was a playful tune from Rocafella’s first lady. Penned by Amil and Jay-Z, the track was all about a woman having her own with snarky bars to match (“What chick you know cock Glocks back?”). The single was full of firsts as it was also Beyonce’s first solo vocal effort during her Destiny’s Child days. Hip-hop’s Y2K era was filled with elite and new female rappers like Lil Kim, Trina, Missy Elliott, Da Brat, Eve and so many more. It makes sense why this jam slipped between the cracks. D.T.
12. “Shining” with DJ Khaled, Grateful (2017)
I like when the Carters are able to shine equally as bright on their joint tracks, and unfortunately, the tracks with DJ Khaled just don’t cut the mustard in that respect. The song could have easily ended after Bey’s second verse and chorus, so it seems as though Jay’s humdrum lines could have, more or less, an afterthought just so Khaled could *scream* that he finally got the Carters on one of his tracks. J.J.
11. “Tom Ford,” Magna Carta Holy Gail (2013)
There’s plenty to love about this gem from Magna Carta Holy Grail. Timbaland’s drum pattern paired with synth samples of M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” and Radiohead’s “Kid A” brought a beat that only allows you to move from side to side. It was also a gentle reminder to Jay’s critics who doubted his relevance with references to Tumblr and an early dismissal of drug raps (“I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford”). With Beyonce closing the song in her Houston drip, it’s one of the more overlooked songs on their collabo list. D.T.
10. “Family Feud,” 4:44 (2017)
The artists are in regal form on the 4:44 cut. Themes of love, family, and hip-hop union are on the marquee as Bey’s looped vocals of The Clark Sister’s “Hey Ya (Eternal Life)” classic find life behind and in front of the track. The song was a clear stand out on 4:44 and earned the two a Grammy nomination under Best Rap/Sung Performance earlier this year. There’s a triumphant aura to “Family Feud” as the two share the importance of not only moving as a loving unit but putting in the work to make a modern family. D.T.
9. “That’s How You Like It,” Dangerously in Love (2003)
A smoother, more sultry collabo from the songbird’s Dangerously In Love album, the (at-the-time) rumored couple muse about what they like in their significant other. For Bey, “honesty” and “integrity” grab her attention, and Jay likes a woman who doesn’t let “gangstas” push her around. These values were something discussed in great depth in the musical triad of Lemonade, 4:44 and Everything Is Love. J.J.
8. “Hip Hop Star,”** Dangerously in Love (2003)
Jay’s influence was in plain sight on Dangerously in Love. Along with frequent collaborators like Makeda Davis and Scott Storch, Jay helped write a few tracks on the album like the bass-heavy “Hip Hop Star” with Big Boi and Sleepy Brown. It’s another instance where Bey’s vocals and confidence shines with a little help from her friends. D.T.
7. “Lift Off,” The Throne feat. Beyonce | Watch the Throne (2010)
A track with production as ambitious as the Jay and Kanye project in itself, of course, needed soaring vocals and background crooning from the one and only Queen Bey. The lyrical content is also out-of-this-world, as the trio compares their accomplishments to a rocket taking off. What tops off the track? An outro from the Apollo 11 launch and an intoxicating trumpet breakdown. J.J.
6. “Hollywood,” Kingdom Come (2006) and “Welcome To Hollywood,” B’Day Deluxe Edition (2006)
Both versions of “Hollywood/Welcome to Hollywood” aren’t their best efforts, but the way the creatives made a song work two times over should be commended. In hindsight, the song ages well as it warns those lusting for fame to be mindful of what it all means. Bey’s recording of the song seems to be a favorite from fans due to her boss-like bravado. Either way, both versions work for any listener.
5. “03′ Bonnie and Clyde,” The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
Romance and flamenco guitars blend between one of modern hip-hop and R&B’s most alluring songs. “03′ Bonnie and Clyde” is hailed as the first official collaboration between Jay Z and Beyonce thanks a little producer by the name of Kanye West. The song, a lovely sample of Tupac Shakur’s “Me and My Girlfriend” and arguably Toni Braxton’s “Me and My Boyfriend,” was a fitting intro for Beyonce’s solo career. It showcased Beyonce’s personality and style as she brought comfort to the soothing record.
