Each One, Teach One I How Megan Thee Stallion's "Hot Girl Summer" has influenced the culture

  /  07.24.2019

As KRS-One articulated throughout his catalog and in his many teachings, “Rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.” As the culture continues to evolve today, many feel it’s not only important, but vital to preserve and honor the fundamental elements: Graffiti, emceeing, breakdancing, deejaying and knowledge. This column called “Each One, Teach One” aims to do exactly that. It will highlight various lessons that can be passed between new and old generations alike.

When Twitter user @oddiebabi96 pointed out that Megan Thee Stallion must be tired from having to give out a new meaning to explain what a “hot girl” is every single day, the fast-rising rapper felt that.

At this point and since its conception, the magical phrase, “Hot Girl Summer” has been blessed by the algorithm in terms of visibility and popularity and has also found its way embedded into the fabric of our mainstream pop culture. It almost doesn’t even make sense to tailor these next couple of paragraphs to inform the uninitiated or unaware; but for the sake of being thorough and providing context, here goes.

Megan Thee Stallion is an emerging 24-year-old rapper from Houston, Texas who is not only very talented and deserving of all the successes coming her way but is also an undeniable breath of fresh air when it comes to representing women in hip hop. She released her first full-length album Fever back in May, where she authoritatively declares herself as “thee hot girl” right on the project’s artwork itself. The fitting descriptor stems from her nicknames, “H-Town Hottie and “Hot Girl Meg,” which also have served as a springboard inspiration for knighting her burgeoning fanbase as the “hotties.” The concept continued to have legs as one of the album’s standout cuts, “Cash Shit,” included the opening mood-setting disclaimer: “real hot girl shit.”

From there, the buzz-worthy energy behind the “hot girl” key words made its way onto social media and went on to experience viral acclaim. Twitter user @sweetliketeaaa helped catapult the phrase’s transition into a ripening meme, posting a series of photos of herself with the caption, “I heard it’s a hot girl summer.” Like wildfire, the internet caught on instantly and began posting similar sentiments, until eventually it even appeared on social media accounts for large corporations such as Wendy’s, Forever 21, Maybelline and even Duolingo.

In other words, the staying power of those three words is what a marketing professional’s dreams are made of. “Hot Girl Summer” is simple but still ambiguous enough to get people talking, and in this case, even arguing on Twitter about what it even means in the first place, therefore fueling the movement even further. It makes an impact on a multitude of levels, from empowering those on an individual scale who find it to be a necessary confidence boost in something as straightforward as an Instagram caption to helping mainstream brands feel connected to a critical cultural moment, one that is rooted in rap and individuality no less. As pointed out by NPR’s Sidney Madden, “Hot Girl Summer” has since gone on to evolve into more of a lifestyle and a manifesto than it is solely a meme. And above all, when utilized correctly, it introduces a new audience to its creator, helping propel Megan Thee Stallion’s career and notoriety to new heights.

Judging from a rudimentary Twitter search, Megan herself first used the phrase in April 2018, an early indication of how she’s been taking ownership of her artistry and career since before the spotlight was shining on her like it is now. However, now that it is undeniably a “Hot Girl Summer” and brands have begun capitalizing off the cultural trend, Megan is also taking action to both protect and monetize the catchphrase. As reported by Billboard, she is currently in the process of working to trademark “Hot Girl Summer,” a similar motion that Cardi B attempted with “Okurrr.” If approved, the trademark filing will cover merchandise specifically for products such as hoodies, T-shirts and sportswear.

Unfortunately, as Cardi learned firsthand, it is ultimately up to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), who ended up denying her recent motion to trademark the lucrative phrase; the phrase that has become synonymous with her personal brand and was featured in her monumental Pepsi commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. The USPTO refused the Bronx rapper and entertainer’s application back in May, citing that the word “okurrr” is “a commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources that merely conveys an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized concept or sentiment,” while also noting that the expression is “commonly used in the drag community and by celebrities” and therefore consumers would not “perceive it as a mark identifying the source of applicant’s goods and/or services but rather as only conveying an informational message.”

Although the two trademark applications are not identical by any means and a verdict has not yet been determined in Megan’s trademark filing, both showcase how women of color indisputably drive culture forward and exert a powerful influence on marketing as a result. To say the least, these women deserve not only to be credited but also deserve to be properly compensated for their cultural contributions. Like many cultural trends that originate with Black women, many brands and companies capitalize off the marketing and advertorial momentum behind these movements, profiting in ways that the original creators are unable to themselves.

As brands like Spotify aim to positively highlight “Hot Girl Summer” in an authentic way such as by giving Megan (and Future, because ugh but sure) her own official branded playlist, others such as Forever 21 have faced backlash for lazily and haphazardly appropriating the phrase. An email blast sent in mid-July utilized “Hot Girl Summa” in its subject line, prompting fans to urge Megan on Twitter to file a trademark as soon as possible in response.

While truly taking ownership can prove to be more difficult in practice than in theory, Megan Thee Stallion is pushing forward and handling her business accordingly, even planning to release a “Hot Girl Summer” anthem before the summer is out because “it’s only right.” As the catchphrase continues to trickle into every facet of culture and, in the words of Lil Nas X, “ride ’til it can’t no more,” Megan continues to embody the uplifting mantra, explaining how it is an inclusive, gender-neutral term that can be enjoyed by all, even those who are choosing to use it ironically or subversively.

In bonafide hot girl fashion, Meg excitedly gave her own interpretation during an interview with The Root, saying, “It’s just basically about women — and men — just being unapologetically them, just having a good-ass time, hyping up your friends, doing you, not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it. You definitely have to be a person that can be the life of the party, and, y’know, a bad bitch.”

After all, liberation comes in unapologetically speaking truth to power, and when it comes to “Hot Girl Summer,” that mindset is all that’s needed. The rest doesn’t matter. Thank you, Megan Thee Stallion, I’m still not sure we deserve you.

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