Here’s how to understand the ascent of Megan Thee Stallion: Watch a YouTube video called “Stalli Freestyle.”
The less-than-two-minute video, which was uploaded in November 2017, features Megan rapping melodically in a suburb of her native Houston. She swerves effortlessly from boasting about her attractiveness to bragging about her rap skills. One bar incorporates the word “onomatopoeias,” which bounces off the asphalt like smoldering skipping rocks.
“Stalli Freestyle” marks an early point in the rise of the 24-year-old rapper, born Megan Pete, whose brazen lyrics and transfixing delivery earned her a place in this year’s iteration of XXL’s famed freshman class. The video, which has clocked in more than three million views, evokes the no-frills cyphers that first got Megan noticed, while also establishing the rapper as one to watch. In the roughly 21 months since, Megan has delivered (and then some) on that promise — with her 2018 EP “Tina Snow” and her well-reviewed mix tape, “Fever,” released earlier this year.
Both projects exude the sultry braggadocio that Megan projected in “Stalli Freestyle,” which, despite its brevity, featured the rapper wooing the camera in two different crop top/jogger pant ensembles. “Tina Snow” has spawned some of the rapper’s most recognizable tracks to date — including her first Billboard 100 hit, “Big Ole Freak” and the self-assured “Cocky AF,” which was aptly used in a pheromone-fueled “Euphoria” scene. The razor-sharp “Hot Girl” puts other women on notice: Megan can take your man, and his money, too — not that she needs either.
The latter plays on a common refrain in rap, but Megan gives romantic rivalry its time and place. She is far from the first woman to rap frankly about sex, but her lyrics — the bulk of which Megan pens herself — place a refreshing emphasis on female pleasure and desire that effectively champions the women who embrace her music. Megan also stands out because of the influences that manifest in her work. She was first inspired by her late mother, who rapped under the name Holly-Wood, but many of her other models were men. “Tina Snow” is a nod to the late UGK rapper Pimp C, whose aliases included “Tony Snow;” “Fever” features samples from the Houston duo, in addition to Project Pat and Three Six Mafia.
Meantime, Megan has resisted the sexism that has pitted her predecessors (and some of her peers) against each other. Over the weekend, she palled around with Nicki Minaj (a frequent target and instigator of female rap beef) on Instagram Live. And Megan has been quick to praise contemporaries including her friend Maliibu Miitch and fellow XXL frosh, Rico Nasty, in interviews. “Everybody got their own swag,” Megan told Vulture earlier this year. “Everybody is just really lit, and I just really appreciate what everybody brings to the table.”
But sexism persists in the industry. Veteran producer Jermaine Dupri was asked, in a recent PeopleTV interview, whether he was a fan of any contemporary female rappers, with one interviewer citing Megan, Minaj and Cardi B. “I feel like they’re all rapping about the same thing,” Dupri said. “I don’t think they’re showing us who is the best rapper. It’s like strippers, rapping.”
His comments prompted widespread rebuke, including a pointed retort from Cardi B (the only rapper mentioned with a documented past in stripping). Megan, asked to weigh in during an interview with Miami’s 99 JAMZ, offered a meme-worthy response: “Who is he?” (Dupri, whose producing talents have always overshadowed his own rapping attempts, doubled down in an interview with Atlanta Black Star last week, suggesting female rappers create a new genre: “strap,” as in stripper rap.)
Dupri may not be on board, but Megan has the approval of the masses. Her attention-grabbing moniker (which co-opts a slang term for tall, thick women) has inspired social media users to add thee to their names (or to other people’s names) as shorthand for superlative greatness. And then there’s the aforementioned “Hot Girl Summer” meme, inspired by the rapper, who — according to Billboard — hopes to trademark the catchphrase. Megan told the Root that “Hot Girl Summer” is “about women and men being unapologetically them, just having a good ... time, hyping up their friends, doing you.”