Sometimes I get the feeling Beyoncé’s not listening, both to the criticisms that surround her – which are so numerous blocking out the noise would be understandable – and the changing social climate by which her constituents, i.e. fans are greatly affected; this is, after all, is a woman who hasn’t shared her opinion on race relations since she told Larry King in 2009 that “in a couple of years we’ll all be all mixed up and [racism] won’t exist.
That assumption was horrifically wrong though because Beyoncé be listening. Pardon the poor grammar, it just felt like the appropriate response to the singer’s surprise music video, casually dropped Saturday afternoon, which embodies everything Beyoncé has needed to say for years and is everything black Americans needed to see and hear in these racially charged times.
As the 1% of society who isn’t a member of the Beyhive I was less than enthusiastic about the “yaaaaas bish” reactions flooding every single one of my social media timeline’s because I know Beyoncé conjures up that type of response just taking a sip of water. But I was more than pleasantly surprised when I watched “Formation,” a personal ode to Bounce music, the south, and the Creole culture from whence Beyoncé came and a general in-your-face celebration of blackness – the kind of blackness Beyonce’s been accused of trying to escape and the kind that’s hunted in the streets by so-called law enforcement every hour on the hour.
Now there’s no denying the simplistic braggadocio in the refrain of “Formation” which has become customary of the lyrics of the woman so successful she’s seemingly transcended genders – you know that whole King Bey thing. But beneath the references to “slayage” are blunt retorts to assumptions and critiques Beyoncé has mostly skirted by, seemingly for the sake of assimilation. But now she says:
Y’all haters corny with that illuminati mess
Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh
I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin’)
I’m so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces
My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana
You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bamma
I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils
Earned all this money but they never take the country out me
I got hot sauce in my bag, swag
More striking than silencing haters who repeatedly question why Beyoncé won’t do her daughter’s hair or who suggest she gets lighter and whiter with every red carpet is the imagery that accompanies the song. Within the first six seconds of the video, Beyoncé is seen sitting atop a drowning New Orleans Police car, with the voice of slain Bounce artist Messy Mya asking, “What happened after New Orleans?” That scene cuts to several different images of black men and women before settling on a carefree Blue Ivy running around a living room in a historic home with her baby hair and afro.
Throughout the video there are carefully placed messages like a man holding up a cover of The Truth newspaper featuring Martin Luther King on the cover with the headline “More Than a Dreamer,” police officers in a standoff with a young black boy simply dancing in the street before panning to graffiti on the side of a home that reads “Stop Shooting Us,” all leading to the ending with the police car seen in the opening scene is completely swallowed up by a body of water as 80% of the city was following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
It’s that powerful imagery mixed with unapologetic blackness that has many already declaring “Formation” the “Stay Woke” anthem of 2016. It may be a rush declaration considering we’re only in the first week of February, but we also know Beyoncé is one of the only artists who can mask observations about “albino alligators” under the guise of a slayage anthem which white fans will dance to and be none the wiser about the cultural commentary being made — unless they’re like Rudy Giuliani and the other lost Anglo Saxons who view anything pro-black as anti-white when their racist tendencies are exposed. And so in that way Bey has given us a secret anthem of sorts, a song that’s about far more than having hot sauce in one’s bag and the type of lyrics one rarely hears from a singer of her caliber who’s infiltrated the system and often strays from any reference to their blackness to stay there.
Beyoncé could’ve released a song like this years ago because we all know the Illuminati and assimilation rumors have followed her for some time now, but the fact that she waited until now leads me to believe this is more than just a well-timed gimmick – though of course it was extremely smart to release the video before her highly anticipated appearance at the Super Bowl yesterday and the equally striking homage to the women of the Black Panther movement. Still, I’m inclined to believe Beyoncé might be as fed up with what’s going on in society as we are and while she might not have the skill to go before Congress or the forethought to march in the streets, she’s offered up her commentary in her own way – and in a way the masses can easily digest –and that is something I can appreciate.