The Surprising Story Behind Beyoncé's "Formation"

It all started at Coachella...

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Beyoncé's "Formation" is a lot of things: a totally badass gym song, an excuse to eat Red Lobster, and—most importantly—an important statement about Black Lives Matter and feminism. But weirdly, the creative minds behind the lyrics "okay ladies now let's get in formation" were two dudes. Specifically, producer Mike Will (AKA Mike WiLL Made-It) and rapper Swae Lee.

Swae Lee, Mike Will

Swae Lee and Mike Will

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Will (who co-produced "Formation") toldThe New Yorker that the duo came up with the song's chorus on the way to 2014's Coachella.

"So we're in the middle of the desert," Will said. "And we're just coming up—we just freestyle, you know?—and Swae Lee said, 'Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation.' And we put it on the VoiceNote. Swae Lee's got so many voice notes that he doesn't even record, but I'm like, 'Dog, we got to do that get in formation shit.' That could be a hard song for the ladies. Some woman-empowerment shit. Like, 'Ladies, let's get in line, let's not just fall for anything.' I'm seeing that vision."

The duo lay down the track post-Coachella and sent it to Beyoncé's team. A few months later, Will was at a Clippers party in L.A. when Beyoncé meandered over to him. "Bey was like, 'Yo, I like that Formation idea,'" he said. "And I told her what I was thinking about the woman empowerment, and she was like, 'Yeah I kinda like that idea.' And she just left it like that."

Mike Will, Jay-Z, Beyonce

Mike Will with Jay Z and Beyoncé

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Beyoncé ended up writing verses around the chorus, and she and Will collaborated for a full week in the studio. "[She] took this one little idea we came up with on the way to Coachella, put it in a pot, stirred it up, and came with this smash. She takes ideas and puts them with her own ideas, and makes this masterpiece. She's all about collaborating. That's what makes her Beyoncé. Being able to know what she wants."

BRB, getting in formation all over the place right now.

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Entertainment Editor

Mehera Bonner is a celebrity and entertainment news writer who enjoys Bravo and Antiques Roadshow with equal enthusiasm. She was previously entertainment editor at Marie Claire and has covered pop culture for over a decade.