Album Review: Megan Thee Stallion, ‘Good News’

    First, she sets the record straight. On the opening track of her debut album, Megan Thee Stallion builds off an ingenious sample of the Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Who Shot Ya?’ to address the fallout from the recent incident involving rapper Tory Lanez, who allegedly shot her in the foot last July. Lanez had to release a whole album to make his case, but all Meg needs is one song, aptly titled ‘Shots Fired’, and it’s not even three minutes long – she pulls no punches here, each attack rendered all the more scathing by the fact that she doesn’t even mention the assailant by name, yet humiliates not just him but also his supporters: “They hate me, but watch my videos beatin’ their dicks.” It’s a show, but rather than feeding off the drama, Meg instead uses it as an opportunity to condemn the systemic violence perpetrated against black women: “Now here we are, 2020, eight months later/And we still ain’t got no fuckin’ justice for Breonna Taylor.” It sure is a chilling way to start off an album that bears the title Good News.

    But throughout her new project, the Houston rapper manages to handle it all with an infectious mix of playfulness and defiance, channelling the kind of unblinking self-assurance that’s defined her already formidable output. Good News is billed as Meg’s debut full-length album, and though that’s mostly a technicality, it certainly feels like the right time to capitalize on her momentum; she was already a rising star in the world of hip-hop, but 2020 saw her become a cultural phenomenon, first with ‘Savage’ achieving viral ubiquity on TikTok and then her hit collaboration with Cardi B, ‘WAP’, becoming a belated song of the summer. It’s only natural that her first proper full-length feels like not just an event but also a victory lap. Once again in top form, Meg keeps the punchlines coming, her delivery as sharp and forceful as ever: “Invest in this pussy, boy – support black business,” she quips on ‘Sugar Baby’; follow-up ‘Movie’ includes the hilarious line, “I’m talkin’ ASMR, let me hear you chew it, nigga.”

    Thankfully, she’s learned nothing from critics of ‘WAP’. Good News, as its title suggests, is all about positivity, but it’s also about sex positivity, and the rapper’s sexual politics should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with her work thus far. The record boasts one raunchy anthem after the other, with Meg tapping SZA for the Juicy J-produced ‘Freaky Girls’ as well as City Girls (along with alter-ego Hot Girl Meg) on the cheeky ‘Do It On the Tip’. Not all of it works – ‘Body’ is a glaringly odd choice for a single, its empowering message undercut by a chorus that veers from catchy to downright irritating. It’s also a shame that some of the guest performers don’t do much to elevate the material: Lil Durk’s verse on ‘Movie’ is more underwhelming than anything else, while DaBaby takes up too much space on the throwaway ‘Cry Baby’. The production, too, can come off as surprisingly thin and indistinctive on some of the non-single cuts, especially when paired with Meg’s assertive flow; when the beat does have enough personality to complement her delivery, though, we get hard-hitting bangers like the thumping ‘What’s New’.

    On the whole, the album finds Meg stepping away from some of the R&B experimentation that marked this year’s Suga EP and instead rides through a more traditional, club-ready rap sound. It’s when the rapper strays too far from that approach that the record falters: ‘Intercourse’ is a flavourless dancehall collaboration with Mustard and Popcaan, but it’s the synth-pop cut ‘Don’t Rock Me to Sleep’ that’s the biggest misstep here (Meg has certainly written better lyrics than “Blah, blah, blah, la-la-la/ If you wanna leave, then bye, bye, bye.”) Good News doesn’t always go as hard as her 2019 mixtape Fever, either, and it can feel particularly overstuffed at 17 tracks – though ending the record with three previously released singles, including the ‘Savage’ remix with Beyoncé and ‘Don’t Stop’ with Young Thug, ensures it will probably retain the listener’s attention till the very end. But despite its flaws, the album also sees Meg relying less on her various personas, embracing her full self, and taking back control of her own narrative, all while having one hell of a good time.

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