The Come Up is Refinery29’s series featuring rising female artists who are as badass and inspiring as their music is.
Imagine having a little sister who has actually learned from your mistakes. She’s refused to let the mean things that kids used to say about her at school break her spirit or create self-doubt. In fact, she now knows those quirks make her unique. She’s taken all of your dating advice and never lets a man define her or take advantage. Quite the opposite: Your sister only surrounds herself with suitors who worship the ground she walks on. After witnessing you spend too many days unhappy with yourself, your sister has cultivated a healthy self-esteem, and radiates her own kind of Big Dick Energy every time she gets dressed. She’s comfortable with her sexuality. She’s committed to setting goals, seeing them through, and making some money in the process. She asks for exactly was she wants. In other words, she gives you hope for a generation of women who don’t need validation from anyone but themselves. Now imagine that this same person is also your favorite rapper; and she’s still going to college and earning a bachelor’s degree. This is how I feel when I listen to Megan Thee Stallion.
“You can put on Megan Thee Stallion and remind yourself: You know what, I am bad. People who like to be in control, people who are naturally the boss, that's who my music is for,” the rapper told me over the phone. Just a couple of weeks before this conversation, she gassed me up in person as I sang along to every word on her Tina Snow EP. Tucked away in a photography studio in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, she wanted her own songs to set the mood for our shoot. Between clicks of the camera, Meg showered me with “ayyyeee!”’s as I rapped along to the beats while looking at outtakes over our producer’s shoulder.
At just 23 years old, the Houston emcee emanates a level of confidence that I couldn’t have dreamt of when I was her age. But I definitely have it now, and that’s what drew me to songs like “Naturally” from her first mixtape Make It Hot, where she proclaims “H-town hottie I'm the black Regina George.” And her follow up effort Tina Snow is full self-affirming gems like these lines from “Tina Montana”: “I had to hop off the porch and go get it / I went to pick up the torch and then lit it / They try to tell me I can't, but I did it / When I pull up bitches look like they shitted.” Megan delivers every one of her powerful bars with the force of a woman on a mission, and she has but one request for her fans — affectionately known as Hotties: Keep that same energy.
If you’re one of her more than 300k Instagram followers, then you know that they’ve fallen right in line. Videos from her live performances show hundreds of women reciting every lyric, as if to miss a single word would somehow lessen the impact. In these moments, her Hotties make good on her “Good At” declaration that “bad bitches singing all [her] songs like a prayer.” Hot Girl Meg ( one of her many monikers, but more on that later) offers her fans an impressive cocktail of talent, beauty, and success. She writes all of her own mouthy, smooth rhymes and spits them seamlessly. She is a classic beauty born with the Coke bottle proportions that her peers often only achieve via surgical enhancements. Standing at 5’10 without heels helped her secure the official title of Stallion — a Southern slang term for… well, a big, fine woman. And Megan is racking up streaming numbers with the same determination that she is her credit hours as she finishes out her undergraduate studies at Texas Southern University in Houston.
Every time I drop something or every time I create a song, I'm trying to span out how I can go harder than the last time.
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan was born and raised in Texas where her mother, Holly Thomas, was also a rapper going by the name Holly-Wood. Megan would listen in on her recording sessions, awaiting the day when she, too, could step into the booth. She spent her high school days secretly writing raps. Growing up in the South with a parent in the music industry meant Megan came up listening to rappers like Three 6 Mafia and UGK, who helped elevate Southern hip-hop as a critical part of a genre previously laser-focused on the East and West Coasts. As innovative as their sounds were, the lyrical content only reflected male interests and desires. “Growing up listening to these men and how powerful and confident they seemed, I just thought, Oh my god. This would sound really good if a girl was saying all this.” Fast forward to Tina Snow. It’s the name of Megan’s second mixtape, but also her alter ego, derived as a female counterpart to Tony Snow, the alter ego of her favorite rapper Pimp C.
Before his death in 2007, Pimp C frequently embraced nicknames like Sweet Jones, Percy Mack, and Jack Tripper. Megan has also allowed herself to play with her stage personae, embodying The Stallion, Tina Snow, Tina Montana, or Hot Girl Meg depending on her mood. While rappers typically rely on authenticity to underscore their lyrical content and stay connected to fans, for Megan, “it’s supposed to be fun.” In her world, the partying college girl easily gives way to a no-nonsense pimp. A high maintenance diva isn’t above drinking Hennessy with her friends. “I want to just take people through different experiences every time they hear a different project from me,” she explained.
She’s also completely flipped the pimp trope on its head to put women on top and call out the fake bravado of masculinity. “He tryna act like he tough, ha / Boy I'm callin' ya bluff / He telling me what he not gone do / Wait a minute, first of all, who is you talkin to?” she snaps on “Neva.” Thanks to a host of platforms like SoundCloud, YouTube and her chief digital venue Instagram, a new school of women with a wide range of styles and attitudes are clapping back at sexism in a game notorious for only letting one woman in at a time. “A lot of us are doing music, but we not saying the same thing, we not saying it the same way, the delivery is so different,” Megan comments on the state of women in hip-hop. “Even though we have the same job we, are not in the same lane.”
This is especially true for Megan, whose lifestyle isn’t always as glamorous as other rappers make us think it should be. When she isn’t flying around the country for shows, interviews and photoshoots, Megan returns to student life in Houston. She writes papers en route to shows. She overhears people whisper “Omigod I think that’s Meg!” as she moves through campus buildings. The ink may have dried on her record deal — she signed to become the first female artist signed to 300 Entertainment the day before our shoot — but she has no intention of walking away from the degree that she often raps about. “I had to start from the mufuckin' bottom / My momma told me to get em, I got em. My granny told me you goin' to school / Getting that degree and making it cool,” she spits on “Tina Montana.” Next year, if everything goes as planned, she’ll have her bachelor’s in healthcare administration. As she puts it, “I went through too much with school to just go ahead and forget it because I got this deal. No. It's been too long to just drop out now.” Before music was a viable career option, Megan had figured out exactly what she wanted to do: open assisted living facilities for the elderly in Houston. It’s a way of giving back, and something that she’s still passionate about and feels equipped to tackle one day thanks to her program of study.
The next few months are going to prove challenging for the emerging star as she wraps up her coursework and prepares to drop her next EP, Fever. She tells me that the follow up to her acclaimed Tina Snow mixtape is a deep dive into another alter ego. “On Fever, everybody's going to get to meet Hot Girl Meg. It's really like a turn up tape and I'm really super excited about it because I feel like it doesn't sound anything like Tina Snow.” But Meg promises that if Hotties love Tina Snow, they are going to really love Fever because it’s a step up. “Every time I drop something or every time I create a song, I'm trying to figure out how I can go harder than the last time.”
When Megan and I first met, I was taken aback when she told me another one of her goals. Like me, she’s a horror movie fan, and she’s tired of that genre’s predictable, underwhelming storylines. So in addition to songwriting and earning her degree, she’s also writing her first film. Just when I thought I had her figured out as a self-actualized version of Black womanhood that I think we should all aspire to, she upped the ante once again. Megan Thee Stallion may never fit into any of the boxes or stay on any of the tracks typically assigned to female artists of color. And that’s okay. For right now, I’m happy to stan a girl from Houston who is not only rapping better and loving herself harder; she is, arguably, dreaming bigger, and more expansively, than anyone else in hip-hop.