By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Rappers on r&b tracks ain't new. But word to Jody Watley and Rakim: a hip-hop star snagging two guest spots? And then sharing co-writing credit on two other songs, neither of which he's on? Oh baby. Even with the fees he can charge, S. Carter's participation feels less like a check (maybe he gave Beyoncé a deal) than a commitment.
I could be wrong. All this could be business and smart pop moves; but if it ain't Jay that Beyoncé is feeling (and her coyness on the subject supports the gossip) then some man has got Miss Fat Booty wide open, because this girl is in l-o-v-e.
Standing next to the other chicks in Destiny's Child (always in the middle like Diana Ross) and wearing those glitzy Vegas-stripper outfits her mom designed, the teenage Beyoncé was already hot. Yet her sexiness seemed like an accessory she was borrowing. Now, at 22, Beyoncé looks like a woman who's getting some (and if she isn't, then there's no hope for the rest of us), and sounds like it too.
There's a sweaty passion to "Hip Hop Star," featuring OutKast's Big Boi and Sleepy Brown and co-written by Jay. Produced by Beyoncé (she helmed most of the album along with Scott Storch and Rich Harrison), "Hip Hop Star" is a soft wet come onB asks over a gently swaggering track if you're man enough to hang with a hip-hop star. Yeah. Beyoncé's got it like that. Sexier still is the ballad "Speechless." Replete with porn-flick guitars and whispery, lick-your-lips vocals, "Speechless" is, as the song lets you know, about "lighting candles, making love all night," and giving it up to that one boy who knows how to do you right.
Which, judging by "Crazy in Love," is Jay-Z. But hell, even if it's about Beyoncé's freaking cat, this is about as good as it gets: dope in the clubs. Hot on the radio. Produced by former B-lister Harrison (best known for Amerie's "Why Don't We Fall in Love"), "Crazy in Love" has a beat so infectious, so insistent, it could drive bin Laden out of that cave. For his part Jay is, well, Jaystringing together metaphors ("I'm a star like Ringo") with what-me-worry glee. Beyoncé? She smolders as much as her man chills. She rides the off-center drum breaks and pungent horns (Harrison hails from D.C., and the go-go influence is undeniable) and admits, "got me hoping you'd page me right now/hoping your kiss will save me right now." It's a love song with no shame and its naked need all but makes up for the hidden track "Daddy" a/k/a "A Love Song to My Manager," which may be a first. It's nice that Beyoncé appreciates her pops but it's hard not to cringe as she coos, "I want my unborn son to be like my daddy/I want my husband to be like my daddy/there's no one like my daddy." Jay! Put a damn ring on this chick's finger already, OK?