It takes more than good intentions to transform the South. It takes money.
What the hell is a Scalawag?
Megan Thee Stallion's debut album "Fever" dropped in May 2019, giving women everywhere a blueprint for how to act up this summer. Megan represents the next generation in a long line of Southern women rappers, who have often been relegated to first lady roles of a record label's crew, instead of existing as creative artists in their own right. She is the actual daughter of late Houston rapper Holly-Wood, who passed away earlier this year, as well as the spiritual sister of the Miami rap duo City Girls and North Carolina's Rapsody. She's a third year at Texas Southern University, a mentee of Q-Tip, and has managed to collaborate with some of the Deep South's most storied rappers. After the breakout success of her 2018 single "Big Ole Freak" Megan is poised to dominate in the same way that Cardi B did in 2017 and 2018. While both Megan and Cardi rely on heavy doses of raw sensuality, regional accents, and big attitude in their presentation, Megan's flow is clearly descended from UGK's and her freestyle game is cold—there's a reason one of her aliases is Tina Snow, a direct homage to Pimp C.
On August 9th, she paired up with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign to drop the highly anticipated single "Hot Girl Summer," a bounce-influenced bop that capitalizes on Megan's heat and gives Nicki the comeback she needs after years of beefing with Cardi, Lil Kim, and other Black female musicians. Through her meteoric rise, Megan has managed to maintain a carefree spirit of collaboration with other women rappers, eschewing negativity and beef for instead driving the boat (sharing brown liquor) with other artists. While the North-South collaboration with Minaj is not novel (the posse cut "Ladies Night" featuring, Missy, Left Eye, Lil Kim, and Angie Martinez functions in the same way), what is unique is having two rappers with similar freestyling and lyrical talents. Nicki Minaj may be known for her rainbow weaves and pop sensibilities, but make no mistake—she came through the ranks as a female freestyle rapper in a male-dominated New York scene, much the same as Megan has. What's different is that the center of gravity for rap music has moved away from New York and masculinity, and is now decentralized and offers more space for women rappers to flourish.
She's a third year at Texas Southern University, a mentee of Q-Tip, and has managed to collaborate with some of the Deep South's most storied rappers.
And Megan is flourishing, not just on collab tracks either. The young rapper's album "Fever" is full of heavy hitters. Starting off with "Realer," Megan places a high-heeled cowboy boot directly on necks of her listeners. From the suspenseful horror flick chords of the first few seconds through to the aggressive thesis statement—Megan is here to run shit, so move out of the way. From there the album continues to deliver with supporting points on how to have a Hot Girl Summer ™—get money, decenter men, fuck haters, have fun.
"Fever" is best when Megan is able to be as brash as she wants to be over high hats and a hard, driving bass. "Hood Rat Shit" is a fun romp, putting a popular meme about getting into trouble with your friends into song. She collaborates on "Cash Shit" with Charlotte's Da Baby, who is himself having a monster of a year. Together they have a braggadocious battle of the sexes about who runs things, and Megan more than holds her own. While the saccharine sing-song hook on "Best You Ever Had" is hard to digest, it's allowable simply because her bars are so enjoyable, and if Drake can stumble through a melody, Megan deserves the space to do the same.
What's different is that the center of gravity for rap music has moved away from New York and masculinity, and is now decentralized and offers more space for women rappers to flourish.
"Simon Says" is a deliciously raunchy collaboration with everyone's ratchet uncle Juicy J, deploying the use of the old "Simon Says" game to instruct you on how to get down on the floor. "Simon says put your hands on yo hips/ Simon says put your hands on yo knees/ Simon says put yo hands on yo feet/ Simon says bust it open like a freak," Megan commands. By the time you get to the "left/right" directions, it becomes less about doing the dance exactly right and more about keeping up with the knocking bassline. Perhaps the place where Megan's lyrical dexterity is most on display is the "Running Up Freestyle." In it she strikes hard hitting blows to the egos of the men and brokebois who would even deign to step to her. Lines like "I don't even chase liquor/ why would I chase a nigga?/ You say I should be nicer/ well yo dick should be bigger" cuts down to the white meat. It is on this song that she ends the album, as bold and as big as she came in.
How to have a Hot Girl Summer ™: get money, decenter men, fuck haters, have fun.
Despite the recent success of women rappers who are as unapologetic about sexuality as their male peers, some folks are still disturbed by their confidence and lack of shame around it. Jermaine Dupri, the Atlanta executive behind So-So-Def Records, took shots at female MCs that had the internet in an uproar. "I don't think they're showing us who's the best rapper. I think they're trying to show—for me, it's like strippers rapping. And as far as rap goes, I'm not getting who is the best rapper," he said during a People TV interview. This statement felt especially pointed at an artist like Megan, who raps circles around her male peers all while covering the same explicit content as they do. It also dismisses the true power that strippers have in Atlanta and what they contribute to the infrastructure of rap music; the songs they enjoy dancing to often times become the next chart topping hip-hop hit. Regardless of Dupri's thoughts on the matter, artists like the City Girls and Megan Thee Stallion are giving people everywhere the permission to have fun and wield their sexuality as they see fit.
The viability of women rappers—in particular Southern women rappers—is important. Megan Thee Stallion doesn't happen without Mia X, La Chat, Missy Elliott, Da Brat, Khia, Trina and Diamond. To be a Black woman rapper from the South means that people don't take you seriously—not your accent, experiences, or identity. That is why Megan's rise and dominance is so delicious to watch. We get to see what it looks like when the South has something to say, and when it comes from a woman who delivers rawness and lyricism that lives up to the legacy of her musical forbearers. Megan Thee Stallion is charging through the summer and doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon.