Beyoncé is definitely not playing around.
It's unclear whether "Bow Down"/"I Been On" is a new single or a melding of two separate upcoming releases. Frankly, it works either way.
The track, which Beyoncé recently released via Soundcloud, constitutes her first musical output since her National Anthem controversy, Super Bowl halftime performance, and irritating Life Is But a Dream documentary. She couldn't have picked a better way to silence the haters.
To achieve her artistic ends, Queen Bey enlisted the production talents of Hit-Boy, the Fontana, California-native responsible for the "N*ggas in Paris" single from Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. He does some of his best work here, drawing from a well-curated crop of influences to create a memorable complement to Bey's lyrical swagger.
The song is rooted in the storied hip-hop culture of Houston, Texas, the singer's hometown. Its initial pulsating, dance-friendly yet menacing rhythm sharply underscores Beyoncé's devastating boasts:
"I know when you were little girls, you dreamt of being in my world: don't forget it, don't forget it. Respect that — bow down, b*tches."
She goes on to address the affect married life and motherhood have had on her singing career: "I took some time to live my life, but don't think I'm just his little wife ... This is my shit, bow down b*tches." Question = answered.
At this point, the presumed "Bow Down" segment fades into "I Been On," where the "H-town vicious" vibe is more clearly detectable. Hit-Boy's snare escalates into "trap"-esque levels of machine gun rapidity, while Bey's voice is distorted into the slowed "chopped and screwed" style, saluting DJ Screw's musical innovations that most definitively captured the syrup-sipping lifestyle of Houston's "lean"-heads. Close your eyes and you can almost see Screw in heaven, toasting the pair with a bottle of Sprite (laced with Promethazine and Jolly Ranchers, of course).
And to quote Ludacris, the "swagger don't stop" there. Bey raps about popping celebratory bottles in the club while claiming: "I heard your boo was talking lip, I told my crew to smack that trick ... Guess what they did? Smacked that trick." In a later reference, she cues Trinidad James' gold-centric hit single with the line, "Gold everything: gold-ass chains, gold-ass rings."
The track closes with a pair of prominent Houston hip-hop shout outs. Bey first shows love to Willie D of the Geto Boys, reminiscing about being "in that Willie D video when I was about fourteen years old, looking crazy." She follows up with a "shout out to Pimp C," playfully confessing that she "used to sneak and listen to [Pimp and Bun B's group] UGK."
Overall, this latest release introduces a more rough and tumble Beyoncé than we're used to. Her proud hometown salutes and Hit-Boy's skillful rhythms are sure to interest hip-hop fans familiar with the styles referenced, while her confident lyrics will definitely give her detractors something to chew on.
Time will tell what comes next from the superstar, but for now it's clearly "Texas trill, H-town going down." Good luck explaining that to your 10-year-old daughter.
(Below you can listen to Bey rapping without the "chopped and screwed" distortion):