Reclaiming Country

The racist history behind “Beyincé”

This week, Beyoncé shared the limited-edition vinyl cover of her upcoming (and needlessly controversial) country album, Cowboy Carter. Queen Bey strikes an iconic pose, wearing nothing but a sash that has her name curiously misspelled as “Beyincé.” That name actually has deep and painful family roots, not unlike the Black roots of country music.

In a past Instagram post, Beyoncé delved into the inspiration behind her upcoming album — namely, her first-hand experience with gatekeeping in country music.

“[Country Carter] was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed…and it was very clear that I wasn’t,” she said, referring to the reception to her 2016 song “Daddy Lessons.”

“But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of country music and studied our rich musical archive.”

In reclaiming the Black history of country music, Beyoncé is leading with her personal history through the name “Beyincé.”

Back in 2020, Beyoncé’s mom Tina Knowles-Lawson offered insight into the origins of the singer’s name on the podcast In My Head with Heather Thomson. It turns out that “Beyoncé” was originally her maiden name, but a racist medical system corrupted the name to “Beyincé”.

“It’s interesting — and it shows you the times — because we asked my mother when I was grown,” Knowles recalled. “I was like, ‘Why is my brother’s name spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E? You know, it’s all these different spellings.’

“And my mom’s reply to me was like, ‘That’s what they put on your birth certificate.’ So I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you argue and make them correct it?’ And she said, ‘I did one time. The first time, and I was told ‘Be happy that you’re getting a birth certificate’ because, at one time, Black people didn’t get birth certificates.”

“It meant that you really didn’t exist. You weren’t important,” Knowles continued. “It was that subliminal message. And so I understood that that must have been horrible for her, not to even be able to have her children’s names spelled correctly.”

So it turns out some of the guesswork online was technically correct: the spelling is a typo, but it’s certainly not Beyoncé’s. And knowing the history behind the name makes her defiant reclamation of it, in a word, queen sh*t.

Cowboy Carter drops on March 29.

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