Megan Thee Stallion
The way she tells it, Megan Thee Stallion only jumped on the mic to impress a guy. She’d been writing, but she hadn’t really opened it up in public before. But this was college, and the boys were freestyling, and she’d had a couple of drinks. “I didn’t know how it was gonna turn out,” she told Apple Music in 2019. “I just knew I wasn’t finna look weak.” Rapper, yes: clever, commanding, funny, filthy. But she's also become a kind of avatar for supreme self-confidence, the Hot Girl out to make Hotness broader, more inclusive, a state you embrace for yourself instead of having conferred on you by someone else.
Born Megan Pete in 1995 and raised in the South Park neighborhood of Houston, the Up Next honoree and 2020 Apple Music Awards Breakthrough Artist of the Year grew up on hardcore Southern stuff: Three 6 Mafia and UGK, Pimp C especially. Early cyphers went viral—the presence was ferocious, the flow precise. Her key tracks, from tunes like “Big Ole Freak” to the 2020 Cardi B collaboration juggernaut “WAP,” don't just carry the torch of Houston rap but a legacy of trash talk that goes back to Lil’ Kim and The Notorious B.I.G.—characters so big they read like comic books (Pete is, unsurprisingly, a lifelong anime fan). Like any great rapper, she can put the same few things to you a thousand different ways. “Put him on his knees, give him somethin' to believe in,” she raps on Cardi B's “WAP.” And in case Megan's intentions weren’t clear, consider this, from “Captain Hook”: “I like to drink and I like to have sex.” Weak? Doesn’t seem like an issue.