Beyoncé and Jay Z’s relationship is the stuff of pop culture legend. Over the course of almost two decades, the ultimate power couple has done everything from collaborate on music to tour together. And while their relationship hasn’t always been drama-free, there’s no doubt that Jay and Bey are committed. In honor of the birth of their twins, here’s a comprehensive primer on Beyoncé and Jay Z’s relationship.
1997 – 2000: Sometime during this three-year period, Jay Z and Beyoncé meet for the first time. Exactly when depends on the interview. In a 2007 interview with Charlie Rose, Jay Z said he met Beyoncé “10 years ago,” which would place their first meeting around 1997. However, in a 2008 interview with Seventeen, Beyoncé says that she first met the rap mogul when she was 18 (around 1999 or 2000) and that they began dating when she was 19.
November 2001: The pair appear on the cover of Vanity Fair‘s music issue alongside David Bowie, Gwen Stefani and others. According to an interview with Vanity Fair in 2013, Jay Z says that during this shoot, they were “just beginning to try to date each other,” and that at the time, he was still trying to “wine and dine” her.
October 2002: In her first post-Destiny’s Child work, Beyoncé is featured on Jay Z’s 2002 track “’03 Bonnie & Clyde;” she also appears as the ride-or-die Bonnie to Jay Z’s Clyde in the accompanying video. Jay Z’s use of the term “girlfriend” only heightened the romantic narrative of the song, sending tongues wagging about a potential romance between Beyoncé and Jay Z.
In a 2016 interview with BET, Roc-A-Fella founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke said that this song signaled to him and Damon Dash that Jay Z was really in love with Beyoncé.
“There was a time in Paris when they sent us ‘Bonnie & Clyde,’” he said. “When we heard that song, Dame looked at me and said ‘Yo, he’s in love.’ So if y’all know Jay, a lot of times everything comes out in music. When he does interviews he’s a little more reluctant to speak about certain things. But it always comes out in his albums; so at that time when ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ came out we knew he was in love with Beyoncé.”
November 2002: Although Bey and Jay are keeping mum about a relationship, they show up in matching denim ensembles (and Bey rocks Jay’s signature Yankees cap, natch) to promote “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” on MTV’s Total Request Live. During this appearance, Beyoncé also says that they “met a long time ago.”
February 2003: Jay Z and Beyoncé are photographed together at the NBA All-Star Game Weekend, one of a number of outings that year.
April 2003: Lest anyone get the wrong idea about their chummy relationship, however, Jay Z sets the record straight in an interview with Playboy: “We’re just cool. We’re just friends.”
May 2003: Beyoncé releases “Crazy in Love,” as the lead single off her first solo album, Dangerously in Love. Jay Z contributes a rap verse and features prominently as her love interest in the accompanying music video. Needless to say, their respective fans and most of the world assume that the two are more than just friends.
June 2003: Dangerously in Love officially drops. The album features another duet with Jay Z, “That’s How You Like It,” and perhaps more interesting, a reference to her love for a Sagittarius on the song “Signs” with Missy Elliott; Jay Z, born on Dec. 4, is a Sagittarius.
August 2003: The dynamic duo perform “Crazy in Love” at the MTV Video Music Awards.
November 2003: Jay Z releases The Black Album; on his song “Public Service Announcement,” he makes the declaration that he’s got the “hottest chick in the game wearing my chain,” which is widely believed to be about Beyoncé.
Later that month, Jay holds a “retirement” concert at Madison Square Garden where he and Beyoncé perform “Crazy in Love” together.
December 2003: In an interview with The Guardian, Jay Z is referred to as Beyoncé’s boyfriend.
August 2004: Bey and Jay make their first red carpet appearance at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards together in some very memorable matching ensembles.
2005: Rumors that Jay Z is having a relationship with then up-and-coming singer Rihanna surface. The author of an unauthorized Beyoncé biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli, told Entertainment Tonight in a 2015 interview that the unsubstantiated affair was fabricated for the tabloids to “boost Rihanna’s career.” Bey’s father and manager Matthew Knowles does not address the rumors until the following year in a lengthy press release that it’s a “consistent plan by some to create chaos around Beyoncé’s B’Day release.”
January 2006: Trouble rumors swap out for rumors of wedding bells after an interview with Cosmopolitan when Beyoncé hints at a possible wedding.
