It’s very possible you have clicked on this but you don’t know much about who Megan Thee Stallion is, so I’m going to start there. Megan Thee Stallion is a rapper from Houston and Savage is one of her songs which is currently in the Top 5 in the UK, the US and Australia. If you did already know that, and you know that I have a podcast called “Hot Girls” maybe it would be no big surprise that I’m a fan of Megan Thee Stallion. Megan had one of the most played singles last year with Hot Girl Summer and her rap tag which introduces quite a few of her tracks is “real hot girl shit”.
There are three parts to this.
The first and most significant is the gap that she is filling when it comes to women having a certain level of success in rap. The second which is slightly connected is the legal battle around the song’s release, and the third is the role of video sharing app, TikTok.
Megan Pete from Texas always knew she wanted to be a rapper, because her mum was a rapper. In Megan’s world, women rapped. Unfortunately, in broader society that hasn’t always been so popularised. If I asked you to name your favourite rappers right now, or even ones that you know, you might say: Jay-Z, Eminem, Biggie, Kendrick, Drake…. All very talented, all very male.
In the past ten years this has been commonplace. It’s what we’ve seen and occasionally a woman will come out and disrupt the space a bit. In the US, it was Nicki Minaj and more recently Cardi B – not just rapping but rapping and having their singles at the top of the music charts. In the UK it was Ms Banks and Stefflon Don.
The other significance of these individuals was their role on remixes and as feature artists. This is important because it makes them more visible. So in the US, one such example was the No Limit Remix. G Eazy ft. Juicy J, A$AP Rocky, French Montana, Belly and Cardi B, another would be Monster. Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj. Then in the UK, last year brought the Gun Lean Remix which had Taze, LD, Digga D & Lethal Bizzle jump on a Russ track, with Ms Banks.
This is a Global cultural issue but centred in America because that is where so many of the world’s biggest artists come from. It starts in 1996 when Megan was just one, and the single Ladies Night was released. That song featured Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez, TLC’s Left Eye and Da Brat. Two years later, Vibe magazine ran its Rap Reigns cover and on the front was Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill. Rap wasn’t equal around the millennium, but there were women up there at the top. For a variety of different and personal reasons however, all these women, stopped releasing music. And they weren’t replaced.
Then came the rise of Nicki Minaj. Nicki Minaj is often criticised for not wanting any other women on top with her, but this wasn’t Nicki’s job. There was a total void of females rapping and a lot of people and cultural commentary was to blame.
If you’re not sure why this matters, I’m gonna tell you why I think it does.
As individuals, we see images and we hear songs. We’re absorbing information all the time, that comes to us from various angles. If you are a fan of hip hop and rap and it’s dominated by men then your view of the world also gets heavily influenced by that point of view. When women aren’t the face of hip hop they’re in the background, and none of the women I know were born to live in anyone’s background.
So where does Megan Thee Stallion come in? Megan grew up with a belief that she could be a successful, chart topping rapper. She started working on her craft in her teens and first starting being public with it after she graduated high school.
In 2016 a video did the rounds in Houston. It was a 19minute video, in which 12people each spit some bars for about a minute or so. The rappers rotate casually stepping forward and dropping their verses when it was their turn. It was called The Houston Cypher and it featured one female called Megan Thee Stallion. Not only is she a woman but a hot one who is not afraid to let that be known. The significance of this video was that it took off for one reason. Megan.
Since then she’s released multiple mixtapes and gradually released songs with increasingly bigger commercial success, climaxing with Hot Girl Summer last year. A song which featured two female rappers and sampled another song by the City Girls, another two chart topping women who rap. By jumping on Megan’s song Nicki said yes to her and this is the thing with Megan. Everyone is saying yes to her, because she is committed to the craft of rap. Before Meg women in rap were starting to be exciting again with Cardi B, Saweetie, Lizzo, Rhapsody, Rico Nasty all building buzz. Megan is the evolution of what those women have been building but there’s something about her focus and commitment to the craft of rap that makes me think Megan is a change and will see the kind of success Nicki saw but hopefully without having to constantly fight for respect.
