After watching Beyoncé’s first Coachella set, I tweeted this the following morning:
I meant every word of it, but it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about Beyoncé’s most recent album and conceptual visual project, Lemonade, for the past two years.
I got a glimpse at what goes into making just one aspect of one scene of Lemonade and I’m sharing it with you so you can try to imagine and extrapolate what the entire production might have entailed. This is the story of the smallest atomic unit of Beyoncé awesomeness.
The first scene from Lemonade that left me speechless was when she appears on a street in the video for “Hold Up,” wearing that resplendent, flowing yellow gown and holding a baseball bat stamped with the name “Hot Sauce.”
Every shot in the sequence is glorious. You feel her anger and aggression from being wronged by her partner, and a cathartic release when she unleashes on every car and store window on the street.
I was immediately drawn to the bat. The “hot sauce in my bag” reference came from “Formation,” the first song released ahead of the Lemonade album and short film, but Beyoncé carefully hides the logo in the video until this moment when she rolls it atop her shoulders to reveal that lyrics we had assumed to be about a literal bottle of hot sauce are about something else entirely.
Now I’m a nerd that often replicates things I love, especially objects related to movies or television, and I immediately wondered how hard it would be to replicate Beyoncé’s bat. I don’t know why I wanted to make one. I’ve never been publicly cheated on or wrote a song about it, and I’m not a black woman! I can’t tell you why I was drawn to the bat, but sometimes I see something in a piece of culture and I can’t stop thinking about it until I duplicate it myself, or at least find out how to do it. Usually, I head home from a movie and immediately check RPF, or other replica prop forums, to see if someone has already made a specific weapon or outfit from a film, or I fire up Photoshop to replicate T-shirt designs from movies, but this time I was curious to see what it takes to make Beyoncé’s Hot Sauce bat.
The next day, I started by contacting the iconic bat-maker Louisville Slugger, because their site had a custom bat section, but it didn’t offer exactly what I needed. I sent them a request to see if they’d be open to changing the logo on a custom bat to a semi-parody of their own logo design. I’d toured their factory on a visit to Louisville five years ago, and remembered that all the custom bats are handmade, so I figured they might be game.
By the end of the day, I’d heard back from them. They couldn’t do it, and they couldn’t help me by suggesting anyone else that could. I was disappointed, but I knew they had competitors so I Googled around. I put out feelers to a few more custom sporting goods companies and got nothing back until I found a guy named Brian at Smacker Bats who was totally into the project. He said if I could send the artwork over, he’d put it on a bat.
The next night, I spent a couple hours in Photoshop, carefully taking screen grabs from the “Hold Up” video to measure the total pixel-length of the bat in order to estimate the scale — assuming it was a standard 34" long bat — compared against a standard Louisville Slugger bat. Then I measured the size of the Hot Sauce logo (about 5–6" across) and figured out its exact placement on the bat, which was several inches closer to the end than a standard Louisville Slugger logo — done specifically so you could see it when it was on her shoulders. Someone on her team had to have figured that out in rehearsals.
Recreating the logo was a bit more work the next night. The oval was easy, and it wasn’t too tough to match the font (Thames Serial, if you were wondering). But if you look closely, the logo looks like a single font, but with two treatments. To get it pixel-perfect, the “Sauce” was easily typed and tightly spaced, but the “HOT” was done in a smaller, more stretched version of the uppercase that required tweaking the character width by hand. (Looking at the logo today, I think my kerning on the “O” could still use some work).
I sent the image over to Brian and we talked about the different wood options before he picked one with a similar grain pattern, so as to closely match the original. Once he burned the image onto the bat, he identified the method used to wrap the grip at the base, and replicated that as well.
Once Brian sent me a photograph of the final product, and I saw it was to my liking, I sent him a hundred bucks via PayPal and the bat was shipped off to me. But once I had it, I immediately began to feel weird, since I’d appropriated a piece of culture not expressly made for me. Since I had been more interested in the journey of creating the replica, rather than the destination of having the final product, I gifted it to the biggest Beyoncé fan I know, my friend Erica.
All told, this project took probably eight hours of work spread over a week of my free time. I had to spend a few hours researching and emailing suppliers, some production time matching the fonts and logo, and then — after days of waiting on delivery from the factory — I had the prop in hand.
After creating the bat, I watched the full Lemonade video for the third or fourth time and noticed the ending shots of that same “Hold Up” section, where Beyoncé drops the bat and gets into a monster truck to smash the cars she’d just broke the windows of.
Cars are another thing I’m into, and I even know a bit about monster trucks — shoutout to Monster Jam, the pro wrestling of monster trucks — but I’ve never seen a monster truck with wire wheels like those used in her video. I couldn’t stop thinking about the scene. Monster trucks generally have 3 to 4-foot-deep wheels, so someone had to have made those wheel covers especially for Beyoncé. They look to be mounted on a beadlock rim, but done for aesthetic, rather than its practical application — ensuring a tire’s bead doesn’t detach from the rim during driving. A quick Google image search backed up the fact that wire wheels on monster trucks weren’t a thing before.
I quickly realized that it was a nod to lowrider culture, and while lowriders with classic Dayton wire wheels originated on the West Coast, Southern lowriders have their own flavors (like donks, boxes, and bubbles), but Houston has its own form of local lowrider culture in Slabs (Slow, Loud and Bangin’ vehicles, often with “Swangas” wire wheels sticking out). And, oh shit, Beyoncé has referenced H-town Slab culture before:
Then it hit me: Beyoncé’s production team made those wheel covers especially for that monster truck, all for a fleeting shot in an hour-long film so that maybe a few people might recognize the reference to the Houston car culture.
I thought about that bat I had made, and how it took a handful of hours of research and production, and a week to create. I couldn’t possibly imagine the production job of figuring out how to get custom wheel covers made at that size, where you’d even start looking to find someone that could produce them, and how long it would take to get the final product ready and mounted on a truck in time to shoot the scene.
Keep in mind: Those are just two small, but significant, details from one scene in a much larger work. Think about all the production work, and every prop and every other shot in every other scene in the Lemonade video. Imagine the spreadsheets required to pull all of that off.
Now, think about Beyoncé’s Coachella performance: all the songs, all the music, all the dancing, all the set design. Think about every dance, every member of her crew, and how every bit of their clothing is custom made and worn in a specific way. Even where people stand on stage has reason behind it. Every single little thing has forethought and care and loads of work behind it.
And that is just one reason why Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is truly fucking awesome. Please appreciate her attention to detail, in case you didn’t already.
Addendum: Jen Simmons’ thread on the sheer amount of planning and rehearsing that must have went into the Beychella performance is another great look at what sweating every single detail takes.
I never thought of the importance of the camera crew, but I remember the sound and video work was impeccable during the whole set, and live concert sound is rarely good on a stream, but hers was perfect.
“The Coat of Arms on the one outfit is 100% blazonable: correctly constructed by heraldry’s rules. It could easily be a registered grant of arms”—https://twitter.com/PennyOaken/status/986410886935048200
Now that is attention to every last detail.