“Right now, the tabloids are saying I’m pregnant, and they’re naming the baby,” she said. “It’s hilarious. I don’t know when I’ll want to get married. I never pictured myself as a bride, but after my sister’s wedding, I did start thinking about what kind of wedding I’d want. I don’t think I want a big one.”
September 2006: Beyoncé releases her second album B’Day, which includes two duet tracks with Jay Z: “Dèjá Vu” and “Upgrade U.”
In the “Upgrade U” video, Beyoncé dresses up like Jay Z and lip syncs some of his rap verse.
Matthew Knowles releases a statement denying several rumors including the ones about Rihanna, suggesting they are an attempt to sabotage the album’s success following the release of B’Day. The album prominently featured a number of joyful love songs, but “Ring the Alarm” and “Resentment” get the rumor mill going as some fans speculated the lyrics to “Resentment” in particular could have been inspired by an affair.
November 2006: Jay Z releases the album Kingdom Come, which includes the song “Lost One.” The song’s introspective lyrics read “I don’t think it’s meant to be, B/But she loves her work more than she does me/And honestly, at 23/I would probably love my work more than I did she.”
Later, in 2010, Jay Z addresses the lyrics in his book, Decoded: “These lines are about trying to have a real, serious relationship with another ambitious professional. In a lot of ways, this is the flip side of the songs in my catalog like ‘Big Pimpin’, where women exist almost completely as predators or objects. This is about how difficult it is to respect a lover as an autonomous human being, with separate needs and goals and timelines than yours. It’s one of the hardest things about a real relationship of equals. But it’s worth it.”
The album also features “Hollywood,” a collaboration with Beyoncé.
April 2008: Beyoncé and Jay Z tie the knot in a top-secret ceremony at Jay Z’s penthouse apartment in NYC on April 4, 2008. The date is an homage to the significance of the number 4 in the couple’s life; both Bey and Jay are born on the 4th (Beyoncé’s birthday is Sept. 4 while Jay’s is Dec. 4.) In lieu of wedding rings, Jay and Bey get the Roman numeral “IV” tattooed on their fourth/ring fingers.
While the couple kept the wedding under wraps, without releasing photos or video, wedding footage makes its way into the “On the Run” tour visuals and on Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album Lemonade. It’s an uber-private ceremony — in a 2009 interview with Oprah, Jay Z says it was a small affair.
October 2008: Beyoncé offers a rare glimpse of what her relationship with Jay Z is really like during an interview with Essence: “We decide everything. My word is my word. What Jay and I have is real. It’s not about interviews or getting the right photo op. It’s real.” She also shares that she didn’t want an engagement ring because “people put too much emphasis on that. It’s just material and it’s just silly to me.”
During this month, Beyoncé also released “Single Ladies” and “If I Were a Boy” as the first singles off her third studio album I Am…Sasha Fierce. Producer Christopher “Tricky” Stewart commented in a 2014 interview with Texas Music Magazine that at the time, the song was “the only public statement [Beyoncé and Jay-Z] ever made about marriage.”
January 2009: Jay Z and Beyoncé solidify their status as a power couple by joining forces with President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. The Carter-Knowles were vocal supporters of Obama during the 2008 presidential election and made high-profile appearances at both the Inauguration and an inaugural ball. Beyoncé performed “America the Beautiful” at the Obama Inaugural Concert and “At Last” for the first dance at the Neighborhood Ball.
April 2010: While Beyoncé is taking a break from her music that many believe is due to pregnancy, she makes a surprise appearance at Jay Z’s Coachella set that year to help him sing “Forever Young.”
October 2010: Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles, tells Access Hollywood that there’s no truth to the talk of pregnancy. “No, it’s not true right now,” she said. “It’s gonna happen when it’s time, but not right now.”
May 2011: In a blog post on his website Life + Times, Jay Z posts a video that he took of Beyoncé rehearsing for an American Idol performance, captioning it “Sometimes you need perspective. You’ve been right in front of greatness so often that you need to step back and see it again for the first time. This is the dressing room rehearsal for American Idol. NO MICROPHONE. No effects.”
June 2011: Beyoncé releases her fourth studio album, appropriately titled 4, after the couple’s favorite number. This is her first studio album that doesn’t feature Jay Z on any of the songs. Of the many love songs on the album, “Countdown” leads fans to theorize about a future pregnancy.
