Photo: Getty
  /  08.24.2022

Megan Thee Stallion is the rare rapper whose name evokes an entire lifestyle.

The Houston native coined the phrase “Hot Girl Summer” and with her sharp raps and fearless sexuality, she’s cultivated a legion of fans, countless endorsement deals and status as an international symbol. But there’s much more to her story, and she exists outside the abstraction of Hot Girl Meg. In the real world, being an aspirational ideal doesn’t protect you from bullets or people looking for reasons to doubt you. It doesn’t save you from post-traumatic stress disorder. It won’t remove you from a culture that refuses to respect Black women.

On her latest album, Traumazine, Meg addresses all of those issues, and they’re some of her most powerful moments, even though they don’t surface as often as the LP’s title would suggest. Checking in at 18 tracks, the album is an appealing mix that oscillates between raunchy sex raps, vengeful put-downs and some tense self-reflection. Meg kicks things off with the searing “NDA,” a track that seethes with rage and pristine pettiness, a through line for a project that deals with themes of betrayal, mental health and, of course, a lot of sex.

Having first made her name off of viral freestyles, it’s no surprise that Meg’s dexterous flows remain intact. That, along with her improved songwriting dynamism, enable her to lace everything from ominous trap to luminous pop. She sounds as at home next to Pooh Shiesty (“Who Me”) as she does alongside Dua Lipa (“Sweetest Pie”) or Sauce Walka (“Southside Royalty Freestyle”), threading disparate genres with braggadocious bars that range from searing to playful. She sandwiches them with memorable hooks and style.

Traumazine’s got slaps of all types. With its house beat and a simple yet symbolic hook, “Her” is probably the best song on the album. For the track, Meg leans into her status as a Hot Girl MVP, serving up emphatic dismissals over a beat designed for a rave playlist. “All you h**s know who the f**k I am/From your boyfriend down to my Instagram/To all them busted-a** h**s that you kiki with/I bet your jaw drop if you ever see me, b**ch.”

While Traumazine is filled with dance floor thrills, steamy sex talk and Tina Snow flexing, there are spurts of self-analysis and social commentary, too. When she’s not G-checking haters on “Not Nice,” she’s criticizing a culture that dismisses Black women and their humanity, dishing out a message of body positivity and anti-colorism. On “Flip Flop,” she speaks on disloyal friends and the loss of her parents. For “Anxiety,” Meg addresses sexist double standards and her own mental hygiene. “They keep telling me I should get help, but I don’t even know what I need/They keep saying, ‘Speak your truth,’ and at the same time say they don’t believe,” she raps.

The tracks offer moments of poignancy, but they’re all too brief. The on-the-nose songwriting makes them feel more like talking points than the thematic backbone of an album. Despite the implication of its titleTraumazine is pretty much your standard Megan programming, and her moments of introspection can feel like commercial breaks. Of course, Meg doesn’t owe anyone an actual deep-dive into her psyche, and she’s free to write what she wants, but it’s clear she can still become more complete as a scribe. 

Meg sometimes gets stifled by generic get-money aphorisms and unimaginative flexes. At times, she can also be a little too literal and as a result, the hooks spill out clumsily, eclipsing charm with awkward crassness (“Consistency” with Jhené Aiko). Everyone loves a good sex punchline, but with bars like, “Lickin’ my crack, gotta call that boy a crackhead,” it’s clear a line needs to be drawn. 

Traumazine might not be exactly what its title suggests, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good album. Life is hard, and sometimes, the dance floor can be the best therapy. Powered by a dynamic production, Meg’s athletic flows and irrepressible charisma, Traumazine is a pretty damn good soundtrack. 

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