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.