When I interviewed Megan Thee Stallion last July, she was on a rapid ascent. Back then it seemed like the Houston-bred rapper literally grew more popular by the day, especially after the release of her May 2019 mixtape Fever; she even dominated a whole season with “Hot Girl Summer.” Even so, when I asked her about the possibility of a Beyoncé collaboration, she sounded humble and doubtful: “Just pray for me,” she said with a laugh.
Less than a year later, it seems like she got all the prayers she needed. On Wednesday afternoon, Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé decided to drop their collaborative “Savage” remix, which had been whispered about a week ahead of its release. A leak began making the rounds online hours before the song was officially added to streaming services. Then Megan announced it officially, and the world stopped. At least, mine did. As Beyoncé’s first feature in a while (excluding her collaborations with Jay-Z, like 2017’s “Family Feud” and 2018’s joint project Everything Is Love) it’s the most exciting thing I’ve heard this year.
I can’t sit here and front like I, a native Texan, didn’t scream multiple times throughout my first spin of the “Savage” remix. My sister screamed while listening to it. Then, I got on a call with two other black women writers from Texas, and we all screamed together. This is a moment for us.
The original version of “Savage,” a runaway single from Megan’s Suga EP released earlier this year, has been charting on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and counting. It currently sits at number fourteen, thanks in large part to a viral TikTok dance challenge; more than 18 million videos have been uploaded with the song as its soundtrack.
Now, it’s been given new life through a remix with Queen Bey, who opens the song, contributes saucy ad-libs, and spits two full rap-sung verses during the four-minute track. It’s a true remix through and through, and not a mailed-in, one-off eight or sixteen bars. There’s no half-stepping in this collaboration, which pairs Megan’s insuppressible, ebullient energy with Beyoncé’s perfectionist work ethic, and benefits their shared hometown of Houston. (All proceeds are going to the city’s Bread of Life COVID-19 relief efforts.)
On the track, Megan, an upstart MC, and Beyoncé, a cemented veteran, came together as artists from south Houston to represent something greater: the fact that they’re fully realized women, with lives that mirror those of their listeners despite the difference in their respective lifestyles. “If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain,” Bey raps matter-of-factly during her first verse. (The-Dream, Jay-Z, Pardison Fontaine, Derrick Milano, and Starrah have been credited as writers on the song, per TIDAL.) With that, as well as references to the sex-work friendly site OnlyFans and “demon time,” a popular Instagram Live stripper performance series, plus a line later in the song about twerking in the mirror, Beyoncé sounds more contemporary than ever.
The moments that stick out the most to me in this collaboration, though, are the Texas-specific mentions. “Texas up in this thang,” Bey says in her first verse, letting it be known that this song was made for Texans, by Texans. During a shared verse at the midway point, Beyoncé vocalizes in the background while Megan raps, sounding strikingly similar to the late Houston legend Big Moe, who was well known for his evocative singing. “I’m comin’ straight up out that Third,” she raps later, shouting out her childhood neighborhood, the Third Ward. “I whip the whip like I stirred it,” she continues, “Woodgrain, we swervin’,” referencing both the steering wheel and interior preference of Houston slab drivers.
“It’s the Stallion, and the B, H-Town, going down,” Bey says at the very end of the song. The way she releases the words “going down” from her mouth sounds distinctly like the Houston MCs who came before her: at the end of her “I Been On” remix, she names Willie D of the Geto Boys and Pimp C of UGK as some of her early influences. Bey also drops a line that struck me personally: “And my mama was a savage / n*gga I got this shit from Tina.” My own mother was named Teena, and she introduced both me and my sister to UGK and the Geto Boys, and influenced us to buy Destiny’s Child’s 1999 album The Writing’s on the Wall.
Following the song’s release, Megan broke down why the connection was so meaningful for her on Instagram Live. “It’s really crazy because my mama was like a really huge fan of Beyoncé and she used to make me watch a lot of Beyoncé’s stuff,” the rapper, whose mother Holly died in 2019, explained through tears. “I’m from Houston, Texas. You go from going to a Destiny’s Child concert in the fifth grade, right, and you see Destiny’s Child and it’s just really freaking amazing. And wanting to be a performer, wanting to be in the music industry, wanting to be any type of entertainer, you look at Beyoncé, and Beyoncé is the standard. Beyoncé is what you want to be. Especially being from Houston, that’s all you know.”
On the remix, Bey and Meg are bringing their individually powerful voices and personalities to the same table—all the while, Bey is helping Megan elevate her approach to production and delivery. She’s almost like a Fairy God Auntie. It’s also impossible not to dream about the potential for a music video from the two (even through FaceTime, given the coronavirus outbreak), an area that Bey, with her prowess for visuals, could bring to Megan’s repertoire. Only time will tell if we’ll actually see the day.
The “Savage” beat, produced by J. White Did It, is reworked on the remix to include minuscule instrumental changes, like an extended air horn in the background during Beyoncé’s first verse, and a flattened soundscape during her second verse, giving Bey ample space to work with. Here, Megan sounds like her usual captivating self, but she sounds tighter and deeper in her pocket alongside Bey. At the same time, Megan brings out a youthful side of Beyoncé that we haven’t seen in Bey’s more recent projects. The resulting “Savage” remix makes for an electrifyingly fun collaboration between two Houston mainstays—one that illuminates the past, present, and future of the city’s spirit.