While “Crazy in Love” is a favorite in the mainstream, “03 Bonnie and Clyde” is a street classic. It plays to both of their strengths in the world of hip-hop and R&B while instantly giving us a blueprint to hood love. D.T.
4. “Drunk in Love,” Beyonce (2015)
I’m not sure if you guys know, but sex is natural to have and enjoy when it’s done between consenting adult parties. The 2013 song off Beyonce’s (or “Peaches,” as “Partition” so poignantly puts it) surprise self-titled fifth album celebrates the voracious appetite people in love have for one another.
The track was produced by a myriad of heavy hitters like Timbaland, Detail and J-Roc, with additional production by then-relative newcomer, BOOTS. The video itself was shot by the legendary Hype Williams on a picturesque Florida beach.
Not only did it give listeners a pretty raunchy glimpse into their personal lives behind closed doors (and in the kitchen, foyer and tub), the video also displayed the jovial excitement the duo brings to their passion-filled relationship. J.J.
3. “Upgrade U,” B’Day (2006)
If I had my way, this would be number one. The horns, the lyrics and the love felt in the song is just one of the many indications of their impeccable artistry. “Upgrade U” was built by actual and extended members of their family like Swizz Beatz, Makeba Riddick-Woods, Sean Garrett, Solange and Angie Beyincé. On the surface, the track boasts of the finer things in life but underneath the La Perla and Audemars, lies a testament to equal love and power in a relationship. It’s something we all dream of and wish we can be oh so blunt with it like Beyonce and confident like Jay-Z.
There’s no begging for a spot alongside each other since they’re well aware of what they can bring each other in a relationship. The long list of boss moves (meetings, style switch ups) is just a bonus on what their partnership consists of. It doesn’t hurt that after 12 years, the beat still slaps. D.T.
2. “Crazy in Love,” Dangerously in Love (2003)
While the Dangerously In Love chart-topper wasn’t the first time the couple collaborated on a track, it was the track that skyrocketed Bey’s brand new solo career into the stratosphere. Unlike other tracks that the Carters have done where either Bey or Jay of the duo is seemingly upstaged by their better half, “Crazy In Love” finds the lovebirds bringing the same level of verve and flavor to their memorable hooks and bars.
While Bey was finding her footing in the solo world in 2003, her breakout-single proved that her confidence was at the same level as Jay’s, who was not a novice by any means at the time. It was technically their second song together, but there’s no denying that “Crazy In Love” was the start of something truly special. J.J.
1. “Déjà-vu,” B’Day (2006)
Going off of the power still radiating from “Crazy In Love,” Bey and Jay legitimized the term déjà vu by using a similar rap-sung formula going into her sophomore effort, B’Day. The result? A lively musical reverie implementing both old and new-school stylings, thanks to production from Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and 808-Ray. The track gives off a more grown-and-sexy vibe for the then-25-year-old Queen Bey, and Jay holds his own thanks to his signature subtle-yet-noted braggadocio. The clear connection highlighted in the music video also signaled that love was in the air for the twosome. J.J.
“Déjà-vu” is the perfect background for the early stages of any love story. Bey calls it, as she belts lines about seeing her lover every and anywhere she turns. On top of the classic arrangements of horns, drums, and pure funk, the video kept things fresh and vibrant. Bey shows off her relationship to her Southern and French roots with gowns (with mesh gloves to match) and hairstyles that gave her “grown woman” slayage.
Jay on the other hand subtly keeps up his style evolution with a simple tee and his classic Roc chain. This might’ve been a decade before Lemonade but black culture seeps through the entire visual; from the collage of family photos to the wooden chairs Bey and Jay rest on. The final dance number is all about African culture with Bey rocking her own spin on Josephine Baker’s classic garb. “Déjà-vu” still holds up today and reminds us of their magic in and out the booth.
**= songs penned/unaccredited vocals by Jay Z or Beyonce.