Megan Thee Stallion – ‘Traumazine’ review: the good-time Houston Hottie lashes out

While standing atop the rap world, the pop culture juggernaut reveals a cocky yet reflective version of herself with the follow-up to 2020's 'Good News'

In the past two years, you couldn’t escape Houston’s hot girl coach, Megan Thee Stallion. Between being the soundtrack to numerous dance trends, speaking up for women’s (especially Black women’s) rights and headlining the Other stage at this year’s Glastonbury, the 27-year-old has been on everyone’s lips. She has even got a few Billboard Number Ones and some awards under her belt, with her most coveted being three gongs from at the 63rd Grammys.

‘Traumazine’ follows ‘Good News’, the rapper’s 2020 record, which came after her highly publicised shooting and salacious, top-selling Cardi B team-up ‘WAP’. Both drew heinous attention and public commentary to the star and ‘Good News’ saw her shake off those narratives with a bubbly debut full of wheezy synths and charged-up 808s that could take you to a Houston club no matter where you were in the world. But ‘Traumazine’, with its contrast of moody, gangstalicious rap beats and floaty pop tunes, finds Megan using the music to send messages rather than just make cocksure rap songs.

Credit: Andy Ford for NME

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With opener ‘NDA’, she gives us ballsy lyricism as she calls out all her haters and owns her imperfections: “I ain’t perfect, but anything I did to any of you n****s, y’all deserved it”. ‘Not Nice’ is also compelling in its contradiction of the ‘nice’ Megan we’ve seen and read about all these years. Yes: it’s one thing to be cheeky and boast about being the best, as that is rap in a nutshell, but the Houston Hottie goes for the jugular on this track: “You a broke bitch / Your pockets been a joke, bitch / You ain’t worth the crack your momma used to smoke, bitch”.

You have to commend this ruthlessness after the few years Megan has gone through. Here she lets it be known that she’s only for those who are for her – with anyone else, she’ll be callously cutthroat. This good girl has been corrupted.

But just because Megan sees the world differently doesn’t mean she’s not still delivering sexy snippets of self-confidence. ‘Her’, for example, is a buoyant electronic track. With house music creeping back into the mainstream via predominantly Black rap stars (and, obviously, Beyoncé’s iconic ‘Renaissance’), the tune adds to the trend of jubilant, joyous tracks starting the revolution. Yet it’s Megan’s braggadocio that makes this one a femme anthem. Her earworm of a hook, where the Houston rapper pants her pronouns for us (“I’m her… / She… / Take a pic, it’s me… / Tell your friends, I’m her…”), feels like it’s for her kweens out there – maybe Megan learnt a thing or two being a main judge on the HBO Max ballroom competition Legendary in her time since ‘Good News’.

‘Anxiety’ is feel-good in its own way, too, though not in the typical manner whereby the instrumental or lyrics make you feel so confident you can conquer the world. Instead, this is a frank tune where Megan mixes a little bit of wit with her honesty to make you feel better about your own problems. Remember: celebrities are humans too. With pop culture so obsessed with influence equating to happiness, blurring the lines between the human and heroism, Megan’s here to remind you that you can be “a bad bitch” and have “bad anxiety”. And if you ever have a problem with anxiety, Megan has created an effective mantra for you: “All I really wanna hear is, ‘It’ll be OK’ / Bounce back ’cause a bad bitch can have bad days”.

‘Traumazine’ boasts a collection of baller features on it, too: Megan teams up with NME’s favourite “pop-punk princess” Rico Nasty for the fittingly titled ‘Scary’, while Jhene Aiko’s angelic vocals turn ‘Consistency’ into an ethereal sex anthem. ‘Ungrateful’, meanwhile, with Memphis great Key Glock, proves Meg can hang out with the tough guys too. But the soulful ‘Star’, featuring Grammy-nominated crooner Lucky Daye, represents the furthest point from the hot girl shit we might expect from Megan. In all honesty, the track still feels rough, but the element of surprise, as well as Megan’s singing voice, points to her versatility.

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Megan Thee Stalllion
Credit: Andy Ford for NME

This latest album is backloaded with singles (the confrontational ‘Plan B’, the Future-featuring ‘Pressurelicious’), plus ‘Southside Royality Freestyle’, where Megan kicks it back to her past and gets in a cypher with those she deems the crème de la crème of Southern hip-hop: Sauce Walka, Big Pokey and Lil’ Keke. Megan’s freestyling always sounds fresh, raw and tantalising and, after six years, it’s great to see that those skills still haven’t left the hot girl coach.

After ‘Traumazine’’s 18 tracks, there should be only one feeling coursing through your body: utter elation. The album features more deep cuts than you’d expect from a Megan Thee Stallion record, but it shows just how she’s pushed her pen since ‘Good News’, while also illustrating her broad musicality. Although Megan Thee Stallion is only just settling into her throne as one of hip-hop’s elite, she’ll clearly leave a lasting impression on rap music forever.

Details

Release date: August 12

Record label: 300 Entertainment/1501 Certified

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