When you’ve got « a billion dollars on an elevator, » drama is bound to follow. Jay-Z and Beyoncé — the reigning king and queen of hip hop — were infamously met with an avalanche of cheating rumors when a leaked security tape appeared to depict Queen Bey’s sister, Solange, clocking Jay-Z with her purse in an elevator following the 2014 Met Gala. This was probably the most interesting thing to happen at the event in years, but it wasn’t actually where the infidelity speculation began.
Way back before the longtime couple quietly tied the knot in 2008, cheating hearsay reportedly caused them to secretly split … and rumors regarding Jay-Z’s alleged adulterous behavior have been swarming in the Beyhive ever since. It certainly didn’t help that Beyoncé left a mountain of infidelity breadcrumbs on her 2016 album, Lemonade, which sent her devoted fans into a fervent investigation about the identity of the rapper’s alleged mistress, affectionately known as « Becky with the good hair. » For his part, Jay-Z later confirmed the accusations in 4:44. We might not know exactly who Becky is, but we do finally understand those Jay-Z cheating rumors, and how the Carters managed to come back from them.
Jay-Z’s cheating rumors all started with Rihanna
Jay-Z and Beyoncé had a few drama-free years before an onslaught of cheating rumors started to dampen the facade of their seemingly perfect relationship. Jay-Z once told Vanity Fair that the two were « just beginning to try to date each other » in 2001. Flash forward four years, and reports surrounding Jay’s alleged affair with protege Rihanna began to hit the headlines and strain his relationship with the former Destiny’s Child star. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli, who wrote Bey’s unauthorized biography, the pair secretly separated because « Beyoncé didn’t know what to make of » the RiRi speculation (via Entertainment Tonight).
When Beyoncé released the raucous breakup track, « Ring the Alarm, » in 2006, members of the Beyhive assumed the other « chick » in the song was Rihanna and the « dog » in the lyrics was Jay-Z, though Beyoncé’s camp reportedly denied those connections.
But was there any truth to the gossip? Taraborrelli didn’t think Jay actually cheated on Bey and instead alleged that the rumors were manufactured by Rihanna’s publicist, Jonathan Hay, to boost her career. Hay reportedly owned up to the ordeal in a 2015 email to the New York Daily News, admitting he’d apologized to both Jay and RiRi for making things up and claiming the « whole thing is very awkward. »
Rita Ora was the next suspect on the list
In the years following that publicist-invented Rihanna drama, Jay-Z and Beyoncé finally tied the knot in 2008 at the rapper’s lavish Manhattan penthouse, according to People, and welcomed daughter Blue Ivy four years later. In 2013, the Carters dueted on « Part II (On the Run) » off of Jay’s Magna Carta Holy Grail and Queen Bey dropped her HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream. Unfortunately, things couldn’t stay smooth-sailing for the married pair forever, and one Rita Ora was the next person to get stuck in the insidious honey of the Beyhive.
According to The Times, Jay-Z signed the « Your Song » hitmaker to his Roc Nation label in 2008. While their professional partnership ended in a dramatic lawsuit by 2015, the duo was previously hit with rumors of an alleged affair in 2013. However, Ora adamantly denied the claims. When the hosts of Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club brought the cheating allegations up during a 2014 interview, Ora said, « Don’t you dare disrespect Beyoncé like that ever again in your entire life » (via MTV). She added, « You should know better than that … That’s just straight up disrespect. You can’t even go there. »
A female rapper claimed to turn down Jay-Z’s advances
Jay-Z’s got « 99 problems » … and it seems like women might be a fair share of them. Amid the Rita Ora controversy in 2013, former model and rapper Liv detailed her own potential affair with Jay in the song, « The Invasion Part Two. » According to the Daily Mail, Liv rapped about reportedly turning Jay-Z down because she « got respect for Bey » (whom she later dissed in « The Invasion Part Five »).
While speaking with Radar Online at the time, Liv claimed she met Jay-Z in 2008 while filming a Budweiser commercial in Miami, Fla. While the pair « really connected, » she declined when he allegedly sent over a bodyguard to get her number. « I was like, that’s so wrong, » Liv claimed. « One, that’s really immature to send the bodyguard to get my number. Two, I’m not somebody that would just get a call when he’s in town. » However, she reportedly gave him her number after running into him again, but allegedly never heard from him after she sent him some music. Of course, this isn’t to surprising considering she tried to make a career out of dissing major rap stars like Kendrick Lamar, P. Diddy, and Nicki Minaj. That said, Liv later denied the very rumors she helped start in « Sorry, Mrs. Carter. »
Was Jay-Z caught getting flirty with a Belgian beauty?