I also want to touch on the importance of her upfront sexuality. Women being empowered sexually is pushing the rhetoric of choice and consent. Women being cast as plus ones in music videos is not. In Meg’s world you are a sexual being on your own terms – for your own satisfaction, not for a man’s. She is showing the world that to be a credible rapper you don’t need to soften or downplay your femininity and sexuality. You can be the fullest expression of an artist and of a woman. She twerks for herself. She was studying for a degree in health administration while releasing her mixtapes.
“It is very innovative to me — especially to see a young woman like herself being in a position of standing in her power, to stand in her royalty and never let that be shaken.” – Q-Tip
Sexuality, empowerment, talent – her sexuality isn’t a substitute, it’s an addition.
She’s a savage: Classy, bougie, ratchet (yeah)
Well guess who else thinks her latest single Savage is important? Fellow Houston native Beyoncé, who jumped on a remix of this song and pushed the point that women in music are not competing, they’re collaborating. “I’m a bad bitch, she’s a savage, no comparison here”. Oh and proceeds from their collaboration will be donated to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life, which has been distributing supplies to families during the pandemic.
When it entered the Top Two in the US Charts, the Savage remix made history as four Black Women made the Top Two, for the first time ever. Before this week, the last time that multiple black women simultaneously sat in the top two slots was more than a decade ago.
So the legal battle. I could say we’re living in an interesting time for the music industry but it’s an industry that has to move fast so it’s often an interesting time. What is true is that the success of music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music etc.) has changed the model for making money. There was also a very famous court case a few years ago involving the singer Kesha. Some of you may have heard about it. It was a nasty case with a lot of conflicting opinions and to be honest I haven’t done the research to form a clear opinion. What is true is that women are outnumbered and musicians, all creatives really, can be vulnerable in early stages of their career when they aren’t yet generating an income and they need a bit of floating to get their music heard and out into the world.
In order to release Savage, which she did in March, Megan ended up taking her management to court as they were blocking her from releasing her music. She followed up by suing them. The label claim that her distribution agreement with them and 300 Entertainment gives them “the right to set and approve release dates” for her music. While I respect a label’s involvement, it kinda seems like they were trying to bully Megan into doing what they wanted, beyond their right, and guess what they should have trusted her. Her lawyer said they “took complete advantage of her and fraudulently induced her to enter into the contract.” That contract, the documents allege, is “not only entirely unconscionable, but ridiculously so.”
This case is largely a question of respect. You owe it to someone to not try and dupe them. According to the terms of the deal, Megan is entitled to 40 percent of her recording profits, while the label gets 60 percent. That’s lower than the 50-50 split that is typical in the industry. Crawford’s response was to complain about a lack of loyalty, to which I say, isn’t loyalty built on respect?
In regards to the process and battle Megan said, “I will stand up for myself and won’t allow two men to bully me, I am NO ONES PROPERTY”
And finally TikTok. It looks like TikTok is set to be as big as Instagram, which is good because Facebook currently own, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp and that is too much power for one man. Tik Tok, the video sharing app has been showing its power in the Western world since it took the pretty much totally unknown Lil Nas X to the top of the charts, with one of the biggest songs of the past decade, Old Town Road. Well hawk eyed Meg saw an opportunity and when she released her song Big Ole Freak in 2018, she created a TikTok dance challenge which was a big driver of the success of that song. So when Savage was ready to be released she followed that mould and to date, 24.8Million videos have been posted of people doing that dance. 24.8million including one from Jessica Alba and the Biebers. Wrap your head around that scale.
So what is the cultural significance of Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage?
I would say it’s what the success of that single says about hard work, self-worth, focus, sexuality, trends and skill all being a part of the same person and that person is a woman. She’s a savage.
Listen to an audio version of this here.