2020 is Megan Thee Stallion’s year. At only 25, the Texas-bred rapper has led a new wave of rappers that take female empowerment to new highs. Laced with that Dirty South twang and clever wordplay rife with innuendos, Megan’s career has seen a straight line upward from unsigned darling to major-label player, all while balancing her life as a college student. A year on from her explosive major-label debut Fever and eight months after her EP Suga, Megan has already carefully curated a sound and niche that make her debut album Good News feel anything but rushed. However, with such a strong body of work, it also can’t help but feel a bit too safe for this boundary-pusher.
Megan is no stranger to headlines, with over 17 million Instagram followers watching her every move and tabloids analyzing every friendship she has. The traumatic July 15 shooting that left Megan with gunshot wounds and an onslaught of memes and accusations of her lying eventually led to her revealing the alleged perpetrator: fellow rapper and friend Tory Lanez. Lanez denied all involvement in the shooting, going so far as to release an entire album addressing the incident. Megan used this situation to craft a larger discussion about Black women not being believed, shifting the narrative into one of empowerment.
On Good News, the scathing opening track “Shots Fired” uses the same sample used by Biggie Smalls on his Tupac diss “Who Shot Ya?” Utilizing this apt sample, Megan does not shy away from detail, taking diss tracks to a new level like an annotated thesis. She refutes all of Lanez’s claims made on his album Daystar, such as how she was able to recover quickly from being shot in the foot with the line “You shot a 5’10” bitch with a .22 / Talkin’ ‘bout bones and tendons like them bullets wasn’t pellets,” which takes jabs at both Lanez’s size and the small caliber of his firearm. She doesn’t reference the incident again in the album, letting her last say on the matter sit conveniently as the first track for any naysayers to hear.
The rest of the album is what we’ve come to expect from Megan: quick-witted bars, hilarious and sexy innuendos, and a magnetic confidence that is seen, heard and felt in each track. In such a short amount of time, Megan has already carved the perfect persona for herself that still allows her to explore and experiment without it feeling disingenuous. “Don’t Rock Me To Sleep” is an obvious synthwave homage similar to Jessie Ware and The Weeknd, and is one of the few instances in her catalog where her singing does not take a backseat to her rapping. Similarly, Juicy J-produced “Outside” showcases Megan’s tougher take on pop, which sounds a lot more comfortable for her. “I ain’t for the streets, ‘cause bitch I am the street” is such a simple yet powerful line that encapsulates her personality incredibly well. The clever sample of R&B staple “Something in My Heart” by Michel’le is also a possible nod to the track originator’s own tragic story of domestic abuse and violence at the hands of her ex-husband Dr. Dre, drawing subtle parallels of shared trauma and the kinship that results from it.
Good News also leans heavily into hip-hop nostalgia, sampling everyone from Naughty by Nature to Webbie. For the most part, it works and is subtle enough to sound like an accent, rather than a crutch. “Freaky Girls” featuring SZA is a club staple in the making, perfect for a girls night out (as soon as we can get back outside) with a perfectly appropriate sample of Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me.”
On the contrary, “Go Crazy” has all the elements of a sleeper hit, with a coveted Jackson 5 sample and an infectious hook, but falls flat with a lackluster Big Sean feature, killing the vibe that 2 Chainz and Megan try to hoist back up. It’s conveniently nestled in the latter half of the album, which is where Good News’ weakness is revealed. All the experimental pop tracks, previously released singles like the Grammy-nominated, Beyonce-treated “Savage (Remix),” and less realized songs are situated later on in the album to avoid dwindling attention spans. Clocking in at 49 minutes, Good News still doesn’t feel like a labor to sit through despite the second half feeling like an afterthought; compared to Suga, released earlier this year, it has far more replayability. Even the sheer amount of features don’t weigh Megan down as she holds her own with her appropriately chosen trackmates. However, the pacing could’ve been improved with some shuffling, like putting the PC music-inspired “Don’t Stop” closer to the beginning of the album, despite it being one of the more overlooked released singles.
The most glaring issue of the album is its obvious attempt at capitalizing on TikTok trends, with tracks full of 30-second snippets and zingers waiting for the next viral dance (already being done with the “Body” challenge). Compared to Fever, the 2019 mixtape that many fans view as Megan’s first full-length, Good News provides a good balance of elements older fans will enjoy with an accessibility for a new audience. It’s also a testament to her longevity as an artist, releasing carefully crafted projects with complete visions behind them instead of capitalizing on a small viral moment. However, Good News does not feel nearly as authentic as previous releases, speaking to a larger issue of how our changing media consumption, internet habits and a global pandemic have impacted our music.
For a proper debut album, Good News does everything right and then some. It provides new facets of Megan not seen before, from synth-pop jams to sharp-tongued diss tracks, and features a wide range of featured artists who bounce effortlessly off Megan’s swagger. The crisp production makes this feel like a well-thought-out and intentional release, rather than a rushed cash-grab. However, it’s this poise that makes Good News exactly that: good. When held up to past releases like Tina Snow and Fever, Megan’s larger-than-life personality over the Dirty South production she is most familiar with is not showcased to its full potential. It feels stifled in the confines of debut album niceties. One thing is for certain, though: As soon as this pandemic is over, this album will be rightfully inescapable.
Jade Gomez is a New Jersey-based freelance writer, dog mom, Southern rap aficionado and compound sentence enthusiast. Feel free to shout into the void or follow her on Twitter.