Chalk it up to the success of Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail or Beyoncé’s self-titled album, but the time surrounding the couple’s joint On the Run tour was rife with cheating rumors after the rapper allegedly got a little too flirty with a Belgian beauty queen. According to the Mirror, Jay-Z reportedly met model Claudia Scheelen in Antwerp’s Magic nightclub during the summer of 2013. She claimed she was hanging out with some friends at the time when he sent them a « huge bottle of Ace of Spades champagne » and allegedly told her, « I’ve been all over the entire world, but the girls in Antwerp are the prettiest girls, » but « didn’t mention Beyoncé or Blue once. » Ouch.
Here’s the thing: This tiny flirtation — if even true — might not have been off limits at all. According to Star magazine, the Carters were reportedly mulling over a trial separation around this time and fighting over conflicting tour schedules, which had resulted in Bey calling Jay « selfish » (via Hollywood Life). With Beyoncé reportedly feeling like a single mother, Jay-Z apparently visited her in Australia during her Mrs. Carter tour in an attempt to make amends. That said, Hollywood Life later dispelled these reports with an anonymous source claiming no one was splitting up.
Jay-Z and Solange Knowles’ elevator incident
In 2014, TMZ released the infamous elevator security video seen and heard around the world. Okay, the clip had no sound, but we are almost positive we heard Solange Knowles screaming at brother-in-law Jay-Z while appearing to smack him with her purse during a Met Gala after party held at the Standard Hotel. As the tale goes, Beyoncé reportedly didn’t even try to break things up after the trio stepped into said elevator. The « Crazy in Love » singer even appeared to be smirking upon their final exit while her husband looked visibly shaken.
Following the release of the surveillance footage, fans immediately began speculating on what the heck could have possibly made Solange so mad. Controversial talk show host Wendy Williams helped stoke rumors that the argument was about Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity with designer Rachel Roy. Meanwhile, People claimed Solange was provoked after a run-in with the fashionista earlier in the night.
For his part, Jay-Z finally addressed the incident three years later — and cheating seemed to be at the root of it. « You egged Solange on / Knowin’ all along, all you had to say you was wrong, » he rapped on « Kill Jay Z » off his 2017 album 4:44. « You almost went Eric Benét. » For reference, singer-songwriter Benét famously cheated on actress Halle Berry before announcing their split in 2003.
A lyric change dragged Mýa into the mix
Okay, so Beyoncé might have accidentally (or purposely) been the root of this rumor. In 2014, reports suggested that Jay-Z and Mýa, who’d worked together on the 2000 single « Best of Me (Part 2), » were involved in a longtime alleged affair, according to the Daily Mail. The rumors even suggested that the R&B singer had been financially supported by the rapper.
Though the parties in question initially ignored the hearsay, Queen Bey added fuel to the fire when she changed the lyrics to her cheating anthem, « Resentment, » during an On the Run tour stop. In lieu of the original line, « Been riding with you for six years, » she sang, « Been riding with you for 12 years » … which was exactly how long she’d been with Jay-Z. Of course, the Beyhive went absolutely bonkers.
Why Mýa was brought into the cheating speculation has remained wholly unclear. However, she denied ever having an affair with Jay-Z in a since-deleted Instagram post. « I play second to no one, pay my own bills, have my own label, own management company, rely on God only and respect myself & marriage too much for nonsense, » Mýa wrote (via the New York Daily News). « False rumors are crafted for ratings & numbers. »
The Carters were ‘on the run’ from divorce rumors
All eyes were on Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s relationship after Elevatorgate, with the ongoing cheating rumors getting a little hard to ignore as the pair embarked on their massive, co-headlining On the Run tour. According to Billboard, the tour was so successful it grossed around $100 million in ticket sales alone. Although everything seemed peachy keen on the surface, Page Six reported that the Carters were « trying to figure out a way to split without divorcing. » The media outlet claimed they’d reportedly brought marriage counselors along with them on the road, and apparently didn’t want to jeopardize the gigs after receiving millions of dollars in advances from promoters. Basically, canceling would have effectively been a nightmare.
