Following the release of her second studio album, ‘Traumazine’, I look at the rise of Megan Thee Stallion from TikTok hits to her fifth consecutive top 10.

‘Traumazine’ provides a fitting soundtrack to her life and accession to superstardom; the title of the album explicates the trauma that she has had to deal with from the early days of her career, both personally and publicly.

Growing up without a father for the first eight years of her life due to his imprisonment and then death just seven year later, it is Megan’s mother who she herself has said ‘made me who I am today.’ By day, the Houston bill-collector Holly Thomas, by night the rapper ‘Holly-Wood’, Megan’s first experiences of rap were through hearing her mother, going to the studio with her and writing songs. On top of this, Missy Elliot, Trina and Jill Scott added to Megan’s musical education. As such, Megan grew up to the soundtrack of female rappers not only in the public space, but also in her private, domestic sphere.

When Megan began rapping, only after following her mother’s criteria of being 21 and having a degree, Holly was her manager, teaching her studio-etiquette and providing business advice. Aside from this musical influence, Megan also attributes her self-reliance, toughness and confidence to the influence of her mother as well. With her mother’s tragic death from a brain tumour in March 2019, this formative figure was removed from Megan’s life, leading her to publicly open up about her own mental health struggles in the aftermath of this family tragedy. For Megan, her candidness with regards to her mental health and resort to therapy was particularly pertinent as a Black women since she was all too aware of how such issues are so heavily stigmatised in the Black community.

The following year Megan’s career took off, with the stagnation of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic doing anything but for Megan. Accompanied by the famous TikTok dance, ‘Savage’ was Megan’s first US top 10 single, followed soon after by ‘WAP’, in collaboration with Cardi B, her first US number 1 single.

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In collaboration with Cardi B, ‘WAP’ was Megan’s first number 1 single.

Megan’s music has not been without controversy: far from it. ‘WAP’ is one of the most sexually explicit songs in the charts. It sparked a divisive debate within the feminist community and beyond as to whether it is a powerful reclamation of female sexuality or provides anti-feminist scaffolding to misogynistic society through over-sexualising the female body. For Megan the need for such highly sexualised songs is palpable in the world of rap which is dominated by men narrating female experience. She has commented that ‘I feel like men think they own sex, and I feel like it scares them when women own sex.’

In the midst of her successes in 2020 was an event in July of that year which tarnished her rise. On the ride home from a party in Hollywood, Megan was shot. She alleges that fellow rapper, Tory Lanez, shot her. Lanez responded to these accusations by releasing an album dedicated to himself and, significantly, calling Megan a liar. Highlighting the pervasive influence of gaslighting, Megan became the butt of abusive and insulting commenting and memes Twitter. Neither accusations have not been confirmed but it is social media who have been the judge and jury of this case.

Contemporaneous to this shooting were the growth of Black Lives Matter protests across America. For Megan this made her experience all the more pertinent through providing further evidence of subjugated status of Black women in society. Commenting that ‘this is my real life’ and ‘I’m traumatized’, Megan famously tweeted in July 2020 that ‘Black women are so unprotected.’ You can read the full Tweet here.

Indeed, Megan grasped the public arena of her appearance on the American chat show, Saturday Night Live, just three months later, to draw attention the Black Live Matter and the experiences of the Black community in America. She criticised the attorney general of Kentucky for failing to hold to account the two officers that shot Breonna Taylor. She interrupted her live performance with the sound of gun shots to instead make a speech. “We need to protect our Black women and love our Black women, ’cause at the end of the day, we need our Black women,” she said. “We need to protect our Black men and stand up for our Black men, ’cause at the end of the day, we’re tired of seeing hashtags about Black men.”

As an ever-growing spokesperson for the Black community, Megan has written an opinion piece for The New York Times. Writing of the objectification and social disregard for women, Megan goes on to write how these issues are amplified for Black women. Giving voice to influential Black women in history who have been largely forgotten, Megan’s article is an important read. You can read the full article here.

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Megan Thee Stallion stuns crowds at Parklife 2022

Megan Thee Stallion’s achievements and accolades are numerous. One of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2020. Three-time Grammy Award-winner in 2021 for Best New Artist, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. GQ’s 2020 Rapper of the Year. This year she has been headlining music festivals across the UK, from Parklife to Glastonbury. And now, her latest album has debuted at number 2 in the Billboard charts.

However, Megan’s success transcends the tangible awards that she has received. As a Black women reclaiming her voice, sexuality and place in a male-dominated world, her success is also the inspirational and empowering figure she has become for many.