Photo Credit: Jamie Nelson
To say that Megan Thee Stallion has been through a lot would be an understatement. In the last four years alone, she’s weathered the death of her mother, being shot (allegedly) by fellow rapper Tory Lanez and suffering an influx of online abuse after the release of her song with Cardi B “WAP.” At the same time, Stallion has been catapulted from relative obscurity to household name status. Having taken on many pseudonyms – Tina Snow and Hot Girl Meg among them – on her second album, Megan deconstructs her relationship with fame – and with herself. The cover of Traumazine, which sees three faces of Megan superimposed together – where her expression ranges from disaffection to primal rage, indicates a multi-faceted self-exploration. Though in the end, the album rarely gets bogged down by the reality of extreme and often messy emotions.
Like with much of Megan’s previous work, there’s something inherently frustrating about much of Traumazine – with her undeniable, boundless talents often stunted by the safe production choices made by her over two dozen behind-the-scenes collaborators. Demonstrative of this is the brittle “Pressurelicious,” which is bogged down by a wholly unnecessary and predictably lackluster Future feature. Elsewhere, Megan’s tendency for sloganeering runs counter to the sensitive messages she is trying to convey (see: “Anxiety’s,” “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday // Bad b*tches have bad days too!”)
For all of the commercially-safe production choices made across Traumazine, it lacks an obvious hit. “Her” seems like it was designed with the specific intention of soundtracking countless TikTok’s and fan cams – and who knows? Maybe its attempt at viral success will work. But it lacks the substance required to make its entire 2-minutes-and-18-seconds truly captivating. On paper, Dua Lipa’s collab “Sweetest Pie” should be a smash hit – and one gets the sense it would have been, had it been released a good few years earlier. But at a time where mainstream pop music is getting more daring and conceptual, it’s simply too flaccid to be a winner – even if it is accompanied by a fantastic music video that’s gotten conservatives whipped up into a “Montero”-style frenzy.
All this said, Traumazine isn’t a bad album – just merely one where Megan’s greatness feels constrained at points – and its best moments, where Megan truly gives up any F’s she had left to give, are glorious. Opener “NDA” has the sort of bite promised by Megan’s album-cover snarl. “I ain’t perfect, but anything I did to any of you n*ggas, y’all deserved it,” she opens. By the chorus, she’s promising to single-handedly “bring real b*tches back” – and you’re inclined to believe her. “Not Nice,” meanwhile, lives up to its title. It is the most direct comeback Megan offers to her haters; “I guess my skin not light enough, my dialect not white enough // Or maybe I’m just not shaped the way to make these niggas give a f*ck.”
Traumazine’s real standout moment is the pre-released single “Plan B.” On it, Megan abandons her pop tendencies, embraces a ’90s hip-hop palette, samples Lil’ Kim, embraces her sexuality with bars aplenty, and refuses to let up for nearly 3 unrelenting minutes. “Who the f*ck you think you talking to?” she opens – instantly establishing her dominance over the song’s subject. Across the following 2 and a half minutes, she eviscerates whoever it is she’s rapping about. “Popping Plan B’s ‘cause I ain’t plan to be stuck with you,” she raps during one of the song’s funniest and most incisive moments. Towards the song’s end, she delivers the album’s most scathing condemnation: “The only accolade you ever made is that I f*cked you.” This is Meghan at her best – unchained, unburdened, and no longer acting on the desires of anyone but herself.
Special incredible woman.