While Jay-Z and Beyoncé remained quiet about their apparent marital problems for years, the rapper later revealed how close they came to calling it quits. « You know, most people walk away, and like divorce rate is like 50 percent or something ’cause most people can’t see themselves, » the star The New York Times’ T Magazine in 2017. « The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself. »
‘Lemonade’ and ‘4:44’ cracked the cheating rumors wide open
Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album Lemonade read like a battle cry for every woman who’s ever been cheated on. The single « Sorry » was particularly poignant and riddled with scathing lyrics, like a spoken word bit that begged the question: « What are you going to say at my funeral now that you’ve killed me? … Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks. » The album more or less confirmed that Jay-Z had been unfaithful, and the rapper himself used his 4:44 album the following year to explore the complicated emotions that come up when you hurt someone you love. Both albums were deeply emotional and honest to the point that bordered on uncomfortable — and that was just for the fans.
In an interview with The New York Times’ T Magazine, Jay-Z admitted that they’d used their musical outlets as a means of therapy, but noted that the reality was pretty excruciating and likened it to being in the middle of a hurricane. « And that’s where we were sitting. And it was uncomfortable. And we had a lot of conversations, » he said of the experience behind making the records. « You know. [I was] really proud of the music she made, and she was really proud of the art I released. »
No, Rita Ora isn’t ‘Becky with the good hair’
Lemonade brought us the infamous controversy surrounding « Becky with the good hair, » who fans presumed was Jay-Z’s alleged mistress. Naturally, it didn’t take long for the Beyhive to accuse a wealth of celebs of crossing their queen – Taylor Swift, for example, was dragged into the mix because of an old Tumblr meme, while Rachael Ray was somehow mistaken for Rachel Roy.
For her part, Rita Ora accidentally put herself at the forefront of the suspect list after a 2016 Instagram Stories post seemingly served as an admission of guilt. According to Cosmopolitan, she’d posed in a lemon emblazoned bra and an « R » pendant flipped around to look like a « J. » This happened mere days before Lemonade‘s release. Ora took to Twitter to dispel the rumors, and later went into detail about how she couldn’t possibly be Becky in an interview with The Times in 2018. « Hey, all I want to say to that is, dude, if I were Becky with the good hair, wouldn’t I actually have to have good hair? » she said. « Look at it. It’s all weave and extensions. » Ora also notably called Bey the « nicest, bestest person. »
… neither is Rachel Roy
Rachel Roy was cast as a prime suspect in Jay-Z’s cheating saga from the moment Solange Knowles threw an alleged punch in that swanky hotel elevator. Linked to the rapper for years, the designer was previously married to his former Roc-A-Fella Records business partner, Damon Dash, who famously embarked on a long-running feud with Jay-Z after selling their stakes in the label to Island Def Jam (to be fair, neither would own up to the beef, though things were pretty icy).
After Beyoncé dropped « Sorry, » Roy seemingly incriminated herself as « Becky with the good hair » in a since-deleted Instagram post, which she captioned with: « Good hair don’t care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies, or self truths, always » (via People). Needless to say, the Beyhive lost it. However, Roy fiercely denied the very rumors she (accidentally) helped spark. In a statement released to the publication, she claimed her post was misunderstood and that there was « no validity to the idea that the song references me personally. » She also wrote in a later-removed tweet that she respects « love, marriages, families and strength » (via by People).
So who is Becky? Well, the track’s co-writer, Diana Gordon, suggested to Entertainment Weekly that none of the speculation was correct and called the whole thing « so silly. »
How Jay-Z finally squashed those cheating rumors
The cheating rumors surrounding Jay-Z were finally put to rest in 2017 when he owned up to the act in an interview with The New York Times’ T Magazine. Of course, anyone who listened to Lemonade or 4:44 already pretty much knew what went down, but the rapper didn’t go into much detail about how he and Beyoncé were doing in the wake of the revelation until his 2018 interview on David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
« I have a beautiful wife who’s understanding and knew I’m not the worst of what I’ve done. We did the hard work of going to therapy and you know, we love each other, right? » Jay-Z said (via The Daily Beast). « Like you, I like to believe we’re in a better place today, but we’re still working and communicating and growing. »
For what it’s worth, the Carters have since made a comeback as an apparent united front, reclaiming the throne as hip hop’s reigning king and queen with the surprise release of their collaborative album, Everything Is Love, in June 2018. If renting out the Louvre for their « Apes**t » music video wasn’t an ode to them ruling over us civilians with their reported $1.225 billion net worth, then what was it? The married pair pulled in a whopping $250 million from their On The Run II tour that same year, proving they’re all they « need in this life of sin. »