Undulating with fun, self-confident, and candid lyrics set over bass rhythms fit only for a subwoofer, Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s debut album dropped this morning. Judging from fan response, it’s obvious after just a few hours that Fever will be essential to this summer’s party scene.
The record is a collage of its inspirations—1970s blaxploitation flicks, The Players Club, and Dirty South culture. Its turnt beats and bad-bitch lyrics are reminiscent of Florida’s Trina. In the first track, “Realer,” Megan proclaims “I’m a real rap bitch, this ain’t no pop s—,” reminding listeners of the lyrical posture she exhibited in “The Houston Cypher” only three years ago. In songs like “W.A.B” (Weak ass Bitch) and “Running Up Freestyle,” Megan delivers unapologetically cocky lines like, “If you ain’t want a pimp, then what you f—ing with me for?” The fourteen tracks were written by Megan and produced with the help of DJ Chose and Lil Ju, who have worked on previous hits with the artist.
Her Bayou City roots are plain enough just from the album cover of Fever. Megan is shown in a cheetah-print, long-sleeve halter top with bikini bottoms and gloves to match. Behind her are deep orange and red flames that carefully trim the outline of Houston’s skyline. The scene is adorned with a dark brown horse standing on its hind legs, which complements a candy-painted Cadillac and smaller images of Thee Stallion striking sultry poses in a red-hot bikini.
Megan has said she grew up listening to legendary Houston rapper Pimp C—Chad Lamont Butler—who continues to influence her work long after his 2007 death. Pimp C spoke often of the “pimp lifestyle.” One of his pimp-associated alter egos, “Tony Snow,” inspired the title of Megan’s 2018 EP, Tina Snow. In songs off Fever like “Pimpin’” and “Cash S—,” she alludes to walking with a lean, and making men objects that comply with her desires—a turnabout from the usual demeaning lyrics of too many male rap tracks. Her self-confident demands for adequate cunnilingus likewise challenge the norms expected of Southern black women.
Megan continues to “put it down” for her hometown with “Sex Talk,” which is carried by a classroom-style desktop beat and snap combo with sensual, dirty Southern slang. The straightforwardly flirtatious song closely mirrors the rhythm of Houston rapper Trae Tha Truth’s flow on Z-ro’s “1 Night.” It’s also a reference to the phone sex operators of the ’90s, a period during which Houston’s rap reputation was growing in prominence.
Tracks “Bring Drank” and “Best You Ever Had” slow the pace of the album with rolling beats buried by flute-like melodies, giving listeners a bit of a break to groove instead of twerk. These songs display a more submissive side of the artist before she reverts to her familiar persona on “Dance”—a play on Juicy’s J’s 2013 club banger “Bandz A Make Her Dance”—and “Hood Rat S—,” which begins with a boy saying “I wanted to do it because it’s fun … I wanted to do hoodrat stuff with my friends.” (The clip is from a 2008 news interview with 8-year-old Latarian Milton, who stole his grandmother’s SUV and crashed it.)
In the run-up to Fever’s release, Megan introduced her fans (“Hotties”) to her party-girl ego “Hot Girl Megan,” while taking pains to empower other female up-and-coming Texas rappers. Cuban Doll and Asian Da Brat (Asian Doll)—both from Dallas—are among those who have been plastered on Stalli’s live streams and Twitter timeline. It’s a sign she’s fully aware of the space her rise is making for those like her, and that she intends to help fill it with other talented “Hotties.”
Keeping with the theme of the album, Megan has also recently posted to her social media feeds images of blaxploitation actor Pam Grier. Grier starred in films like Foxy Brown (1974) and Coffy (1973) during the height of the feminist movement. She’s credited with helping redefine beauty and power standards for black women with her sexy wardrobe, along with an ass-kicking attitude and gun to complete the look.
Much like the blaxploitation movement, Grier, and Houston’s early rap scene, Megan Thee Stallion’s popularity has emerged during the era of #MeToo and controversies surrounding the erosion of women’s reproductive rights. In a city that has been dominated by male rap legends, Megan too is signaling change.