May 12, 2014 marked a holy day in the world of tabloid drama. In the early hours of that sacred Monday, TMZ released a salacious security video that depicted Solange Knowles, sister of queen Beyoncé, brawling with her brother-in-law, Jay-Z, in an elevator at The Standard Hotel in New York City. There was no audio; it was recorded in black and white; and most of us spent the next 24 hours trying to unravel what the king of Brooklyn hip hop could have possibly done to invoke a Game of Thrones-like retaliation from a family member.
Jay and Solange's elevator incident became nearly as iconic as Bey's surprise Lemonade drop or her pregnancy announcement — the latter became the most-liked Instagram photo of 2017. We all remember where we were when we watched that feud footage. Though complete clarity may never occur (the stars have not specifically said what led them to throw bows), we do finally understand what probably sparked Solange and Jay-Z's elevator fight.
Jay-Z has 99 problems, and his sister-in-law might just be one of the biggest — at least she was at the time. The pair's elevator fight is probably the most exciting thing to happen surrounding the Met Gala outside of Harry Styles' high-waisted pants.
According to TMZ, the elevator incident occurred following a Met Gala after-party at The Standard Hotel. In the footage, you can clearly see Solange lunge at her brother-in-law and start kicking and swinging with such fervor that we actually hear (or maybe we just think we hear) her scream, despite the video having absolutely no audio. A person who appears to be a bodyguard tries to hold her back, but the star manages to get at Jay at least three times. She even smacks him with her purse, which spills all over the floor.
The bodyguard is the true unsung hero of the tiny elevator. You can see him slamming the emergency stop at what TMZ claimed was the 12th floor in a clear attempt to keep the fight under wraps. Though Jay never swings at his sister-in-law, he does grab her foot mid-kick. Beyoncé, on the other hand, just stands there and watches it happen. They all exit the elevator and are snapped in a now-famous photo that shows Solange clearly angry, Jay-Z absolutely bewildered, and Bey quietly smirking. It didn't take long for the incident to become a meme, and #WhatJaySaidToSolange quickly went viral.
One of the major curiosities surrounding the elevator footage is who the heck leaked it. According to The Grio, the swanky hotel opened a full investigation into who was behind the leak and vowed to "prosecute the individuals involved" to the "fullest capacity."
Though it's probably no consolation to the Carters, the hotel reportedly did manage to find the person responsible for the leak. It was a staffer who they promptly fired. The Atlantic muses that it was either a security guard who monitored the cameras or an employee who had access to where the monitors were held. According to the Associated Press (via TIME), the hotel planned to hand over "all available information to criminal authorities" — but was it even a crime?
The Atlantic reports that the legality of the leak depends on whether or not the hotel is considered a public space. It's apparently legal to "record anything you see in public spaces" provided you don't harass anyone, but the actual leak of the tape is where things get dicey. Because the tape belongs to the hotel and not the employee who pawned it off to TMZ for a reported $250,000, nabbing that footage could be considered petty larceny.
Solange might have been provoked
Not that assault is ever justifiable, but a number of sources — including Jay-Z himself — speculated that Solange was provoked. It might have something to with that rumored "Becky with the good hair," Rachel Roy. Roy was previously married to Damon Dash, Jay-Z's former business partner, and according to E! News, she may have been a little too flirty with the rapper at the after-party. According to People, Solange "had a run-in" with the designer earlier in the evening. Another source claimed Solange and Roy barely interacted, and Solange was supposedly "yelling at other people at the party." Perhaps the truth has more to do with Jay's behavior than any number of potential Becky's (a long list of suspects that includes Rita Ora, Rihanna, and even Taylor Swift).
People speculated that Jay-Z ignited the argument when he "said something inappropriate" to the Knowles sisters. This allegedly annoyed Solange enough that she blew up in the elevator. The rapper all but confirmed this theory with his 2017 album 4:44. In the song "Kill Jay-Z," he raps: "You egged Solange on / Knowin' all along /All you had to say you was wrong." So there you have it, at some point in time (probably in that infamous elevator) Jay-Z poked the bear.
Infidelity likely fueled the fire
Even though there are a number of bizarro conspiracy theories surrounding Solange's elevator fight, it's largely thought that Jay-Z's infidelity was the spark that burned the whole thing down (and possibly the reason why Bey was smiling while walking out of that elevator). Beyoncé referenced cheating throughout her 2016 Lemonade album, and Jay-Z hinted about the same thing in 4:44 when he raps: "You almost went Eric Benét / Let the baddest girl in the world get away / I don't even know what else to say." For reference, singer Eric Benét cheated on Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry before the pair split in the early aughts.
Hov released 4:44 in June 2017 and let the infidelity rumors marinate for a few months until he publicly came clean in a November interview with The New York Times' T magazine. "You know, most people walk away, and like divorce rate is like 50 percent or something 'cause most people can't see themselves," he said. "The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone's face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself." The rapper admitted that therapy helped him save his marriage, but let's be real: For a while, the internet collectively wanted to pull a Solange for daring to cross her royal majesty, the queen Bey.
There were a lot of weird theories behind the brawl
Major tabloid dirt is fertilizer for unfounded conspiracy theories, and Solange and Jay-Z's elevator brawl is right up there with the Carters' possible involvement in the Illuminati. What makes $1 billion in an elevator cause such chaos? A number of ideas about what triggered the fight started cropping up all over the Internet almost as instantly as the security footage leaked.
Feminist blog Jezebel contemplated — with no evidence whatsoever — that Solange started swinging because Jay-Z insulted her as a mother. Sure, that's enough to make anyone see red, almost as much as if Jay-Z spoiled Game of Thrones for his sister-in-law, which Vice pondered might have actually been the case. Given the pair's silence on the disappointing finale, we're not sure they even watch the show. Can you imagine Hov kicking it on Sunday night to GoT?
According to TIME, Gawker's Sam Biddle floated an interesting idea that the fight might have been a staged prank for Jimmy Kimmel. In reality, people famous enough to rent out the Louvre with just a month's notice probably don't mess with talk show pranks, unless you're somehow unfortunately subjected to Ellen DeGeneres. Another, more sinister theory by Jezebel claimed Solange was a "nasty drunk," though she was reportedly not intoxicated at the time.
Papa Knowles even laughed at the incident
The world might have been shocked that Solange would dare attack her brother-in-law, but there was one person who was very unsurprised: Mathew Knowles. Four years after the famed Met Gala after-party incident, the singer's father went on The Wendy Williams Show and let everyone know Solange was just being Solange when she clocked the platinum-selling rapper. "I laughed so hard because if you know Solange, that's Solange," he said. "…You just never know what you're gonna get — a firecracker. Don't know where she gets that from, then Beyoncé would be in the corner, quiet, just kinda like, 'When y'all finish, let me know.'"
Beyonce has a complicated relationship with her father and former manager. According to Cosmopolitan, Live Nation suspected her dad was stealing from her in 2010. Bey ordered an audit and severed professional ties with him the following year. Mathew later sued Live Nation over the accusation, but the judge ruled in favor of the ticketing giant. It seems Solange's relationship with Mathew is also complicated. According to TMZ, she did not attend her father's wedding to Gena Avery following his divorce from their mother, Tina.