NEW YORK — On Wednesday at Sony Studios, Jay-Z was spitting his quintessential pimp game and Beyoncé was eating up every bit of it. Brooklyn's Finest was going through a laundry list of his most alluring qualities, including his walk, his talk and his integrity. All "B," as Jay calls her, could respond with was, "I like it."
And so did the engineer, who was grinning as he fixed the sound on the pair's vocals. Hip-hop's latest incarnation of Bonnie and Clyde wasn't physically in the building, but the soundman was making the duo's presence felt as he reviewed the collaboration for Beyoncé's upcoming Dangerously in Love LP, which drops in June.
The tune had an upbeat tempo that allowed Young Hova to display his down South, rapid-fire flow on wax. On it he insisted, "They don't know the difference between real life and videos."
Later in the afternoon, after Beyoncé showed up in the flesh, the musical endeavor that would take center stage found the oldest of the Knowles siblings teaming up with more familiar partners: the other two members of Destiny's Child, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland, who had just flown in from Houston.
The three were getting together to record the inspirational "I Know," a song for the soundtrack of the upcoming "The Fighting Temptations" movie that Beyoncé produced and co-starred in ("I know what you're going through/ Don't let it get the best of you," are some of the cut's lyrics).
"We were never gone," Kelly insisted when asked why all the DC3 members were working on solo ventures and had not released a group effort since 2001's Survivor. "We've always been together."
"We've actually done some things together," Michelle chimed in. "We just recently did the Trumpet Awards together [in January]. We did a European tour last April to June and we had a ball, the time of our lives over there. We keep in touch with each other [even though] we're all doing our own thing."
"That's why it's so beautiful that we are able to get back into the studio together," Beyoncé added. "We were excited when we found out that we were going to see each other again in the studio and creatively work together. We've grown individually."
Beyoncé had planned to record "I Know" for her LP, but after listening to the song she decided it would be better as a group effort. "I just thought it sounded like a Destiny's Child song," she said.
Since the ladies went on hiatus as a group, Beyoncé has been acting — co-starring in "Austin Powers in Goldmember" and "The Fighting Temptations." Kelly recently filmed "Freddy vs. Jason," due in August, and released her solo album, Simply Deep, in October. Michelle was the first to drop an album without the group's help when Heart to Yours came out about a year ago.
Last week, Mathew Knowles, the group's manager and Beyoncé's dad, said that fans can expect an announcement within the next few weeks about more movies Beyoncé and Kelly will be shooting this year. He discreetly mentioned that Michelle would appear in "a play," and then Williams herself let the cat out of that bag, saying that she had landed a role in the Broadway play "Aida."
"If anything, it will better us because we've all been growing," Kelly said of the group's solo ventures. "We've all been evolving and we've all been learning different things [while we're] away from each other. So to put all those things back into Destiny's Child — it's going to make it all the more interesting."
In "The Fighting Temptations," Beyoncé plays Lilly, a girl who struggles with whether she should make secular or gospel music (see "Beyoncé Transforms Into Bohemian, Motherly Nightclub Singer").
"She's very warm," Beyoncé said of her character. In the movie, she stars alongside such notables as Cuba Gooding Jr., singing legends the O'Jays and fellow R&B songstress Faith Evans. "Basically, sometimes in the church, people contradict certain things and they don't accept certain things. The church community in the small town that [Lilly] lives in basically didn't want anything to do with her because she sang R&B music. But she has a really great voice, and the choir eventually accepts her and she meets [a character named] Darren and we eventually go on a gospel explosion."
On Dangerously in Love, Beyoncé has ignited a powder keg of hip-hop, enlisting the services of MCs like the aforementioned S. Carter, Outkast and Lil' Kim (see "Beyoncé's First Solo Single Will Be A Club Banger"). On the reggae tip, she worked with Sean Paul on a track called "Baby Boy," and she even called on one of R&B's most popular thugs to help her out (see "Jigga Who? Beyoncé Shares Fantasies With Sean Paul On 'Bonnie & Clyde' Sequel").
"Yes, I just finished that a couple of days ago," Beyoncé said after being reminded about a work in progress she has with R. Kelly. "R. Kelly, gosh how could I forget? It's still new. It's still brand new and I forgot. I actually didn't get a chance to work with him physically in the studio, but I talked to him on the phone and he's a wonderful person. So talented.
"I've been listening to so many different artists, and the great thing about the album [is that] it's a lot harder," B added. "But it's still ... there are a lot of instruments in it. It's still rock influence. It's still soul influence. There are so many different kinds of music. The harmonies are really different, and it's got an Arabic feel in a lot of the songs."
The way the music will flow for the next DC3 group album is still up in the air. There aren't concrete plans as to when they will begin recording, but Beyoncé estimated that the project would be out in July — of 2004, that is.
Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway