“I Been On (Remix)" - Beyoncé ft. Bun B, Z Ro, Scarface, Willie D, Slim Thug, and Lil Keke
In 2011, Complex asked Bey about reported rivalries between her and other arena darlings. She’d claimed the throne, copycats were rampant, and the world wanted to know how the Queen planned to rule. She deflected the gossip with grace, offering “There is room on this earth for many queens. I have an authentic, God-given talent, drive, and longevity that will always separate me from everyone else. I’ve been fortunate to accomplish things that the younger generation of queens dream of accomplishing. I have no desire for anyone else’s throne. I am very comfortable in the throne I’ve been building for the past 15 years.” I always liked the way she acknowledge that queendom wasn’t a zero sum game, but sometime in the last couple years her outlook has apparently changed. She’s worked ferociously her entire life and she makes all but a handful of people look lazy and weak, so I refuse to criticize “Bow Down/I Been On” and I’m happy to see her victory laps take whatever shape she chooses (including career retrospective music video/commercials meant to endorse Pepsi).
But it definitely took 6 accomplished rappers and 4 minutes to wipe this song of Queen Bey, her crown and sceptre. Though still a podium stand, this version is a little different because despite the critical praise and proliferate back catalogs, these artists aren’t hanging out in the same magazine rack as their inspiration. Slim Thug works Beyoncé’s lyrics into his verse, but their empires are disparate. What they share isn’t industry ca$h-ay, but Texas. On this remix, when Beyoncé Knowles (not Bey, not The Queen) dares anyone to even try to knock her down, it’s through the slow menace of chopped and screwed. The affect couldn’t be further from the chiptune original. I bowed down when she demanded it, and here, if anyone were to doubt either her reign or her legacy (and no one should), she’s brought along all of Texas to enforce her message. And as much as she doesn’t need them to keep haters in check, this crew doesn’t really need Beyoncé to furnish a world class track. But bringing these two worlds together allows each to acknowledge sides they’d formerly hidden. Texas rap cares not for polished pop and Bey is awarded zero trill points for hanging with Gwyneth in the Hamptons. These images have served both halves well, but the reminder that they’ve always been only a piece of the puzzle is welcome.
Kudos to Bey for getting Bun B on this track. Not only does it seem totally correct because of the UGK shout-out on the original, but Bun makes this track. Wikipedia tells me he’s had a decent run of guest spots this year, but I somehow managed to miss them all - and I missed him. Bun B has one of the most authoritative deliveries this side of Chuck D, and he’s in full effect on “I Been On (Remix)”, delivering the song’s mission statement with “Ridin’ for Pimp, Screw and all the Lone Star Staters” and just generally killing it in his too-short verse. “While you sleepin’ and snorin’, we/ Creepin’ and pourin’” has the best rhythm of anything in the song, and the other features are no slouches. Beyoncé’s version of “Bow Down/ I Been On” was like curio-pop, more interesting for what it said about Bey and the music world in general than for its value as a song, but with Bun B’s verse, this remix gives it plenty of purpose.