Opinion: Megan Thee Stallion challenges rap's double standards and reminds us that we can be more than one thing
Author Michael Arceneaux discusses emerging Houston rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, her new major label mix tape, Fever, and the power of her sexuality, confidence, joy, and skill.
Megan Thee Stallion knows—in spite of three decades of music history proving women in rap are just as capable as their male counterparts—that a gendered double standard remains.
In her new Fader cover story,Megan is asked about a style currently permeating mainstream hip hop—one that has many noteworthy rappers of the moment rapping in a style that is less focused on lyrics and more fixated on repetition and melody. Raised by a mother who rapped under the name “Holly Wood” and had her listening to southern legends UGK and Three Six Mafia along with Brooklyn icon The Notorious B.I.G., Megan did not sound especially fond of that trend. “To see that it changed from something that I love so much to what’s going on right now really blew my mind,” she explained. “Like, we not rapping no more?”
As for that double standard, she’s keenly aware that she could never get away with a similar musical output, first noting “And then being a girl too—they criticize you harder than they criticize men” . She astutely concludes, “If I was out there making little noises like Uzi and Carti be making, they would not rock with that.”
Still, she’s not a hater. “Not saying that they don’t be going hard, because we definitely finna turn up to both of them, but if it was a chick, like—no,” she added.
Yet, while some bad habits stubbornly remain, we are bearing witness to a new era in hip hop.
Gone are the days when only a few women in hip hop can make noise. Thanks to the internet—which has its variety of annoyances but nonetheless has democratized many things like music compilation—we exist in a moment when it’s not just Nicki Minaj or Cardi B succeeding. It’s also City Girls, Kash Doll, Mulatto, Kamaiyah, Maliibu Miitch, Saweetie, BbyMutha, Dreezy, CupcakKe, Young M.A., Rico Nasty, Lizzo, Asian Doll, Cuban Doll, and plenty others.
Many of the aforementioned are, to be blunt, rapping their asses off—in many cases, better than the men are. Nevertheless, none of them quite sound like Megan Thee Stallion, and that’s not a diss to any of them. It’s more a statement on the rising stature of the 24-year-old Houston native who for many, myself included, feels long overdue.
Megan’s first foray with notoriety started back in 2016 after her mom formally became her manager. She not only released her first single, “Like A Stallion,” but a number of verses on cyphers—notably “The Houston Cypher” over Drake’s “4PM in Calabasas.” She also released a mixtape, Rich Ratchet, on Soundcloud, but it was her follow up EP, Make It Hot, and subsequent freestyles that really showed off her potential. One song in particular from that effort, “Last Week In H Tx,” spread online thanks to its video, which has since amassed approximately six million views.
Then came the two minute “Stalli Freestyle,” which launches with an audacious declaration: “You know your bitch is not fuckin’ with Megan / Your ni**a not even fuckin’ you naked.”
Some months later came her glorious follow-up EP, Tina Snow, a nod to her alter ego, which spawned her first veritable hit, “Big Ole Freak.” And more freestyles were recorded during various radio interviews in promotion of Tina Snow, each of them securing more and more fanfare—deservedly so. Now, there is her latest effort and first major label offering, Fever, which presents another alter ego, Hot Girl Meg. Although some have labeled this an album, Megan pulls away from such labeling.
“I feel like ‘album’ is very husband, that’s very committed, you know what I’m saying?” she joked in February, during an interview on Houston’s 97.9 The Box. “I want it to be a mixtape, like, we’re dating, we’re getting to know each other.”
Whatever you want to call it, it is Megan Thee Stallion at her most cohesive and most promising. It features production from Juicy J, who thanks to his Three Six Mafia fame and longtime production work, serves as an important co-sign. The same goes for Q-Tip, who has touted in her Fader interview as an executive producer and has spoken about the rising star glowingly.
For a rapper like Megan, who was raised to think of hip hop in a certain way —i.e. where lyrics and skill set took precedence over anything else—such co-signs are important. It validates the hard work she has put into her craft and acknowledges what many will soon learn: she is in a league all her own.
As a fan of southern rap, particularly southern female rappers, I just love that one of our own is enjoying this type of glow up without deviating from the sound and subject matter we’re accustomed to. Many, Megan included, have christened her as something like a female Pimp C. It’s an accurate comparison—she shares Pimp C’s gravitas and charisma—but others also come to mind. There’s a forcefulness in her voice that makes me think of Mia X, Gangsta Boo, The Ghetto Twiinz, and hell, if you want to really get regional, Candi Redd, but you know she goes a lil’ harder.
Megan’s music is uncompromising in its frank discussion of sex, and unflinching in its position to be confident, to be fun, and to be perfectly fine with just twerking something.
On Fever, I can hear this energy most on tracks like, “Ratchet,” “Cash S**t” featuring DaBaby, “Realer,” and a personal standout, the popular “Running Up Freestyle.” Each of those tracks were produced by Lil Ju and I hope those two stick together for some time because the pairing is perfection.
Megan is a rapper who stands in her power with total awareness of it and confidence in it. She’s also a good time, and she feels familiar in that way. By now, enough of us know that people are multifaceted.
Megan show us that people can love to party, love to be sexual, stay ready to fight if necessary, and be educated (She is currently a college student).
It matters not if Megan remains a college student who also enjoys sex and fun, but it’s impressive that she has managed to become the first solo female southern rapper to make great waves in a significantly long time while also being a college student. And sadly, while being a woman in mourning; her mother recently passed due to a brain tumor.
I could go on about Megan Thee Stallion, but since Fever isn’t technically her formal debut album, it should not be judged as anything more than what it seemingly aims to be: a testament to her talent, a statement that she may be the future, a sign of her firm belief in rap fundamentalism, and of course, a reminder that, once again, the south has something to say.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.