It’s been a tough year (did you check out the Bum Steer Awards?), which is why it’s never been more important to highlight the Best Things in Texas. Featuring special shout-outs to Houston housing director Tom McCasland and the heroes of last winter’s deep freeze and blackout.

Megan Thee Stallion could have spent 2021 resting on her laurels. Back in March 2020, the Houston rapper released her third EP, Suga, which catapulted her to a new level of fame, thanks to its second track, “Savage,” which became the basis of a dance so popular on TikTok that it caught Beyoncé’s eye. A month later, the two Houston stars collaborated on “Savage (Remix)”—Megan’s first number one single. Then, in August, she doubled down on her viral success with the release of “WAP,” a sex-positive anthem in collaboration with rapper Cardi B that became her second number one single. She wrapped up 2020 by releasing her debut full-length album, Good News, to widespread critical acclaim.

In 2021 Megan came to collect. At the BET Awards, her 2020 output yielded seven nominations and four wins (including, for the second year in a row, Best Female Hip Hop Artist)—more than any other act. At the Grammys, she drew four nominations and three wins, including Best New Artist, making her the first female rapper in 22 years to win that award.

Instead of simply basking in the glow of her newly crowded trophy case, Megan released collaborations with Lil Nas X and K-pop superstars BTS, which followed “34+35 (Remix),” the track she created with Ariana Grande and Doja Cat earlier in the year. She also dropped Something for Thee Hotties, a collection of freestyles and unreleased songs that includes shout-outs to Houston, remembrances of her mother and great-grandmother (who both died in 2019), and appearances from Houston rap legends Bun B, Lil’ Keke, and Paul Wall, all of whom were happy to tip their caps to a new generation’s H-town legend. Not content to limit herself to music, Megan debuted a Hottie sauce partnership with Popeyes, became the first rapper to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, and graduated from Texas Southern University with a degree in health administration. (In case, you know, this whole rap thing doesn’t work out for her.)

From her earliest days, Megan earned a reputation for her braggadocio, her Texas-size persona, and her outsized hometown pride. Now she’s demonstrating that no matter how big she gets, she isn’t going to turn her back on her roots. When the February freeze and blackout damaged and destroyed countless Houston homes, Megan stepped up and launched a fund-raising effort to rebuild and repair the residences of single mothers and senior citizens. 

If 2020 was the monster year when Megan Thee Stallion became a global phenomenon, 2021 was the year she reassured us that Texas is still where her heart lies.

This article originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Megan Thee Hometown Girl.” Subscribe today.