Megan Thee Stallion: Megan review – rap skill showcase is a sour sermon on superiority

When Megan Pete found fame at the turn of the decade, it was as the bringer of fierce, frisky, feelgood fun. Though always preoccupied with spreading word of her own sex appeal and appetites, there was a light-heartedness and communality to the rapper’s early hits, whether she was teaming up with Beyoncé for the double Grammy-winning Savage Remix, or joining forces with Nicki Minaj and Cardi B for the earwormy, meme-worthy Hot Girl Summer and hilariously outrageous WAP respectively.

Megan album artwork. Photograph: AP

A few years on, the mood has soured substantially. The 29-year-old may have secured a spot in the rap firmament – recent single Hiss debuted at No 1 on the Billboard charts – but judging by Megan, the self-titled third album from which it was taken, it’s never been lonelier at the top. This record does work as a skill showcase – the rapper’s flow is satisfyingly brisk and crisp – but Megan mainly acts as an icy, insanely repetitive sermon on its creator’s own superiority, as she bemoans the alienation being “that bitch” results in. Gone is the warmth of Hot Girl Summer or the irreverent camaraderie of WAP: Megan’s world is one of false friends (she is currently feuding with Minaj), mutually adulterous relationships and incessant betrayal, spurred by jealousy.

Despite her Amazonian attractiveness (stallion, according to the rapper, is southern US slang for a “tall fine girl”), her wealth and her accomplishments, it’s difficult to envy her. Trauma, vulnerability, explicitly autobiographical titbits: this is the currency of the musical zeitgeist. Yet in Megan’s hands, it makes for extremely uneasy listening. On 2022’s Flip Flop, the rapper was “sad as fuck,” struggling to cope with the death of her mother and the unsavoury by-products of fame. The same year, she testified at the trial of fellow rapper Tory Lanez, who was eventually convicted of shooting her in the foot, describing the media attention as “torture”. Things have not improved. “How can somebody so blessed wanna slit they wrist?” she despairs on commendably honest lead single Cobra, over the faint squeal of an electric guitar.

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The startlingly cool Cobra, with its super-crunchy riff and fluttering synths, is where Megan’s sonic creativity peaks (although BAS’s sped-up Teena Marie sample is pleasingly reminiscent of early Kanye). Innovative lyricism is thinner on the ground. Although the blandness wasn’t wholly deliberate – Otaku Hot Girl had to be stripped of its copyright-violating anime references at the 11th hour – the braggadocio is broadly humourless and uninventive. One exception is Down Stairs DJ, where she puts her unimpeachable greatness to good use by pleasuring herself. Yet what might have been an empowering tribute to self-love takes on a different meaning when delivered by our forlorn, unforgiving and apparently friendless narrator; this ode to onanism feels merely like the depressing apex of this oppressively navel-gazing rap phenomenon’s isolation.

The Guardian