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Lyrics and Life


By Caitlin Ward


By Beyoncé

What happened at the New Wil’ins?
Bitch, I’m back by popular demand

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 bama
I like my baby heir 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 a hot sauce in my bag, swag

Oh yeah, baby, oh yeah I, ohhhhh, oh, yes, I like that
I did not come to play with you hoes, haha
I came to slay, bitch
I like cornbreads and collard greens, bitch
Oh, yes, you besta believe it


I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it
I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it
I twirl on them haters, albino alligators
El Camino with the seat low, sippin’ Cuervo with no chaser
Sometimes I go off (I go off), I go hard (I go hard)
Get what’s mine (take what’s mine), I’m a star (I’m a star)
Cause I slay (slay), I slay (hey), I slay (OK), I slay (OK)
All day (OK), I slay (OK), I slay (OK), I slay (OK)
We gon’ slay (slay), gon’ slay (OK), we slay (OK), I slay (OK)
I slay (OK), OK (OK), I slay (OK), OK, OK, OK, OK
OK, OK, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
OK, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some co-ordination, cause I slay
Slay trick, or you get eliminated

When he f- me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay
When he f- me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay
If he hit it right, I might take him on a flight on my chopper, cause I slay
Drop him off at the mall, let him buy some J’s, let him shop up, cause I slay
I might get your song played on the radio station, cause I slay
I might get your song played on the radio station, cause I slay
You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making, cause I slay
I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making


(Bridge: Beyoncé)
OK, ladies, now let’s get in formation, I slay
OK, ladies, now let’s get in formation
You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation
Always stay\ gracious, best revenge is your paper

Girl, I hear some thunder
Golly, look at that water, boy, oh lord

I’ve been thinking about . . . stuff, lately. I know. I’m so deep, me.

I tried to finish that sentence in about five different ways, and then I just gave up. I’ve been thinking about a lot of things, I guess. It starts with Beyoncé’s new single, Formation — the one she released right before the Super Bowl and performed at the half-time show. I did not see it in real time, as I’m not really into American football and as a result, I’d have no idea when the half-time show would be performed.

The song elicited a strong reaction from many quarters. The National Sheriffs Association in the United States has expressed annoyance at the perceived anti-police message in the video and the performance at the Super Bowl. Certain (generally more conservative) quarters in the States are calling for a general boycott of Beyoncé for . . . hating America, I think. Well, not quite. I’m being flippant. The video references the disarray in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, police violence against people of colour in the United States, and the historic oppression of black people in the country. It’s been called “controversial” at best and “race-baiting” at worst. Her Super Bowl performance raised even more ire, as her dancers’ clothing referenced the Black Panthers, and they danced in an X formation, presumably in reference to Malcolm X. It’s a bold stand on race and violence in the United States — the kind of stand that raises hackles. It’s been received well in certain quarters, and very very poorly in others.

So I’ve been thinking about . . . race relations, lately.

I’ve been reading about the Jian Ghomeshi trial, too. It’s been a study in how very bad the Canadian justice system is at dealing with cases of sexual assault specifically and gendered violence in general. Popular discourse debates whether or not we should treat sexual assault the same way we treat other crimes. Reality bears out that we already don’t. There’s a debate about whether or not the burden of proof should be on the prosecution in such cases, but perhaps more pressing, perhaps the court should put the defendant on trial instead of the accusers.

In murder trials, nobody asks if the victim secretly wanted to die, and wasn’t the murderer just doing what he/she thought the victim wanted? Not so much in a sexual assault trial; the Ghomeshi trial has once again demonstrated that the potential motivations and feelings of the accusers is more important than what actually happened. Unless each accuser is a model citizen in every. single. aspect. of her life, she doesn’t have the right to justice. She doesn’t have the luxury of being believed unless she’s never done anything remotely questionable.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about . . . respectability politics, lately.

Also important in an assault trial: how the defence lawyer looks. Toronto Life recently profiled Ghomeshi’s lawyer, an article in which it became apparent that the kind of handbag she uses and the price of her shoes and how she looks younger than her 50 years are equally important to her ability to defend the accused.

I find it hard to believe people don’t make the connection between these two realities. No matter what her capacity or profession, it needs to be established early on what that woman looks like, and how attractive we should think she is. We have a right to know. It’s what’s most important. Her body, in some sense, does not belong to her. We must pass judgement on it.

And then, we react in surprise and horror when a man thinks he has ownership over a woman’s body, and enacts his will upon that body through assault, abuse, or rape. That’s not to say, of course, that every man will enact his will upon a woman’s body in that same way. But I don’t think we should be surprised that some men do, when we live in a society that tacitly agrees with him that it’s the case.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about . . . objectification, lately.

When I sat down to write this article, I so badly wanted to write about this Beyoncé song. I thought it was amazing that she was so unapologetic, when people of colour and women must often justify their right to speak before they’re allowed to speak at all. But then I wasn’t sure. The song is a bit rough in places, and I wasn’t sure it would be OK to talk about here. I was afraid it might offend. I was afraid it might be inappropriate.

And then I thought about how many times Beyoncé has been called out for somehow being wrong. Never mind she’s a musician, a producer, an icon: she talks about sex and dances suggestively sometimes and she swears, and therefore everything else she does is irrelevant. Never mind that we can forgive Sean Penn for kicking the crap out of his wife as a young man, we can turn a blind eye to the sexual crimes of people like Jimmy Page. Nope, if it’s a black woman, she can’t be anything but completely serious and completely virginal, or else she doesn’t count. She’s inappropriate. She’s vulgar.

And then I thought . . . nah, whatever. We’re all grownups here. The song doesn’t lose its power because she talks about her husband suggestively in it. We should listen to the message instead of rejecting it because of how she said it.

So really, I’ve been thinking about . . . respect, this week. Equality. Truth. Fairness. And I’m asking you to think about how you think about women, and people of colour, and whether you judge them by the same standards as you would judge a man or a white person. Because that’s what’s more important. Not whether or not Beyoncé said f__k.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at