Any and all good news is welcome in 2020, especially if it’s from Megan Thee Stallion. The Houston rapper exploded onto the scene with “Big Ole Freak” from her Tina Snow mixtape and “Cash Shit” from her excellent Fever mixtape. She brought her inaugural Hot Girl Summer to a close with the Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign collaboration of the same name, but she was truly just getting started. Megan exudes steadfast confidence and a demeanor of determined fun and light; her relentless positivity shines through the way she attacks a rap and crafts a hit record. 2020 was just further proof of this fact. She collaborated with Normani on “Diamonds” for the Birds of Prey soundtrack, dropped two bombastic standalone singles called “Girls In The Hood” and “Don’t Stop,” and released her SUGA EP. It was this EP that birthed “Captain Hook,” “B.I.T.C.H.,” and, of course, “Savage.” After initially going viral on TikTok, “Savage” received a remix from Queen Bey herself thus helping the song become Megan’s first #1 single. Oh, and Megan hit #1 again just a few months later with “WAP,” her powerhouse collaboration with Cardi B. All this is to say that although Megan has only been visible in the mainstream for about two years, it feels like we’ve known her for much longer. Her debut album, Good News, is a celebration of her success so far, an attempt to display her versatility, and, above all, a conscious choice to end her year on a positive note in the face of all the tragedy and drama that has tried to consume her during her rise to the top.
In the era of retail mixtapes and female rappers becoming the new pop stars, mixtapes start to feel like albums. For some, Good News is Megan’s fourth album, but she is labeling it her first, so that’s how it should be considered. Realistically, it’s also being marketed more like an album than Suga, Fever, or Tina Snow, so let’s not play dumb. Buoyed by guest appearances from DaBaby, Popcaan, SZA, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Lil Durk, Beyoncé, Mustard, and City Girls, Good News is a sprawling collection of tracks that reaffirm Megan’s specific brand of self-sufficiency, sexual liberation, independence, and good ole fashioned fun. At 17 tracks, the record definitely overstays its welcome a bit, but with songs as infectious as these, it’s hard to complain.
The most powerful moment on Good News comes courtesy of its explosive opening track, but not for the reason many may think. Megan is no stranger to samples. This year, two of her best tracks pre-Good News were songs that defined and reconfigured the misogyny of the era in which the songs they sampled came from. On “B.I.T.C.H..” she sampled Tupac’s “Rather Be Ya Nigga” and on “Girls In The Hood,” she sampled Eazy-E’s “Boyz-n-the-Hood.” For Good News‘ opener, the aptly-titled “Shots Fired,” she opts for a sample of Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya.” In a genre like hip-hop, which was built on sampling, the practice takes on a lot more weight. When you sample a record, you are not just transforming the melody or lyrics into something new, you are specifically invoking the history (musical, social, political, etc.) of that record. “Who Shot Ya” was Biggie’s teasing response to suspicions that he was behind the November 1994 New York robbery that resulted in Tupac being shot. With “Shots Fired,” Megan flips the sample into less of a tease and more of a direct address to the rumors and misinformation Tory Lanez and his associates have been sowing in the media following his shooting of Megan this summer. “Shots Fired” is an extremely effective opener for a host of reasons. The unmistakable New York-ness of the sample begins Megan’s sonic journey throughout the country’s various rap regions, she’s delivering some of her hardest bars and some of her best rapping ever, and she’s showing off her versatility in terms of what kinds of beats she can rap over. From “And if it weren’t for me, same week, you would have been indicted/You offered M’s not to talk, I guess that made my friend excited” to “Talkin’ ’bout bones and tendons like them bullets wasn’t pellets/A pussy nigga with a pussy gun in his feelings,” Meg minces no words in her complete takedown of Tory’s fraudulent narrative. The most beautiful part of “Shots Fired,” however, is that it is the only song on the album that is concerned with this drama. In fact, Megan only devotes one verse of the song to explicitly addressing the drama before moving on to stepping on her general naysayers and living her best life on the album’s later tracks. Like the album’s title denotes, Meg makes it a point to not dwell on the darkness of this year; she’s here to bring a jubilant and defiant optimism to herself and her fans.
Sandwiched between “Shots Fired” and three pseudo-bonus tracks (“Savage (Remix),” “Girls In The Hood,” and “Don’t Stop”) are 13 high-energy tracks that deliver almost exactly what you would expect from Megan, which is both a good thing and bad thing. “Circles” features a sublime sample of Jazmine Sullivan’s “Holding You Down” and sees Megan working through a dysfunctional relationship and ultimately relying on her unfazed attitude and self-assuredness to make it out of the mess even stronger than she was before. The final two lines of the hook, “Turn up on ’em, make ’em kill the noise/We ain’t goin’ back and forth with the lil’ boys,” are, perhaps, the crux of Good News and Megan’s brand — she refuses to waste her time entertaining foolishness when she could be turning up instead. Although Megan has had a killer run of collaborations leading up to Good News (Beyoncé, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, DaBaby, Phony Ppl, Chance the Rapper, Yo Gotti, Young Dolph, etc.), the solo tracks on this album are where she shines the brightest. “Sugar Baby,” particularly the end of the second verse where she expertly exposes men for doing the same things that they try to clown women for doing, and “What’s New,” an absolute banger with her signature freestyle feel, are the clearest standouts on the album. “Work That,” however, isn’t a particularly memorable song at all. For its 2:15 runtime, it’s nice to bop along too, but it definitely could have been left off the album and it wouldn’t have been missed. This is the biggest point of tension on Good News; none of these songs are bad, but with 17 tracks that are mostly about the same thing, it can start to feel quite tedious.
