Is pop ready for Beyoncé's rap alter-ego?

Queen B recently dropped bars on DJ Khaled’s Top Off – a risky move from singer to MC that not many pop stars are capable of pulling off

There inevitably comes a time in every rapper’s career when they think: Hang on, maybe I can sing? Everyone from Eminem to Mase (do YouTube his shaky ballad Jealous Guys) to Lil Wayne has tried it – and, quite honestly, in 2018 anyone can do it with a bit of Auto-Tune and clever production. But going from singing to rapping? That’s different. Rapping is a skill and, like herpes, you’ve either got it or you haven’t. No one apart from Cardi B wakes up one day and just decides they’re going to be a rapper.

Unless you’re Beyoncé, that is. Two weeks ago, Queen B dropped bars on DJ Khaled’s Top Off alongside Jay-Z and Future – leading Chance the Rapper to tweet that “Beyoncé is my favourite rapper”(same, Chance, same). On Tidal, Jay’s streaming service, the song has been attributed to “B” rather than Beyoncé, leading fans to speculate that a rap alter ego may be on its way. Of course, “B” has flirted with rap before, on Flawless in 2013 and Feeling Myself in 2014 with Nicki Minaj, among others. This is pretty rare behaviour in pop, however; usually, rapping is like performing at a dictator’s birthday party – something stars do once then never mention again. There was Kylie’s brief verse on Secret (Take You Home), Simon Webbe rapped on Blue’s All Rise, and Madonna spat bars about her coffee choices on American Life (“I’m drinking a soy latte/ I get a double shot-ay”).

But it doesn’t always go to plan. Robbie Williams, a man who has managed to pull off everything from tiger Y-fronts to a swing album, could not pull off rapping on Rudebox (“Up yer jacksy/ Split yer kecks”). Diplo has stuck very firmly to production since his trying-very-hard verse on Three Loco’s We Are Llamas, while Justin Bieber’s bars on the producer’s track Bankroll were so ill-received that he took it offline and reissued it without him.

It’s easy to see, then, why Rihanna is also approaching rap with the same caution you’d approach, say, Azealia Banks. She was sort-of rapping all 2017 – on N.E.R.D’s Lemon, going toe to toe with Kendrick Lamar on Loyalty, outshining Bryson Tiller on Wild Thoughts – stoking rumours of a full rap album.

Going head to head with Bey and Riri in the 2018 rap game? Taylor Swift, maybe. Before Reputation, Taylor Swift rapping was just a threat parents would use on misbehaving kids. But now, with her almost-bars on Look What You Made Me Do and Ready For It, she’s proved she has the potential to be, if not the new Stefflon Don, at least the new Iggy Azalea. Tay’s already an expert in diss tracks, she loves putting expensive cars in her videos, she’s mates with two rappers (Future and, er, Ed Sheeran) – it’s all working out perfectly. Do it, Taylor. We can’t see a white middle-class rapper upsetting anyone. Absolutely no risk attached to this move at all.


Issy Sampson

The GuardianTramp

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