Jay-Z and Beyoncé have a combined net worth of over $1.35 billion, making them the most powerful musical couple in the world. But neither of them started at the top, or with a silver spoon in their mouths. Jay-Z began on the streets of Brooklyn under the tutelage of Jaz-O, and Beyoncé struck gold in Destiny’s Child (and other bands before then).
Now, they are household names. Their friendships to other celebrities are well-known, but perhaps not as well-known are their closer friendships that began before they were famous. We have a mix here of close, longtime friends of Jay-Z and Beyoncé, as well as celebrity stars that share the spotlight with them. And then there are the people who used to be friends with them, but are now on the outs for doing dubious (and often public) things to slight the royal family.
Here are 15 people in Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s inner circle, and 5 who used to be in the circle, but are out now.
20 In: Gwyneth Paltrow
It should be no surprise that Jay-Z and Beyoncé have a lot of famous friends, including Oscar- and Grammy-winning actress, Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow and Beyoncé have been friends for almost a decade, and she told Ellen DeGeneres that she met the musical power couple at a benefit in New York City. Paltrow said of Beyoncé, “She is incredible; she’s a great friend on every level.” And Beyoncé said of Paltrow, “You go to her house and she makes you feel like you never want to go home. She is what I strive to be one day.”
19 In: Kelly Rowland
Kelly Rowland was one of Beyoncé’s oldest friends long before Destiny’s Child. At one point, she lived with Beyoncé’s family due to family troubles at home. They joined the group Girl’s Tyme in the ‘90s, ultimately signing a record deal with Columbia Records. “It’s the sweetest thing,” Rowland told E! News. “It’s the greatest thing about friendship when you’re able to grow up together and your children are able to grow up together and it’s just years upon years of beautiful friendship and sisterhood.”
18 Out: Lee Anne Callahan-Longo
Beyoncé recently gave her management team a makeover (in 2016), and that came with some sacrifices: including the sacrifice of Bey’s long-time general manager, Lee Anne Callahan-Longo. Bey’s rep told Page Six, “Lee Anne Callahan-Longo has worked with Beyoncé for the last 10 years. Their friendship supersedes business, and while she is no longer an employee of Parkwood, she will remain an imperative part of Beyoncé’s life.” We’re not sure how true that last part is, because we haven’t heard from her in a while…
17 In: Oprah Winfrey
If you’ve ever seen Beyoncé in an Oprah Winfrey interview, you can tell how deep their roots go, and how close their friendship really is. She’s one of Oprah’s favorite guests, and for good reason. The Queen of Interviews scored a super in-depth sit-down with Beyoncé in 2013, ahead of the premiere for Life Is But a Dream, and they clearly admire each other off-camera, too. She’s told Oprah some of her deepest thoughts, which not many other people can say.
16 In: Sam Greenberg
That girl you might’ve seen trailing Beyoncé wherever she goes, whether it’s a red carpet event, a gala, or a party? That’s her longtime assistant, Sam Greenberg. She’s considered a member of the family, and even more so when we saw Beyoncé shoo her away as she fussed over a close-to-malfunctioning dress at the Tidal event in 2015. We see that as complete familiarity with Greenberg, like something a sister would do to another sister or brother.
15 In: Ty Hunter
Her manager, her assistant, and then her stylist—these are people that Beyoncé can’t go anywhere without. Ty Hunter has been working with the star for almost 20 years, and he’s the only person Beyoncé trusts to style her out before shows or events. Actually, in the “Crazy in Love” video, those are Ty’s camo pants, which just shows their familiarity and closeness more than words ever could. He knows everything about Bey’s style and fashion preferences, and how to get her in and out of outfits quickly.
14 Out: Michelle Williams
This might be a little harsh, but it’s only because Beyoncé is so close with Kelly Rowland. We don’t want to say that Bey and Michelle Williams aren’t friends, but they’re clearly not as close as the other couple from Destiny’s Child. There are even some doubts that they’re still good friends, but that’s mainly tabloids trying to hype up something that isn’t there. What we know is that she’s not as far into the inner circle as she would like to be, or as far as Kelly Rowland is.
13 In: Steve Pamon
When Lee Anne Callahan-Longo was booted to the sidelines after 10 years of managing Beyoncé, the man who took over for her was Steve Pamon. Out with the old, in with the new, as they say. He was formerly the head of JP Morgan Chase’s sports and entertainment marketing department, and is now the chief operating officer (COO) of her company Parkwood Entertainment. It takes a lot of trust to put someone in that spot, so you can bet that Steve has found himself deeply entrenched in Bey’s inner circle at this point.
12 In: Solange Knowles
This one’s a no-brainer: of course Beyoncé is close with her sister, Solange. Even if Solange and Jay-Z have had their share of tiffs—such as when she wildly attacked him in an elevator at the Met Gala in 2014—the three have moved beyond the incident. Beyoncé and Solange are each other’s biggest supporters and they’ll always cheer each other on. Beyoncé told her sister in a joint interview in 2017, “I’m your biggest fan and I’m super proud of you.” (via Interview Magazine.)
