Megan Thee Stallion – the Grammy award winning rap icon – went through a near death experience, a traumatic trial, and a sustained character assassination by prominent members of her own industry. What’s happened to Megan has exposed another layer of deep-seeded misogyny within our culture and serves as an indictment of how women in rap and hip-hop are treated as a whole. Megan has taken many hits as her career has boomed, but by always getting back up, she may end up changing the landscape of hip-hop for good.
Megan Thee Stallion – the Grammy award winning rap icon – went through a near death experience, a traumatic trial, and a sustained character assassination by prominent members of her own industry. What’s happened to Megan has exposed another layer of deep-seeded misogyny within our culture and serves as an indictment of how women in rap and hip-hop are treated as a whole.
Tory Lanez – who shot Megan in the feet in 2020 – has been found guilty on all charges. But the narrative that Megan lied about what happened to her has persisted ever since the incident was first reported. 50 Cent compared her to Jussie Smollett, DJ Akademiks said Lanez’ DNA wasn’t on the weapon, and Drake rapped about her on his song, “Circo Loco”. Unfortunately, this feels like a case of powerful men in a male dominated industry feeling threatened by a woman – especially because of what kind of woman Megan is. She raps about a lot of the same things those men have built their careers on – and challenges them on it.
Megan Thee Stallion: “I heard the way these men spoke about sex, and it felt like they owned sex, and I feel like this would sound really really good if it was coming from a woman.” - ETalk
Here’s our take on Megan Thee Stallion, the hits she’s taken as her career has boomed, and how, by always getting back up, she may end up changing the landscape of hip-hop for good.
Megan Thee Stallion has gone from up and comer to rap superstar in an incredibly short amount of time. She’s a household name who – because of her huge presence – feels like she’s been around forever. But it actually wasn’t until 2020 that she put her first album out, having gained notoriety dropping mix-tapes and singles on soundcloud and social media. One thing that’s contributed to her surge in popularity is the way she talks about her sexuality in her music — with ownership, agency, and an almost disregard for the male gaze. Something male rappers have been very openly critical of.
And Megan is not alone. Other popular female rappers like Cardi B and Doja Cat have been similarly explicit in the way they talk about sex – and gotten the same criticism as Megan. But in effectively mirroring the way men in rap have spoken about sex for a long time, they reveal a double standard in what’s expected of women vs what’s expected of men. Megan herself spoke about this hypocrisy in an interview with Mic magazine, saying, “I feel like female rappers are held to a standard…you’re supposed to be such a lady…I’m not scared to say what’s on my mind. I’m not scared to say what I want to do. If the boys can do it, we can do it too.”
Megan Thee Stallion: “Somebody was like ‘you need to rap, or you need to twerk’, and I was like whoa, since when I can’t do both?” - Hot97
In two of Megan’s most iconic songs, we see this sexual confidence take center stage. “Hot Girl Summer” may contain a lot of the common visual tropes of rap videos, with girls dancing around pools and popping bottles, but the lyrical content isn’t about what women should do to please men, but rather about recognizing your own quality, and your own hot girl energy. On “WAP”, this became even more explicit, and the backlash that song faced was even more heated. Rolling Stone described there being a “conservative crusade” against the song. Even Snoop Dogg, whose lyrics have never shied away from the sexually explicit, was critical of the song, saying “I just don’t want it that fashionable to where young girls feel like they can express themselves like that without even knowing that that is a jewel that they hold on to until the right person comes around.”
Perhaps in spite of these controversies – Megan has become a feminist, sex-positive icon. And she’s cemented her status as a powerful woman who is confident in her artistry. Megan was able to do all of this while also graduating from college, making history as the first Black woman to make the cover of the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, and signing a production deal with Netflix. Her hustle and ability to be even more than just a rapper shows that her strength and influence is already extending beyond her music and into the wider culture. And that might be exactly why she’s perceived as such a threat to the men in her industry.
Another reason Megan has become such an icon is her willingness to be open about her mental health. One of her biggest contributions to the culture is how she’s worked to destigmatize going to therapy, by talking about how much it’s helped her in the wake of her Mom’s death in 2019. More recently, the shooting Megan suffered at the hands of Tory Lanez, and the subsequent public gaslighting she had to deal with, was extremely traumatic for her. During her own testimony of the events at the trial, she said “I don’t want to live. I wish he had just shot and killed me if I had to go through this torture.” And the torture Megan spoke of wasn’t just disbelief, but how the case opened the floodgates for a raft of abuse that it felt like people were dying for an excuse to verbalise.