Of the album’s star-studded collaborations, most of them work well. As expected, “Do It On The Tip” is a killer track that is just as nasty as it is fun. Both JT and Yung Miami deliver on their verses, and Meg brings the heat as well. Two back to back collaborations, the Lil Durk-assisted “Movie” and the SZA-featuring “Freaky Girls,” are also standouts. Most people probably would not have expected Megan and Durk to have the most chemistry out of all of the guest artists on the album, but the two rappers really move as a unit on “Movie.” Their chemistry is exacerbated by the song’s structure: Megan raps from the perspective of a female dancer at a strip club while Durk plays the hypeman of sorts; when they go back and forth on the hook, the song really hits its stride and proves itself to be one of Megan’s strongest collaborations ever. The dark trap feel of the record offers a nice contrast to the bouncy West Coast vibes of “Freaky Girls,” a party-ready anthem that is anchored by SZA’s soaring hook. “Intercourse,” assisted by Popcaan and Mustard, is another solid collaboration. The shiny pop sheen of Mustard’s production mixed with the dancehall foundation that Popcaan provides makes for one hell of an instrumental. The best part of the song is Megan’s smart and conscious decision to not rap in a poor imitation of Patois like too many American rappers tend to do. On “Go Crazy,” Megan links up with Big Sean and 2 Chainz on a track that samples “ABC” by The Jackson 5. “Go Crazy” is simply too busy for its own good. It’s very clearly evident that 2 Chainz was a last-minute addition because his verse is noticeably shorter and just feels tossed on the track whereas Sean and Meg’s verses are at least in conversation with each other.
And then there was “Cry Baby.” DaBaby and Megan Thee Stallion made an instant modern rap classic with “Cash Shit” last year and their collaborations should have ended there. DaBaby has been making some of the worst music of his career this year, and, now that the duo is on their third collaboration, it is clear that “Cash Shit” was a special case. They reunited earlier this year on “Nasty,” a track that was barely held together by Megan’s verse and Ashanti’s hook. “Cry Baby” wastes more than half of its length, and a genuinely good instrumental, on a throwaway verse from DaBaby. There are simply too many rappers in the world for Megan to be giving up prime space on her debut album to a rapper that has proved that he will not deliver more often than he has proved that he will. “Cry Baby” would have worked much better as a solo track. Good News also features two tracks that have been some of the most polarizing of Meg’s career so far: “Body” and “Don’t Rock Me To Sleep.” The former is Megan’s latest single and with fire verses and an even hotter video, it’s sure to be her next smash hit. Nonetheless, it’s the bounce-inflected “Body-ody-ody” hook that’s getting mixed reviews. Ultimately, the hook will always be a love it or hate it thing. For some people, the hook will register as anthemic and fun. For others, the hook will be grating and annoying. It is what it is; the song, as a whole, bangs. The latter is Megan’s most obvious attempt at a pop song as it is entirely sung. Some of Megan’s biggest songs feature her singing: she sings the hook of “Big Ole Freak,” she sings in the intro and background of “B.I.T.C.H.,” and she sings on parts of “Hot Girl Summer.” “Best You Ever Hard,” from Fever, also features quite a bit of her singing. “Don’t Rock Me To Sleep” was immediately dragged by social media, not because it’s actually that bad, but because people still react weirdly and immaturely to rappers attempting full-fledged pop music, especially when they’re a woman. This isn’t to say that “Don’t Rock Me To Sleep” is perfect, it absolutely is not, but the vision is there. With an 80s synthpop influence, the song is right in line with Top 40’s most popular trend, Megan just needs to work with pop songwriters to craft better hooks because “Blah blah blah, la la la” is simply not going to cut it.
Good News is exactly that, it’s good news! Megan has put together a thoroughly enjoyable album that offers a much-needed reprieve from the doom and gloom of 2020. The album runs a little long and the subject matter gets a bit redundant, but neither of those things are deal breakers for Good News. However, the record definitely could have been improved by scrapping a few tracks (starting with the last two bonus tracks, but, alas, this is a numbers game after all) and tightening the tracklist. Good News does exactly what a debut album should do; the record tells us exactly what Megan is about, gives solid examples of her versatility, and offers consistently great rapping for almost an hour. Good News only feels disappointing because, if you were paying attention over the past two years, you already got all this from Meg on Tina Snow and Fever, and Good News doesn’t offer much that’s new. With that being said, Good News was likely made for the hundreds of millions of people tuning into Megan after being introduced to her through “Savage” and “WAP.” Through this lens, Good News does its job and exceeds expectations. This record reminds us of something that we all know, Megan has an incredible amount of potential that will help her sustain a lengthy and successful career.
Key Tracks: “Shots Fired” | “What’s New” | “Movie” | “Circles” | “Do It On The Tip”