August 2011: Jay Z and Kanye West release joint album Watch the Throne; Beyoncé appears on the track “Lift Off.” Later that month before performing at the MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé announces her pregnancy by asking the audience to “feel the love that’s growing inside of me.”
At the end of her performance, she unbuttons her sequined tuxedo jacket to reveal her growing baby bump — much to the unbridled delight of the audience, Kanye West and pretty much the entire world. The announcement even sets a Guinness World Record for the most tweets per second recorded for a single event at the overwhelming rate of 8,868 tweets per second.
January 2012: Beyoncé gives birth to Blue Ivy Carter on Jan. 7, 2012 in New York City. The couple releases an official joint statement about the heir to the Knowles-Carter legacy: “Her birth was emotional and extremely peaceful – we are in heaven. She was delivered naturally at a healthy 7 lbs. It was the best experience of both of our lives. We are thankful to everyone for all your prayers, well wishes, love and support.” Many see Blue’s middle name Ivy as a homonym for the Roman numeral IV, pointing to the Knowles-Carters’ affinity for the number.
About a week later, Jay Z posts the Neptunes-produced song “Glory” on his website, which commemorates the birth of Blue Ivy, most notably by including a clip of her cries at the conclusion of the song and giving her a credit on the song as B.I.C. (Blue Ivy is the youngest person to ever appear on a Billboard chart.)
The song is uncharacteristically revealing about the long-awaited joy Blue Ivy has brought them with lyrics like “False alarms and false starts/All made better by the sound of your heart/All the pain of the last time” and “My most greatest creation was you.” Jay also has some touching homages to Bey in the song, including a reference to her past life as a member of Destiny’s Child: “You’re a child of destiny/You’re a child of my destiny/You’re my child with the child from Destiny’s Child/That’s a hell of a recipe.”
May 2012: Jay Z makes a rare display of public affection on Twitter about his wife.
August 2012: The Carter-Knowles surpass Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen as Forbes’ highest-paid celebrity couple at an estimated combined $78 million.
January 2013: Beyoncé sings the national anthem at Obama’s second inauguration.
That same month, Ora takes to Twitter to vehemently deny the rumor she’s having an affair with her then-Roc Nation mentor Jay Z.
February 2013: Beyoncé releases her HBO documentary Life Is But a Dream, which features footage of intimate and romantic moments.
Beyoncé also denies rumors that she wasn’t actually pregnant with Blue Ivy.
An especially poignant part of the film shows the pair singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” together. Later in 2015, Jay Z will select this song as his pick for her birthday playlist, citing that “This song reminds me of you and I on vacation. ‘Look at the stars, look how they shine for you.’ So many legendary nights. It represents vulnerability; it’s us in our own world, away from work and totally lost in love. ‘For you, I’ll bleed myself dry.'”
This month, Beyoncé also reveals to Oprah that she suffered a miscarriage before Blue Ivy; she also sheds light on how her marriage helped shape her self-concept. “I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man,” Beyoncé said. “It gives me such a foundation.”
April 2013: The couple celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in Cuba with their respective mothers. While the trip was drew criticism for possibly violating U.S. sanction laws, it was later officially cleared by the Department of the Treasury.
Beyoncé embarks on her Mrs. Carter World Tour; while on tour, Jay Z makes romantic surprise appearances like this one.
July 2013: Jay Z releases his album Magna Carta Holy Grail; Beyoncé appears on the track “Part II (On the Run),” a sequel of sorts to “’03 Bonnie & Clyde.” Out of countless lyrics about matters of the heart, “Holy Grail” has a verse that references infidelity, which leads some listeners to jump to conclusions: “Keep cheating on me /What I do / I took her back / Fool me twice / That’s my bad / I can’t even blame her for that.”
December 2013: Beyoncé drops her surprise self-titled visual album, Beyoncé. The album features Jay Z on the sexy track “Drunk in Love,” which introduces the word “surfbort” into the pop culture canon. Jay Z — or representations of him — appears multiple times in the visual components, including Jay watching Beyoncé perform at the Crazy Horse in Paris in “Partition” and dancing with her on the beach for “Drunk in Love.”
The album is lauded for Beyoncé’s strong embrace of being an empowered woman, from “Blow” to “***Flawless,” which sampled Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The theme of betrayal that Bey’s addressed in the past pops up again, especially on the tracks “Mine” and “Jealous.” On “Mine,” lyrics talk about “having conversations about breakups and separations/I’m not feeling like myself since the baby/Are we gonna even make it? Oooh/’Cause if we are, we’re taking this a little too far” while on “Jealous,” she notes “I never broke one promise, and I know when you’re not honest.”