DJ Akademikz: “You’re known in the industry as the drunk, everybody knows, half a cup of henny, it’s lit.” - King Akademiks/YouTube
And even more egregious was how the incident was spun as a way to slut-shame and victim blame Megan. Lanez’ defense in the trial was to paint the incident as a jealous dispute between Megan and Kelsey Harris over Lanez. This also felt like a deliberate attempt to weaponize Meg’s own music against her. Which also played into a more vicious brand of misogynoir that casts Black women as hyper-sexual. Communications professor Catherine Steele argues that this misogynoir has so much viral potential because of how many sections of society are ready to tear Black women down, saying “being anti-Black-woman…works for a variety of audiences, white audiences, Black men audiences and, most unfortunately, in spaces where Black women use misogynoir to distance themselves from the negative implications of being associated with other Black women.” Cases like Megan’s and their aftershocks are dangerous – especially considering the fact that the cards are already stacked against Black women – who are more likely to be killed by men than their white counterparts and experience higher rates of violence compared with women overall.
Zimifie: “Tip of the iceberg is I think where we’re at on understanding the hatred that some folks have toward Black women.” - Wine n’ Chill
The incident and the subsequent aftermath also revealed the wider culture of misogynoir in hip-hop itself – something that Megan was deftly aware of. So much so – that she spoke about it herself in her New York Times op-ed, saying “In every industry, women are pitted against one another, but especially in hip-hop, where it seems as if the male-dominated ecosystem can handle only one female rapper at a time.” Directly or not, this analysis works as a critique of the exact kind of hip-hop culture that a lot of her accusers, abusers, and haters lift up. And it’s exactly this kind of culture that Meg and her music challenges.
There’s no denying that it’s an uphill battle for female rap and hip-hop artists in the male-dominated field. Women are underrepresented in every aspect of the genre’s community – from its producers and songwriters to award ceremonies. Which should be shocking considering the fact that women have always been an integral part of hip-hop music and culture. From MC Lyte and Salt ‘n’ Pepa in the 80s, Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill in the 90s, through to 21st century artists like Eve and Nicki Minaj. Angela Tate, Curator of Women’s History at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, argues “There would be no hip-hop without women.” However, during the trial Megan described the music industry as a “big boy’s club,” saying “I’m telling on one of y’all’s friends and now everybody is gonna hate me.” So somewhere in the history of hip-hop – as the genre went from subculture to the mainstream, women became marginalized.
Ellen Chamberlain: “We inspired the music, we told the DJ we loved his music, we rallied behind the MCs.” - Tedx
It likely has to do with the fact that in more recent iterations of rap, misogyny has been a major theme of the music itself. Journalist, Isabella Decarlo has said, “Whether it is referencing, degrading and/or forceful sexual acts, slut-shaming, or the treatment of women as objects, on the surface, the rap genre appears to be more degrading and anti-feminist than other musical traditions.” The figure of “the pimp” has consistently been glamorized by men in hip-hop. And again, this characterisation deliberately removes a woman’s sexual agency and power, and turns it into something for the male artist to sell for his own benefit. Thankfully it seems that “pimp rap” is on its way out, but the culture that enabled this misogynistic iteration of the genre has a long way to go.
While there are still men in this big boy’s club working to keep Megan down, there have also been a number of them who have risked their own reputation to stay by her side. Chance The Rapper, DJ Atrak, and actor Michael B Jordan all came out in support of Meg. Rapper Bun B said, “if my relationship with Tory Lanez is damaged, then so be it. We have to protect our Black women and any Black man that doesn’t feel the same way is not my brother.” At the end of the day, Megan has won. Both in court and in the cultural conversation. Her detractors may still be making noise – but it seems like the overwhelming wave of Megan supporters will drown them out.
Bun B: “If the man got mental health issues, get him some therapy, but you not gonna just sit here and shoot this girl and we not say nothing.” - 9MagTV/YouTube
The importance of Megan speaking out, fighting this, and winning, cannot be overstated. She has shone a light on misogynoir, violence against women, and in doing so has made it easier and safer for more Black women to come forward should they need to.
Megan may have faced a traumatic setback, but her career – and her rise as a cultural icon – has only just begun. With this experience behind her, Megan can continue to thrive as an artist, knowing that the industry is safer and better because of her.