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Music

Megan Thee Stallion Was Made for This

Story by Kiana Fitzgerald / Photography by Arturo Evaristo / Styling by Sarah Toshiko West

It's late July, and I'm stalking Megan Thee Stallion's Instagram and Twitter accounts. I feel like a fucking creep, but we're supposed to be meeting at the 300 label offices in Manhattan; Megan's canceled flight out of North Carolina foils those plans. Instead, I watch her pass the time in the airport with her team before eventually getting on an evening flight. For the next six days, I watch her social profiles as she bounces from the East Coast to the West Coast, back to the East Coast then right back to the West Coast. In Miami, she's meeting with superproducer DJ Khaled; in San Francisco, she's performing for her Cali "Hotties," the nickname she's given members of her fast-growing fan base.

While Megan flits across the country, I'm locked into email and text threads, where additional arrangements to meet in person break down. Megan has a schedule to keep — a missed flight is unfortunate, but she can't hustle backwards. She has collaborations to secretly record, relationships to nurture, shows to act up at (and pop up at, like Drake's OVO Fest), and most of all, new friends to make, as she promotes her "Drive the Boat" agenda, which sees her pouring alcohol directly into the mouths of her industry peers, like SZA, Trina, Lizzo, and Kamaiyah (others like Kehlani, Wiz Khalifa, and Diplo have elected to take their own shots alongside her).

When Megan's publicist finally locks in a time for our call, I'm not surprised that it's for that exact moment. She connects us, one week after our previously scheduled meeting, and Megan greets me with her sopping Southern drawl. She informs me that she's at a video shoot in L.A. "I don't want to get too much into details, because it's not mine," she says in a friendly voice, with a hint of caution.

Suit: Sarah Toshiko West

I ask her what she's been up to over the past week. "Just writing and doing shows all over the place," she says. "It's hectic, like usual."

As much power as the word "hectic" holds, it doesn't sufficiently capture the kind of lifestyle Megan is now balancing. In less than a year, the 24-year-old Houston rapper and Texas Southern University student has gone from local fave kicking viral cypher freestyles on rooftops, to performing at jam-packed solo shows in Europe. "I'm like, '[The fans] aren't going to know the words,'" she recalls thinking ahead of her overseas shows. "They was in there, word for word. It was amazing. Finland — I have Hotties in Finland! It blows my mind every time I go somewhere new and they're so turnt up. I just love it."

Top: Venus Prototype

Megan Thee Stallion's quick rise from newcomer to top dog in hip-hop was expedited by a concoction of planning and prowess: instead of dropping it in January, like she originally announced, Megan released her stellar third mixtape Fever on May 17, mere weeks before the summer solstice, and christened the months of June, July, and August as Hot Girl Summer. "Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU," Megan explained on Twitter on July 17. "Having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc."

After its conceptual introduction, Hot Girl Summer quickly grew legs and sprawled over into Hot Boy Summer, setting off a playful war of the genders on social media and IRL. (It should be noted that the term Hot Girl Summer is non-gendered.) "I don't know what made it a competition," Megan says, laughing. "It was the stupid boys. It just turned into a whole big ol' thing. Now if it was a competition, I would definitely say that the Hot Girls have been in the lead. The Hot Boys is acting up... they showing some very ratchet behavior that has not been that cute. They talking about they wins and they doing grimy stuff. I'm like, 'No baby, that's not how you get points.'"

Megan is a walking Swiss Army knife of entertainment. Her Instagram follower count is 3.7 million and counting, and her Twitter posts frequently take off, receiving likes and retweets in the hundreds of thousands. Her livestreams inspire myriad memes and reaction photos, and her freestyles have become just as well known as homemade videos of her twerking on stage at her concerts.

A recent clip, which made the rounds on pretty much every social platform there is, features Megan rapping to "Freak Nasty," a standout album cut from her 2018 project Tina Snow. Wearing a lime green cropped hoodie and matching, ass-out chaps and heels, she sinks down into a squatting position and proceeds to twerk expertly for 15 seconds straight, a feat that any woman — or man — can tell you isn't easy to pull off. In the background of the video, you can hear the crowd screaming in delight like they do in every city she performs in; meanwhile, her fans online zeroed in on a particular body part.

"They keep asking me about my knees," she says, cracking up. "I be like: 'Well you know, just drinking a lot of water...'" I cut her off right there. "Is that really the secret to the knees?" I ask. "I don't know how that's going to work for everybody else, but it works for me," she responds, without a hint of sarcasm. "Drink a lot of water. Drink some orange juice. Eat your vegetables. Drive a boat."

In other words, this shit comes naturally to Megan. She prides herself on her long-standing commitment to fitness, and her unaltered body, which has in some ways become just as much a part of her brand as her voice. When she explores mixed martial arts with fellow gym rat Wiz Khalifa, we collectively marvel, as a video he posted to Instagram shows the pair doing on June 11; when she twerks on Teyana Taylor on June 25 while a cheesy Trey Songz awkwardly gawks in the background, we pant together.

Everybody wants a piece of Thee Stallion.