January 2014: Beyoncé and Jay Z give a much-praised performance of “Drunk in Love” at the Grammys; while Jay Z was criticized for his references to Ike and Tina Turner in his verse on the song, Beyoncé co-signs the lyric by singing the line with him during the live performance, a move that some pointed to as Bey standing by her man.
Later that night, when Jay Z wins a Grammy for Magna Carta Holy Grail, Hov pays homage to Queen Bey in his acceptance speech. “I want to thank God, I mean, a little for this award, but mostly for that and all the universes for conspiring and putting that beautiful light of a young woman in my life.” He also calls his Grammy a “sippy cup” for Blue Ivy.
April 2014: Jay and Bey announce their first ever joint tour called the “On the Run” tour, which includes a very excellent short film of a trailer.
Ora again dispels rumors that she and Jay Z are involved in anything besides a working relationship during an interview on Power 105.1, telling the interviewer, “Don’t you dare disrespect Beyoncé like that ever again in your entire life,” she said. “You should know better than that. That’s just straight-up disrespect.”
May 2014: The news of the tour is soon overshadowed after video footage is leaked of Beyoncé’s sister Solange physically attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator at the Standard Hotel in New York City, following a Met Gala after party. Beyoncé stood by without interfering during the incident.
The buzz about the footage was enough to prompt the family to make a statement to AP, saying that while there has been “a great deal of speculation about what triggered the unfortunate incident…the most important thing is that our family has worked through it. Jay and Solange each assume their share of responsibility for what has occurred.” The statement stated that Jay and Solange also apologized to each other and that “we have moved forward as a united family.”
Some speculated that the elevator episode was prompted by an interaction with Rachel Roy at the after-party. The fashion designer is the ex-wife of Jay’s ex-business partner Damon Dash. A former intern at Jay and Dash’s fashion label Rocawear, she eventually rose in the ranks until she was named the creative director of womenswear at the label.
The day after the elevator incident, Beyoncé posts a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a shirt with Aaliyah’s face on it. Some see this action as a slight toward Roy, since Dash had dated the late singer until her untimely death; When Solange appears to delete most of the photos of her sister on her Instagram account, it makes headlines. Meanwhile, Beyoncé posts a prayer and photos of her and her sister together on her own Instagram.
Toward the end of the month, Beyoncé posts a photo of herself to Instagram that shows that she’s not at Kim Kardashian West’s wedding to Kanye West, an interesting development especially given Jay Z’s close collaboration with West. Some on the Internet point to Roy’s close friendship with Kardashian West as to why Bey and Jay skip the wedding.
June 2014: The On the Run tour starts, with music’s ultimate power couple showing off tons of PDA onstage. During the Cincinnati stop of the On the Run tour, Beyoncé changes the lyrics of “Resentment” from “been ridin’ with you for six years” to “been ridin’ with you for 12 years,” which corresponds to their relationship timeline at that point.
She also changes the lyrics to another line from “I’ll always remember feeling like I was no good/Like I couldn’t do it for you like your mistress could” to “I’ll always remember feeling like I was no good/Like I couldn’t do it for you like that wack b—-ch could.”
The kicker of lyric changes, however, comes from the line “been ridin’ with you for six years/I gotta look at her in her eyes and see she’s had half of me” becoming “been ridin’ with you for 12 years/I gotta look at her in her eyes and see she’s had half of me. She ain’t even half of me. That b–ch will never be.”
Over on Beyoncé’s Instagram, all appears well with the Knowles-Carters.
August 2014: Beyoncé releases a remix of”Flawless” featuring Nicki Minaj, adding the instantly iconic, self-referential line, “Of course sometimes sh-t go down when it’s a billion dollars on an elevator.”
Later that month, Tina Knowles tells a TMZ reporter that “everything’s perfect.” Matthew Knowles, no longer Beyoncé’s manager, suggests that breakup rumors are a “Jedi mind trick” to ignite ticket sales for the tour in an interview on the The Roula & Ryan Show.
However, at the end of the month, Beyoncé appears and performs a medley of her greatest hits at the MTV Video Music Awards, where Jay Z and Blue Ivy present her with the Video Vanguard Award. In her acceptance speech, Beyoncé tells Jay Z, “My beloved, I love you.”