11 In: Rihanna
Jay-Z is definitely close with superstar singer Rihanna, and it’s not a source of jealousy for Beyoncé, either (why would Bey possibly be jealous?). But it was Jay-Z who signed Rihanna to Def Jam Records and made her into the superstar that she is. She signed the contract after auditioning in front of Jay, and she’s been on fire and at the top of the charts ever since. She owes a lot to Jay and Bey, and she’s definitely one of Jay’s heaviest hitters on the roster.
10 Out: John Meneilly
At one point, Jay-Z rapped “…and John Meneilly-aire is my consigliere,” on “A Mill/A Billi.” It was a shout-out to his longtime business partner and adviser, John Menielly. But in 2014, they amicably parted ways—and it just so happened to coincide with the infamous altercation between Jay and Solange. Meneilly was instrumental in making the historic Magna Carta Holy Grail/Samsung deal become a reality, and was an executive in the Roc Nation empire, but he’s out of the circle at this point.
9 In: Justin Timberlake
Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake have done a lot together—so much that they have to be considered bros at this point. In 2013 they performed at the 55th Grammy Awards together; they co-headlined the “Legends of the Summer” tour that same year. They’ve collaborated a lot and they have great chemistry (such as on SNL together), and they seem to randomly pop up together at events, which shows that the two clearly actually enjoy hanging out with each other. It shouldn’t be that big of a surprise, given how famous both stars are.
8 In: Chris Martin
At first, Chris Martin was the husband of Gwyneth Paltrow, who is one of Beyoncé’s best friends. But after they split, Martin and Jay-Z still kept their friendship alive, and even performed on-stage together at several award shows and music festivals. Jay-Z called Chris Martin “a modern-day Shakespeare” in 2017 (via The Independent), and the longtime friends have been spotted hanging out with each other all the time, such as in 2017 after Beyoncé broke the baby news.
7 In: Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith
If you’ve listened to Jay-Z long enough, you’ll have heard him mention Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith several times in his songs. This section of the inner circle goes even deeper than the celebrity friendships—they’ve been best friends nearly all their lives. Tyran is a Roc Nation co-founder, and on “Friends” Jay-Z revealed that he and Beyoncé even asked Smith to look after their kids if anything were to happen to them. You could say that the godfather of their children is pretty tight in the inner circle.
6 Out: Norman Oosterbroek
Norman “Dutch Giant” Oosterbroek was Jay-Z and Beyoncé's muscle for many years, as well as the bodyguard for stars like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and even Nelson Mandela. He was close with them for a while—about as physically close as any person could be—but his life spiraled out of control, sadly, and he was fired after strange sexual acts, according to a video Jay and Bey have. He was then killed by cops in an alleged break-in after he got fired, in 2013, which is a sad end for someone who used to be so close to the top.
5 In: Jay Brown
Continuing Jay-Z’s group of people who are closer than close is Jay Brown, a longtime business partner and friend. He’s also a co-founder and the CEO of Roc Nation, so you can tell that Hov trusts him enough with his business, which is basically his life. Brown worked with Jay before Roc Nation, when he was the Executive Vice President for Def Jam Records. So Jay-Z has trusted him for many, many years, and he remains in the inner circle.
4 In: Emory “Vegas” Jones
One of Jay-Z’s closest friends is Emory “Vegas” Jones, who Jay has shouted out to on multiple songs. He, unfortunately, didn’t see Jay’s rise to fame, as he spent 16 years in prison on drug charges, but Jay-Z’s personal letter to the judge helped bring him home early. If that’s not loyalty, we don’t know what is. He now holds an executive position with Roc Apparel Group, and Jay-Z also dedicated his 2006 Kingdom Come track “Do U Wanna Ride” to him.
3 In: Young Guru
The only person that Jay-Z fully trusts with his music, and has for many years, is his sound engineer Young Guru. Gu is in every studio session, and he also holds the literal key to Jay-Z’s “musical world,” as he has said in interviews. All of Jay’s music gets traced back to him, because he finds it’s easier to keep it locked away and avoid leaks when it’s with someone he trusts, and that someone is Young Guru, and it has been since the beginning.
2 Out: Jaz-O
Back in the early ‘80s through the ‘90s, Jay-Z’s mentor was Jaz-O. He was on the up and up, but his apprentice ended up overshadowing him in a big way. They had a terrible feud that lasted over 20 years, because Jaz refused a $300,000 contract from Jay’s Def Jam Records, and basically laughed at it. When he came crawling back, Jay didn’t have the same offer at hand. Their feud finally ended with a hug (after they both released multiple vicious attacks via raps about one another) this year, as Jaz has finally inked a deal with Roc Nation, but he’s still not back in the inner circle quite yet.
1 In: Kanye West
Kanye West has had a tumultuous relationship with Jay-Z and Beyoncé, but especially Jay. They were once great friends, but then had a very public feud that lasted for years, stemming from Jay and Bey not attending Yeezy’s wedding to Kim Kardashian. Reportedly, Beyoncé didn’t like Kim. But that feud was squashed around last year (according to a David Letterman interview), and it’s hard to trust the tabloids anyway—their “break-up” might’ve been blown out of proportion to begin with.
References: eonline.com, popsugar.com, complex.com, interviewmagazine.com