Some clever people have brought handheld electric fans. Some have brought the analogue fold-out type. Others use whatever is to hand: baseball caps, concertinaed bits of A4, homemade signs, the larger mobile phone models. The American rapper Megan Thee Stallion (the second “e” is silent) acknowledges the sauna-like temperatures in this packed venue and is quick to take the credit. “It’s hot in this motherfucker,” she laughs. “That’s ’cos we’re doing real hot-girl shit!”
She’s not wrong. Megan Thee Stallion surged out of hip-hop’s online battlegrounds and into the collective consciousness in 2019 with the song Hot Girl Summer, a co-production with the trailblazing female rapper Nicki Minaj that coined a new, Instagram meme-derived spin on female empowerment – assertiveness with a twerk and a wink. Thee Stallion had a sassy signature move to go with it too: sticking her tongue out and “bleh”-ing, managing to convey lasciviousness, disdain and a sense of humour all at the same time.
Since the heyday of Lil’ Kim, a large (and slightly depressing) number of female rappers have long doubled down on exactly how skilful they are between the sheets, and how they are going to do unprintable things to someone else’s man. The current Billboard No 1 by Minaj, Super Freaky Girl, is the latest example – an earworm based on Rick James’s Super Freak that has broken records as the first song by an unaccompanied female rapper to debut at the top of the US charts since Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing) in 1998.
Minaj might have paved the way for the current generation of female MCs with her cartoonish persona, but Thee Stallion delivers her own graphic material with her own surfeit of wit – and lashings of charisma. She comes on stage tonight in a black leather basque, oozing charm and southern hospitality, grinning and chatting, becoming genuinely excited when she spots people in the crowd whom she knows from Twitter.
The gig is punctuated with pauses to check that her “hotties” are OK – people are being pulled out of the crowd gasping like stranded fish. At one point, Thee Stallion starts handing out her own water from the stage, demanding the venue bring out more free hydration from the bar, then pulls out her own backstage drinks cooler and throws bottles into the crowd. Since Travis Scott’s tragic Astroworld gig in 2021 (in Thee Stallion’s home town of Houston), all artists across all genres have, thankfully, ramped up crowd safety.
But Thee Stallion is an instinctive hostess, keen to invite everyone to the afterparty, switching easily from threatening to put someone’s boyfriend’s “dick up in a casket” (2018’s Freak Nasty, from her Tina Snow EP) to taking charge of health and safety. Her success may derive from blow-by-blow accounts of goings-on down there, but she gives every impression of having a wise head on statuesque shoulders. The star born Megan Pete finished her degree in health administration in 2021 – despite her multiple hits of 2020. (“One degree hotter,” quipped Rolling Stone.)
Thee Stallion only prospered despite the global pandemic, thanks to the release of her debut album proper, and a remix of her single Savage featured a guest spot-cum-benediction from fellow Texan Beyoncé. (It provides the euphoric last blast of the set tonight.) WAP was another inescapable 2020 song in which Thee Stallion guested with reigning female MC Cardi B, the two riffing at length about demanding sexual pleasure (lest we forget, WAP stands for “wet-ass pussy”). The crowd screams every word.
Thee Stallion recently surprise-released her latest studio album, Traumazine. Her upward trajectory shows no signs of slowing – but that’s thermodynamics for you. NDA is an instant banger, in which she not only leaves someone’s man a spent husk, but comes out swinging against internet trolls. “And the next one of y’all blogs wanna spread lies, I’m gon’ sue you,” she spits. “And the next bitch that break my NDA, that go for you too.” Another track, Her, lodges in the brain pretty much instantly. “I’m her, her, her, her, her,” Thee Stallion raps. “She, she, she, she, she.”
Whether or not the audacious Traumazine is Megan Thee Stallion’s second or third album is currently being fought over in court. There is nothing like a rise to fame on a greased thermal to bring on suit and countersuit over an artist’s early contracts. In sum, Pete believes Traumazine fulfils her contract with 1501 Certified Entertainment. The label considers Thee Stallion’s 2021 release Something for Thee Hotties a compilation, and argues that she owes them another album. Pugnacious as ever, Thee Stallion has reasserted her right to leave in court and is now seeking $1m in damages for unpaid royalties, and alleging 1501 leaked portions of her album.
Legal static has no bearing whatsoever on the joyous communal sweat-bath Thee Stallion presides over tonight. Male and female dancers join her and her DJ, Jay Bone, in a celebration of all things slick and slippery. And if rather too much gig time is taken up with Thee Stallion picking out “hotties” – male and female – to come onstage and twerk, no one leaves this gig unschooled in the importance of female autonomy.