After the VMAs, the pair are spotted being affectionate at Jay’s Made in America festival.
September 2014: Jay releases a tribute video to Bey in honor of her birthday. Later that month, HBO releases an “On the Run” concert special.
October 2014: Bey and Jay take a trip to Paris. Quelle romantique!
November 2014: Beyoncé releases the track “Ring Off,” which includes a story about turmoil that her mother Tina experienced; she ultimately divorced from Matthew Knowles. Some view this ode as a cautionary tale for Jay Z.
February 2015: The pair appear at the Grammys that month.
May 2015: One year after the elevator incident, Jay Z and Beyoncé attend the Met Gala together.
September 2015: During a trip to Italy, Beyoncé posts a picture of herself on Instagram with a lemon, a photo that will be heavily analyzed after she releases her next album.
April 2016: Beyoncé releases her widely celebrated sixth studio album (and second visual album,) Lemonade. An overarching theme of the album is infidelity, with many lyrics and entire songs devoted to betrayal in a relationship (at one point in her song “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” she says “If you try this sh-t again/You gon’ lose your wife). However, the album ends with themes of reconciliation and forgiveness.
As might be expected, the Internet explodes with memes, hot takes and perhaps more importantly, a manhunt for a certain “Becky with the good hair” who is referenced on the song “Sorry.”
“Becky With the Good Hair” is one of two figures: either a fictional character who factors heavily into lyrics about infidelity, or an actual person with whom Jay Z cheated on Beyoncé. Whatever the case, the Bey Hive (the singer’s rabid fanbase) and the media devoted a great deal of energy to seeking out “Becky,” at one time pointing to designer Rachel Roy, who had worked with Jay Z. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray, whose name is similar to Roy’s, and hilariously Ray Romano, were also targets of the Hive’s ire.
Roy denied the rumors in an interview with People saying “there is no validity to the idea that the song references me personally,” and advocated against bullying.
Beyoncé also begins her Formation tour. At the opening show in Miami, she dedicates the song “Halo” to Jay Z with this sweet tribute: “I want to dedicate this song to my beautiful husband, I love you so much.”
May 2016: Beyoncé attends the Met Gala sans Jay Z. At a Met Gala after-party, multiple celebs including Rita Ora are spotted wearing “Not Becky” pins. Ora also Snapchats a selfie of herself with Queen Bee, in what one might assume is an attempt to sedate the Bey Hive.
February 2017: Beyoncé breaks the Internet with a simple Instagram post announcing that the Knowles-Carter family would be expecting not one but two new additions to the family.
April 2017: On their ninth wedding anniversary, Beyoncé releases a new Tidal exclusive music video filled with lots of intimate home footage for “Die With You,” a song that she debuted in 2015 also on Tidal for the same occasion.
June 2017: After much speculation and waiting, sources confirm to People that the twins arrived. That means Queen Bey has given birth to the two newest heirs to the Knowles-Carter legacy so the Internet, predictably loses its collective mind.
On June 30th, Jay Z releases his much-anticipated 13th studio album, 4:44; the album is his first full-length work in four years and directly addresses the widely perceived infidelity in his relationship with Beyoncé, especially following Elevatorgate and Lemonade. On the album, he apologizes to her and raps that he almost “let the baddest girl in the world get away” by taking Eric Benét (who admitted to cheating on ex-wife Halle Berry in 2005) to task and raps that he “egged Solange on/Knowin’ all along, all you had to say was wrong” on the track, Kill Jay-Z.
He further addressed the Lemonade controversy on the song “Family Feud,” where he says “Yeah, I’ll f–k up a good thing if you let me/Let me alone, Becky,” referring, of course, to the infamous, “Becky with the good hair” on Beyoncé’s “Sorry.”
June 2018: Beyoncé and Jay-Z pulled a “Beyoncé” by dropping their first ever joint surprise album, Everything Is Love on June 16 during their On the Run Tour II. After much speculation, the nine-song album came with a masterpiece video filmed in the Louvre and a bonus song, all available to stream on Tidal. In typical Carter family fashion, they speak through the music about the challenges of marriage in years, but also the Grammys, Kanye West, Drake, the NFL, and politics. And of course it wouldn’t be complete without a Blue Ivy cameo.
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Write to Cady Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org