With its numerous allusions to extramarital affairs, unfaithful rap gods, and good-haired Beckys, Lemonade has landed Bey and Jay’s marriage in a swirl of rumors. But Beyoncé’s visual album is just as much an ode to errant fathers as it is to trifling hubbies.
In the opening track, Bey sets the tone for an intergenerational tea session, reciting, “You remind me of my father / A magician / Able to be in two places at once.” “Daddy Issues” is a country song that conjures up a father-daughter relationship as unconventional as, well, Beyoncé singing a country song. The first lady of hip-hop appears stuck in nostalgic limbo, unsure if her father represents her first role model, or her worst nightmare: “He held me in his arms / And he told me to be strong / He told me when he’s gone here’s what you do / When trouble comes in time / And men like me comes around / Oh, my daddy said shoot.” As the images flash to later scenes of childhood make-believe, Beyoncé addresses her mother and father, black men, and women future and present: “Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his hand? Am I talking about your husband, or your father?”
In so many ways, Lemonade is a lesson in magic and transference. Beyoncé is her father’s daughter, able to be in multiple places and narratives at once. Lemonade glides between the Southern Gothic and the present-day American South, linking themes like love, betrayal, maternity, fatherhood, female excellence, and blackness across decades and socioeconomic brackets. Considering that the entire plot of the album might very well be metaphor, it’s easy to suspect Beyoncé of sleight of hand: Is she talking about her husband, or her father?
From a young age, Mathew Knowles pushed his daughter to pursue her natural singing abilities. By the age of 8, she was a member of the singing group Girls Tyme (immortalized through the Star Search performance that Beyoncé excerpted on 2013’s “Flawless”). By 1995, Knowles had officially quit his day job to focus on managing Beyoncé full-time. And 1996 brought the official debut of Destiny’s Child, with Knowles calling the shots as full-time manager and producer. Former member LaTavia Roberson remembers that “Matthew did not mince his words and it can be tough to take that kind of criticism when you are a little girl… We would try not to let it break us.”
In 2002, Destiny’s Child took a hiatus, which was reportedly the brainchild of Mathew Knowles as he began to envision his daughter’s solo career. In 2011, Beyoncé and Knowles released joint statements marking the end of their business partnership. The singer would henceforth be managed by her own management company, Parkwood Entertainment. Both Bey and her father pledged that the business decision was anything but personal.
Of course, press statements can be awfully misleading.
The previous year, Knowles’s mistress of 18-months, Alexsandra Wright, reportedly gave birth to his son, Nixon. Making matters worse, Nixon wasn’t the only illegitimate child Knowles fathered… in 2010. He also had a daughter, Koi, by Houston-based Taqoya Branscomb. Branscomb had an uphill battle fighting for Knowles’s support: “I demanded the DNA test,” she said. “He would have preferred to continue on with his life and die without one, I’m sure. But I am going to protect my daughter.” Mathew and Tina Knowles subsequently divorced in 2011 after 31 years of marriage due to a “discord or conflict of personalities.” Two years after the divorce, Mathew Knowles remarried. Beyoncé and Solange did not attend the wedding.
Despite their tumultuous relationship—and Lemonade—Knowles seems confident that his relationship with his daughter is stronger than ever. When questioned about whether he’s still a part of Beyoncé’s life, Knowles responded, “I think if one would look at the HBO special then you’d see what everybody else saw. They saw me talking to Beyoncé when she was a young child and challenging her, even then, to understand where she was coming from and critical thinking, but you also seen me diving on the bed and playing with Blue Ivy so that kinda answers your question right there.” He continued, “I choose to let the press say whatever they want and let people say whatever they want… It’s nobody’s business how much I see my daughter or my grandkids, that’s something personal that I care not to share.”
As for the question of what Lemonade is really about? Mathew, like his daughter, isn’t showing any of his cards anytime soon: “Let me tell you who she’s talking about, can I tell you who she’s talking about? She’s talking about you. You put that in context for you personally. She’s talking about you and everybody that is you, that’s who she’s talking about.”