2020 has gotten off to a rocky start for Megan Thee Stallion. Her Birds of Prey collaboration, “Diamonds (with Normani),” failed to make much of an impact, but “B.I.T.C.H.,” her first solo single of the year, was both a strong song and indicator of continued mainstream success. Unfortunately, Meg’s momentum has taken a slight hit due to a burgeoning legal battle between her and 1501 Entertainment concerning the specifics of the 360 deal that she signed with the company when she was first starting out. SUGA was supposed to be Megan’s proper debut album. Instead, it has been rushed out as a 25-minute 9-song EP with just two days’ notice.
Tina Snow was a near-flawless mixtape and Fever (review here) was consistent and packed with hits. SUGA is understandably unfocused, but it still houses several incredible tracks that show off Megan’s versatility, willingness to experiment, and sheer talent. “Ain’t Equal,” introduces the mixtape, and like Tina Snow’s “WTF I Want” and Fever‘s “Realer,” the song is a ruthless banger that sets the tone for the record. Megan addresses losing her grandmother and mother in the same month and the other obstacles she’s overcome unbeknownst to the public. She sounds cool and confident on the track, and the way she lethally delivers “and since the nigga think he made me, tell him do it again” is a standout moment in her career.
“Savage,” “Captain Hook,” and “Rich” are all uptempo tracks that are enjoyable additions to Megan’s discography. Meg doesn’t really say anything she hasn’t said before on these tracks, but they are proof of her improvement in terms of crafting hooks and switching her flows more often. If Fever was focused on showcasing Megan’s star quality, SUGA shows where she can take that star power. This EP has much more interesting production that anything on Tina Snow. “Rich” has a unique blend of funk and dance courtesy of Tommy Brown while The Neptunes add some variety to Megan’s sound with the haunting trap melodies of “Stop Playing” and the gospel-influenced sample that anchors “Crying in the Car.” “Stop Playing,” a collaboration with Gunna, is a welcome change of pace from Megan. She often opts for uptempo high-energy numbers, but on this track, she chooses to adopt the languid melodies of Gunna’s own work for something a little bit different. In that vein, Megan also chooses to sing for the entirety of “Crying in the Car.” Her experimentation should be commended, but the end result is not very appealing. Meg’s singing on “B.I.T.C.H.” and Fever‘s “Best You Ever Had” was pleasant because there was less Auto-Tune and the singing was balanced with bars. On the bright side, lyrically, “Crying in the Car” has some of the best moments of Suga particularly the main hook: “All of them nights that I cried in the car/All them tears turned into ice on my arms/Please don’t give up on me, Lord, Lord.”
“What I Need” includes more of Megan singing, another unwise choice. Megan dips into singing a bit too much on SUGA; it’s simply not what she’s gifted at, and it’s a poor way to close the project. Another underwhelming moment comes by way of “Hit My Phone,” a soulful collaboration with Kehlani that seems to just miss its full potential. SUGA is a solid record. Megan delivered several excellent tracks under immense pressure and less than ideal circumstances and she really proved her fearlessness as an artist on this tape. It’s a shame that she couldn’t flesh out the Suga alter ego/concept more on this mixtape, but this only means that her proper debut album will hit even harder.
Key Tracks: “Ain’t Equal”; “Rich”; “Captain Hook”; “Stop Playing (feat. Gunna)”