The 2019 breakout year of Megan Thee Stallion introduced hip-hop’s latest star with a promising career ahead of her. Without an actual debut album to her name, she set the industry ablaze with her bossed up promiscuous lyrics that celebrated sexual liberation and broke gender stereotypes. Everything about 2020 was set up to be her official year. With a debut album set to release, all signs pointed to the Hot Girl Summer extending into the new decade. Label issues, however, have prevented this from happening as imminently as many hoped for. Meg filed a lawsuit against her label last week after claiming they were holding her back from releasing new music. Even as contractual disputes persist, a judge granted Meg a TRO against her label to prevent them from stopping her from dropping new music. This resulted in the release of SUGA — Meg’s latest body of work which was rushed out onto streaming services while Carl Crawford attempted to go to grave lengths to stop this from happening. But in a year that was equally trying and triumphant, SUGA is an assertion of Meg’s boss status as a rapper and a cultural figure who continues to set herself apart from the pack of rappers, both male and female, that are emerging at a rapid pace.
Megan Thee Stallion, as an entertainer and personality, has continued to exude radiant charisma and confidence on her social media platforms, performances, and general appearances, even as she maintains a strong sense of humility. But SUGA is the introduction to a new personality — one that she’s described as a “sensitive gangsta” that highlights the imperfections of the everyday soul. “Social media got everybody striving for perfection and I’m not gon’ lie – I’m not perfect. I didn’t say I was,” she explained on Power 106 Los Angeles in late January. “I got a whole bunch of stuff going on every day. I’m going through it, but I’m getting through it. So, that’s where Suga is coming from.”
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“Ain’t Equal,” the first song on the project, is a declaration of her continuous reign, reflecting back on the losses of the past year and the moments of triumph she’s basked in. “Aye, I lost my mommy and my granny in the same month/ A bunch of bitches hatin’ ‘cause I’m comin’ up,” she viciously raps over Helluva’s icy production with a flow as sturdy as her knees. “Okay, let’s talk about it, no petty shit/ Let’s keep that shit a bill/ It’s a difference in the bitch who rap and the bitch who rap for real,” she continues as she applies pressure on the necks of doubters, naysayers, and imitators who’ve downplayed her success. But the pettiness of Instagram comments aside, there are still moments where she strikes back at the very label executive she’s in the midst of a legal battle against. “Bitch, I been poppin’, doin’ numbers, been lit/ And since the n***a think he made me, tell him do it again.”
The aggressiveness doesn’t necessarily carry on throughout the project at the same level of intensity. “Savage,” for instance, has Megan declaring herself the “Hood Mona Lisa” effortlessly over deep house-like chords while “Captain Hook” is the quintessential sex-posi banger that’s already inspired a new viral challenge. Showered with co-signs over the past year, the major name feature still wasn’t needed on Suga. Even with the collaborations on the project, Meg’s still driving the boat. The Kehlani-assisted “Hit My Phone” digs deeper into Meg’s R&B influences with tinges of funk and soul as she finds a pocket of G-Funk that will likely find itself on every major Spotify playlist. Even the Gunna-assisted and Neptunes-produced “Playing With Me” turns her auto-tuned melodies into a deeper foray into the world of pop music without losing her edge.
Suga is surely a project to hold fans over until the smoke settles and she’s ready to release her official debut album. Meg is overall a star that’s just beginning to fulfill her potential. Fever became a glimpse of her greatness but it’s Suga that proves that she’s just beginning to unlock her full potential. Meg proves that the momentum from “Hot Girl Summer” hasn’t died down. However, with her ongoing label dispute, the short nine-track project might only be able to buy her a certain amount of time until fans grow impatient for her formal debut album.