Bullets devastate bodies and often the job of repairing the injuries they cause is just as destructive. Rib cages are broken open. Victims are sometimes intubated without anesthesia. Limbs are amputated. The instruments that surgeons use in the operating room look like they were made for laying a hardwood floor, not for attaching a body. If you are lucky enough to get shot, your body can be changed forever. You could be paralyzed. You may have to poop into a bag through a hole in your stomach for the rest of your life. A Philadelphia man had to live with a wide open abdominal cavity, which exposed his intestines for 11 months.
This says nothing about the emotional trauma of being shot, especially as a 25-year-old black woman with no parents, but millions of people who watch her, some of whom believe she lied or provoked her attack. Given the range of disabilities that survivors can face, it’s a bit of a miracle that rapper Megan Thee Stallion was able to twerk song after song during a live-streamed virtual concert 48 days after he was shot in the foot, reportedly by rapper Tory Lanez.
So on her latest release Good news, after some damning record-straightening on ‘Shots Fired’ about the same monster that Biggie used in his alleged Tupac taunt ‘Who Shot Ya?’ and more vague complaint broadcasts (fake friends and annoying men) about the New Orleans ‘Circles’ reverberation, Megan turns her attention to more pressing matters. She goes from shrinking her attacker’s bullets to mere bullets to fondle someone she’s fucked so well that he wants to wear it. her hoodie. Once she’s beyond this summer’s recordings, she rarely looks back. Her beats are more playful and poppy than ever, but anchored in rap and R&B staples. Her tapping is still razor-sharp, littered with punchlines and barbs that will pop your ears and your mouth open. Her character is unexpectedly chipper. In a year when a virus, a man and a group of women-unfriendly spectators could have killed her, Good news is a celebration of life.
When the album ends with the hugely successful “Savage Remix,” plus singles “Girls in the Hood” and “Don’t Stop,” it feels jubilant, like confetti falling from the ceiling for an encore at Madison Square Garden. The 14 songs that precede it are varied – slinky and sexy, ready for dance routine or throbbing with 808s – which makes sense considering there are over 14 producers at work Good newscompared to Megan’s usual two, Lil Ju and Juicy J. Here, the pair are joined by high-profile beat makers such as Tay Keith and Mustard, as well as Dutch upstart Avedon, who comes out swinging on the striking ‘What’s New’. The different approaches of the producers are united by their optimism, a new tone for Megan.
The pulse of the album is steadily merry, which may appeal more to the casual hip-hop fans she has collected through the viral ‘Savage Remix’ than that of Make It Hot, Tina Snow, and Fever. Cleverly smuggled towards the end of the new releases (almost like it’s not distracting) is ‘Don’t Rock Me to Sleep’, a daring sing-along experiment featuring the same Day-Glo lighthearted synths that Dua Lipa and The Weeknd use to evoke nostalgia from the years 80 on. It’s the kind of song any pop star today could make, and it doesn’t suit Megan. The similar poppy successor “Outside” works better, perhaps because it is more difficult, which feels like a more natural pose to her. “I’m not for the streets, because bitch, I’m the street,” she snorts.
Even as Megan experiments with sounds that appeal to a wider audience, her hip-hop traditionalism remains undeniable. Webbie, Trina, Adina Howard, Juvenile, Naughty By Nature and Eazy-E are sampled all over, and she does every justice with her relentless rapping. Megan’s mythos as the daughter of a Texas MC – conditioned for the game, and coming to prominence as a fierce freestyler – is now rap lore. She is in her prime Good news. “Freaky bitch, I’m doing this / Suck it like I’m toothless,” she offers on one track. “Bitch, touch those toes / Bitch, get that dough / If you’re in love with your body, bitch, take your clothes off!” she spits staccato on ‘Work That’. It’s not that Megan’s raps are deeply intimate – op Fever, she reminded us that’s why she’s not here. (“They want to know about me / They say, ‘Tell me your story’ / All you need to know is that I’m in love with the money,” she says). It’s that after four years in the game, she can still make bars about good sex, hot girls and unshakable confidence sound like new.
Scattered a handful of hooks Good news feel insidiously simple but strategic – they stay in your head and roll off your tongue. “Body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody,” reads one. Her verses, however, are like top-shelf ghosts, smooth and caustic. Whether she’s referring to island-exclusive cognac on a dancehall song with Popcaan (“Intercourse”) or exchanging disses with City Girls (“Do It on the Tip”), her humor and delivery are non-pareil. This album has most of the hallmarks of her career and when she gets a rap assistant – as in “Movie” with Lil Durk or “Cry Baby” with DaBaby – she does her hardest work, fueled by collaboration (or more likely, competition). Megan is ahead of her peers in popularity and skill, regardless of gender.
Even with a few stars, Megan Thee Stallion decided unequivocally that her debut album would be hers. Two and a half months after the shooting, her alleged assailant dedicated a release with his name to slandering hers, while his anger swallowed him completely. Good news, however, it is about its own desk. “I’m still not doing anything I don’t want to do!” She barks at “Sugar Baby.” “Don’t fuck me like this, fuck me like this!” in command of “Cry Baby.” As always, she locates her strength in the bedroom, the mirror and the recording booth. But unlike her earlier works, with their dark and fiery undertones, what she finally cemented as a studio album carries spars’ victory over death. Two years before Megan was born, Lucille Clifton wrote a poem for this triumph:
with me that every day
something tried to kill me
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