Beyonce & The Illuminati: A Primer

by Chloe Kent

There are many things to take away from Beyonce's latest single, "Formation," but one of the most significant is Bey's oft-misunderstood history with the Illuminati. Beyonce and the Illuminati have always been connected, as her involvement in the (fictional, OK?) secret society has been an accusation that's followed the singer and her husband Jay Z ever since the latter's Roc-A-Fella heyday. Although Bey has remained silent on the conspiracy theory for years, she patently denied any alleged involvement in the group with a single line in "Formation:" "Ya'll haters corny with that Illuminati mess." And while the song has less to do with the Illuminati and more to do with slaying Beyonce's haters, the fact that she mentions the group at all is a reason to backtrack and examine the facts.

The Illuminati was a secret society formed by Bavarian professor Adam Weishaupt in 1776. The group, which sought to transform society by placing its members in power positions, was outlawed less than a decade later by the Roman Catholic Church and the Bavarian government, who banned all secret societies. The group's most-recognized iconography, the all-seeing Eye of Providence, is an eye usually surrounded by rays of light and enclosed by a triangle. Therein lies part of Bey and Jay's association with the Illuminati: both of them have been known to flash the triangle sign with their hands. Beyonce, notably, did it during her 2013 Super Bowl halftime show, where it was broadcast to over 100 million viewers and ignited an internet storm over her alleged involvement.

But the triangle symbol is also ROCNATION's hand symbol (and before that, Roc-A-Fella's), both Jay Z-founded record labels. The gesture's origin story is a relatively straightforward one, which explains away any involvement he or his wife may have in the group. In 2009, Jay Z told BBC Radio's LiveLounge:

It's a diamond. It stands for Roc-A-Fella Records, the company I own. When happened was, we had this artist called Christión, and we made a great album on him, and we thought in the music business all you had to do was make a great album and it would sell forever, but we were naive and it didn't sell anything. But we thought it was going to go Diamond [a record that sells over five million copies], so we would walk around the office going, "We're going Diamond!" and we were so happy, and we started doing it at our shows, and it just stuck.

Yet that explanation, while perfectly logical, wasn't enough to shake the rumors that music's biggest power couple is involved in a secret organization. It's not just them, either; the Illuminati, over the past two decades or so, has become fodder for the hip hop world, with many big names referring to it over the years. Tupac, for one, was an outspoken early critic of the organization, even titling his last album, Killuminati. Kanye West, meanwhile, said this to Paper magazine last year:

“If there was actually an Illuminati, it would be more like the energy companies—not celebrities that gave their life to music and who are pinpointed as decoys for people who really run the world. I’m tired of people pinpointing musicians as the Illuminati. That’s ridiculous. We don’t run anything; we’re celebrities. We’re the face of brands. We have to compromise what we say in lyrics so we don’t lose money on a contract.”

Fair enough — yet that explanation, like Beyonce's new shout-out in "Formation," won't be enough to stop the "haters" from theorizing about celebs' mysterious connections. Hey, you can't win them all.

Image: Giphy