Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll—all the things that Beyoncé has managed to avoid in her five years as a megastar. Instead, God, hard work, and R&B continue to dominate the singer's life as she prepares to re-esteblish herself as the new queen of hip-hop-soul.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's April/May 2003 issue.
In the time it took you to read this sentence, Beyoncé Gisselle Knowles just sold more albums than Bob Dylan sold all year. OK, maybe that’s a gross exaggeration (depending on how slowly you read), but in her 21 years on this earth, the frontwoman of Destiny’s Child has sold more than 28 million records worldwide. That number’s set to skyrocket: as of this writing, Beyoncé is in Miami finishing her solo debut, tentatively titled Dangerously In Love. Some say the album will not only further establish her as the first lady of Destiny’s Child, it will also reposition her as the new queen of hip-hop-soul.
Of course, when we sat down with the bootylicious singer to discuss her recent career moves, what we really wanted to know was: Is she or isn’t she? Since the release of her duet with Jay-Z, “’03 Bonnie And Clyde,” the rumor mill has her hooked up with the rapper, with some wagging tongues saying the two are engaged. But, if there’s one thing she’s learned from five years in the spotlight, it’s how to play the media game—so you’ll have to draw your own conclusions.
Still, there was plenty to talk about. Beyoncé’s solo album draws from a pool of inspirations and talent that reflects her change in direction. The Neptunes, Missy Elliott, and newcomers Marc Batson, Fanatic, and Scott Scorch all helped Beyoncé express herself in ways that she never could with Destiny’s Child.
But while the record’s certain to confirm her status as a 21st-century Diana Ross, there’s one small problem: For better or worse, she’s too modest, sweet, and conscientious to come off like a diva. From her earliest days, in fact, the sexy singer displayed a superhuman propensity for work. When her father (and later manager) Matthew Knowles assembled the first incarnation of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé, at age seven, eagerly practiced singing, dancing, aerobics, and even how to smile and twirl a mic. Later, her father presided over marathon rehearsal sessions with original members LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson, and Kelly Rowland in the backyard of the Knowles home in suburban Houston. But when Luckett and Roberson filed a lawsuit claiming that Matthew Knowles showed undue favoritism to his daughter, the group’s line-up changed. When the replacements were themselves replaced, the revolving-door membership of Destiny’s Child became fodder for late-night-TV jokes.
What wasn’t a joke was the fact that, no matter how talented her bandmates were, Beyoncé was unquestionably the star. Her smile was a few megawatts brighter, her presence somehow more present. The way she gyrated her generous hips was too irresistible, and her chaste brown eyes too alluring for us to believe that she was really that innocent.
Her ability to flirt with the camera landed her a starring role in the MTV hip-hopera Carmen, cementing the growing suspicion that Beyoncé’s destiny was inexorably larger than her childhood homies’—no matter how dear they are to her.
When Mike Myers selected her over Hollywood’s most popular African-American actresses to star opposite him in Austin Powers In Goldmember, the deal was sealed. She was no longer Beyoncé Knowles from Destiny’s Child. She was now simply Beyoncé.
I'm never satisfied. I think hunger is very important to stay successful.
I’m never satisfied. I always want to grow and get better. There’s a new something—a new movie I want to do, or a new goal that I set for myself. As soon as we achieve something, there’s already a new goal set. I think hunger is very important to stay successful.
But what are you hungry for now? How has it shifted?
Basically, I want my solo record to be successful but I don’t expect it to do as well as Destiny’s Child. I just want people to acknowledge me [as a vocalist] and for the songwriting, and I just want to make some good music.
Your solo album is tentatively called Dangerously In Love. What’s dangerous about love, in your experience?
Love is dangerous because, for one, when you’re in love with someone, they have so much control over your feelings. It can be great or it can be really bad. But you have to let go to fall in love, and that’s a little dangerous sometimes.
You’ve said you’re trying to find a new sound for your solo album. How will it be different from the Destiny’s Child sound?
I’m an adult now and the topics of the songs are a little more adult. My lyrics have matured, and I’ve matured, and I want you to hear that in the songs. Lyrically, I’ve grown, and as far as music, I have a lot of chord changes, instruments, and production that’s different. I’ve been listening to a lot of different music and you can hear that on my album.