Megan Thee Stallion Takes Her Indefatigable Confidence To New Levels on ‘Good News’
Given her absolute ubiquitousness over the last two years, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Megan Thee Stallion is only now releasing her first full-length album. But after several mixtapes and a seemingly nonstop string of hits, “Good News” offers fans their clearest picture yet of this forceful young artist as her self-assurance as a storyteller and performer fully blooms — if it hadn’t already, anyway. With her bravado and absolute authority on the microphone, the Houston native is riding the crest of a welcome wave of female rappers reclaiming their time on the airwaves and rightfully demanding space on the pop charts, as “Good News” virtually guarantees that she will continue that meteoric rise.
Featuring three earlier hits — her “Savage” remix featuring Beyonce, the N.W.A. cribbing “Girls in the Hood,” and “Don’t Stop” featuring Young Thug — Megan’s full-length features 17 tracks, and if there’s not a ton of musical variety, at least there’s consistency. She opens “Good News” with “Shots Fired,” a broadside against Tory Lanez, who she claims shot her in an incident in July; she pointedly never mentions him specifically, instead saying “I know you want the clout, so I ain’t sayin’ y’all names.” But over a beat that reworks the same David Porter sample as in Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic diss track “Who Shot Ya,” her verses deliver what should be the final word between them — not the least of which because her verses are absolutely devastating: “Imagine niggas lyin’ ’bout shootin’ a real bitch / Just to save face for rapper niggas you chill with.” It’s both an audacious way to start the album and a great, throat-clearing choice, leaving room for her to move forward musically, without any tabloid obstacles in front of her.
Track two, “Circles,” immediately evidences the absence of that weight from her shoulders. Over a sample of Jazmine Sullivan’s “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles),” Megan launches right into the topics that have become the cornerstone of her discography — self-empowerment, getting paid, good dick, trifling men, and never letting anyone else’s weaknesses affecting her strength. As a rapper, she is just plain hard, and it’s thrilling to listen to because she never sacrifices her femininity, no matter who or how many people she’s putting in their place. For example, fellow chart-topper DaBaby dominates the first half of Track 3, “Cry Baby,” but when she arrives for the second verse, she wastes no time reminding fans that she’s in control in the studio, the streets and the bedroom: “Fell too fast for me, now the nigga hurt… Bitch tryna brag about taking my man / Hah, I needed me a nigga off my hands.”
With a delivery best described as “humorless,” subject matter that mostly references sex and success, and music that covers a broad spectrum of BPMs, Megan is deadly serious about having fun. It’s sometimes a jarring contrast; when she says “I should own a bakery way niggas bring the cake to me / And if that boy a baller, I bet I can make him play for me” on “Do It On The Tip” (featuring City Girls), there’s something both sexy about her confidence and a little intimidating. Songs like “Sugar Baby” are hilarious clapbacks at men she deems unworthy of her attention, opening with “Oh, he want a bad bitch? Well, I want a nigga with some money and a long dick.” The track features not one but two of the year’s best punchlines: “Buy me everything in my cart if you my boyfriend / Invest in this pussy, boy, support Black business,” and later, “He said, “Let’s make a movie,” and nutted so quick, we made a story.” Even if it sounds like she isn’t playing around, the humor in these songs sustains them, especially after three or four in a row where she’s essentially saying the same thing in a slightly different way.
Similarly, she has a “get in, loser” sort of fearlessness that makes the listener simply go along for whatever ride she’s taking. A new single, “Body,” starts with an emphatic sample of a woman in the throes of pleasure before Megan dives headfirst into a booty-bass beat with the best chorus (“Body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody / Ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody”) Big Freedia never recorded. It would be an overstatement to call her come-ons entendres, but to call lines like “Saucy like a barbecue but you won’t get your baby back / See me in that dress and he feel like he almost tasted that” shameless would suggest there’s a reason for her to be ashamed in a musical culture where her male counterparts constantly objectify women; why shouldn’t she do it herself? Especially since she’s only too happy to bring her fellow women along for a joyride: “I’m a hot ebony, they gon’ click it if it’s me / All my bitches been gettin’ these niggas through the quarantine.”
Moreover, she gives as well as she gets. “Work It” feels like a worthy candidate for the album’s next single, a song seemingly engineered to blast out the window of a car on a sunny day, as she sizes up her next conquest: “He lookin’ like a snack, I’m tryna lick him.” But especially in the wake of Cardi B’s own studio debut, “Invasion of Privacy,” and with so many formidable female rappers climbing the charts, there becomes a point in the record when you want to hear something a little different. Cardi’s “Be Careful,” for example, is an absolute standard bearer when it comes to songs that communicate female strength but also a real sense of honesty, and even vulnerability; but Megan barely slows down to acknowledge the men she discards before picking out the next one. Particularly when you read interviews of her offering opinions about X-men comic book storylines and knowing at least enough about ballroom culture to write lyrics like “the category is body,” it’s hard not to want to hear her insights about more than the unadulterated success she’s enjoying. The closest she comes is with the kiss-off anthem “Don’t Rock Me To Sleep,” but the song feels designed more for jilted exes to play to make themselves feel better than to express any sort of deep emotion from Hot Girl Meg.
Still, there aren’t a lot of albums this year that are more fun to listen to. Plus, with those three earlier singles tacked on at the end, you basically get the best of her output in one slim package. Of course, “WAP” isn’t there, nor is her 2019 bomb-dropper team up with Gucci Mane, “Big Booty.” But as the soundtrack to her formal arrival as hip-hop royalty, “Good News” is an extremely strong collection of songs that shows how well she knows her strengths, and plays brilliantly to them. And even (or especially) if it lacks a deeper sense of reflection or vulnerability in a year where we all could use an opportunity to feel empowered, Megan’s latest is the kind of music that puts the women in charge, and men definitely should feel strong supporting — or be afraid not to.
“Good News” releases Nov. 20 on Apple Music.