While every famous woman, living or dead, is subject to speculation and commentary on her body, debates about Megan's have sprouted up on social media with even more regularity than most: for example, one side defends handsy fans of Megan, who grab at her while she's performing; the other side says they should keep their hands to themselves. I ask Megan if she minds the attention she receives, and she sounds unperturbed. "It doesn't bother me," she explains. "The only time it probably would bother me a little bit is if the venue is too crowded. They all trying to touch me at one time, now they're getting into it, you know what I'm saying? Stuff like that, but no. Let's have a good time."

Suit: Sarah Toshiko West

A good time in the Hot Girl Universe is objectification of the highest order. "Real fuckin' hot girl shit, bitch," she advises listeners at the top of "Shake That," a fan favorite from Fever. "Real fuckin' ratchet shit, bitch/ Come in the club and get it clapping and shit, bitch." She's matter-of-fact and demanding, like a personal trainer you could never afford.

Her "Shake That" instructions were clear enough to get the attention of Miley Cyrus, who posted a clip of herself twerking to the song in mid-July. "It's lit," Megan says when I ask for her thoughts on Cyrus's endorsement. "We want all the Hot Girls we can get. For me, watching Hannah Montana... for Miley Cyrus to be having a Hot Girl Summer, I'm like, 'Damn. That's amazing!'"

In addition to Cyrus, public figures like Kylie Jenner have been seen blasting Megan's music, and brands like Wendy's and Maybelline have used "Hot Girl Summer" in social posts to support the movement, or more likely, to join the discussion in attempts to keep their companies relevant. On July 22, reports stated that Megan would be filing to trademark the term. I ask her how far along she's gotten with making the phrase hers. "It's going — it's not a day process," she explains. "I didn't even think that it would be something that was this big. I just be talking. The Hotties run with it and love it, now everybody is a Hottie. I'm flattered. I appreciate it: spread the awareness, spread the movement."

Top: Out From Under, Bottoms: Venus Prototype

Megan's ability to drive a pop culture-dominating moment is tied directly to the confidence she radiates at any particular moment. She inherited her self-assurance and rapping skills from her mother, the late Holly Thomas, who rapped under the name Holly-Wood when Megan was a young girl. Eventually, she followed in her mother's footsteps.

"We used to be in the car, going back and forth all the time," Megan says of her time spent battle rapping her mother. I tell her straight up that it seems like she was born to be a rap star, given her familial background and the musical influence gushing out of the city and state in which she was raised. She takes a deep breath.

"Sis," she begins. "I feel like off the strength that my mom was a rapper, and the music that her and my dad put in my ear as a child, it was bound to happen. Me watching her write and me watching her go in the studio and lay her verses down. Just to see how dedicated she was, that was normal to me. That just became the thing that I saw around my house. We bumping Pimp C, we listening to Three 6 all the time, we listening to Biggie. You know what I'm saying? I've always been a big fan of music. Just me growing up and turning into Meg Thee Stallion, this is a product of my environment."

Megan's transition from hometown hero to international entertainer has been nearly seamless. She's arrived at a point that a Beyoncé collaboration is within her reach ("Just pray for me," she says), and a Rihanna collab is at the top of her brain. "I love Rihanna," she says. "The Bad Girl and the Hot Girl, that would be something."

Suit: Sarah Toshiko West

Her name rings out on such a level that she's being positioned by fans and hip-hop media as the figure who could make a new version of "Ladies Night," the 1997 Lil' Kim-helmed woman-focused posse cut, happen. "You know, I've been hearing it," she says. "I've been seeing it. Now, I really want it to be a thing. If it were up to me, we would literally have 20 motherfuckers on the song."

Even with 20 people on a track, you could pick Megan's voice out of the lineup in an instant. Her voice, with its authoritative lower register, stands out amongst the group of women who are dominating hip-hop this year. Through a laser-like focus on her own career, and a general "fuck you" to anyone trying to instigate drama or affect her trajectory, she's managed to dodge the trope of beefing with other female rappers that others have had pushed on them. On July 28, during a joint Instagram Live with Nicki Minaj, Megan spoke out about how some are positioning her against Minaj, due to her rising status. "Stop playing with Nicki Minaj like she ain't the motherfucking GOAT," Megan says with passion. "Don't ever ask me shit: don't ever question me. You know the fucking vibes, quit playing with us."

That unbridled honesty is reflected in "Realer," the opening track of Fever, which starts with Megan delivering the hardest bars many of us had heard from her thus far: "Say, nigga! I don't wanna talk/ Meet me at the bank, show me what you really 'bout!" She sounds like she would make a potential sugar daddy quake in his boots while handing over his wallet.

"My voice is a little deeper," she admits. "When I talk, I have to mean what I say and say what I mean. The point has to be clear across. I don't want to use a squeaky voice, because I need you to know I'm being deadass serious." As she says this, she chuckles.

Her voice shifts from amiable to hesitant when I ask if she can tell me anything about her new single, "Hot Girl Summer," set to drop on August 9 with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign.

"There is so much going on with this song," she says. "But I literally think I'm going to extend the summer until October. I think I can do that. Fuck it. Why not?"

Photography: Arturo Evaristo
Photo Assistant: Malik Peay
Stylist: Sarah Toshiko West
Stylist: Casey "iCON" Billingsley
Hair: Alonzo Arnold
Makeup: Alissa Zinnerman
Cover Illustrator: Harry Zafar

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