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Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Traumazine’ Is A Multi-Faceted Mood

On her second album, the rap superstar comes up with just the right balance of slick bops and searing confessionals.

megan thee stallion

Jamie Nelson*

A Megan Thee Stallion verse is not unlike a bag of salt and vinegar chips—there’s something classic and quaint and straight-up hood about the sharp and improbable flavors packed inside every one of them. There were always going to be some quirky juxtapositions with Meg. The twenty-something spitter is an old soul who swears by Pimp C and Biggie and Juicy J. While other rappers her age couldn’t point out Pete Rock in a police lineup, nearly every time Meg spits a freestyle in one of her many viral clips, it’s over a classic instrumental from some raw Nineties hit. 

Mentored by no less an eminence than Q-Tip, one of our first introductions to Megan Thee Stallion came courtesy of a clip of her riding around with the Abstract Poetic and turning up to a Max B song. In her world, cool classicism and waviness and the stripper pole all somehow make sense. She’s so gifted with it that she can effortlessly slip an analogy about baptism (and cunnilingus!) into a song (”Plan B”) about birth control.

For a while now, Megan Thee Stallion has hinted that she has many dimensions that she’d like to unveil for us. (In her interviews she’s said that her iconic “Hot Girl” alias touches on only one aspect of her persona.) The rangy wordsmith—with a passion for the Gorillaz, anime, and around-the-way seafood—insists that her earlier projects, for all their kooky amiability, don’t tell her full story. Megan’s second studio album, Traumazine, is a thrill ride of a listen, a motley mix of slick bops and searing confessionals that wonderfully encapsulate all of her various vibes.

On opener “NDA,” Megan comes clean about the drawbacks that came with her quick rise to fame. And there’s a caustic pressure-cooker intensity to her tone, as she confesses, over the dramatic strings and steely percussion, “Going through some things, so I gotta stay busy/Bought a Rari, I can’t let the shit I’m thinking catch up with me.” Megan has rarely been upfront about her struggles in her songs (except for the emo chorus to her 2019 cut “Crying in the Car”). So it’s refreshing to hear her rap about feeling vulnerable and having to grind it out through her day-to-day trials. But those witty bars still pop up out of nowhere. When, at the end of the song, she scoffs, “Matter fact, wait, stop, bitch, I really rap/I be quick to check you pussy bitches like a pap,” Meg could be one of the characters in the series Rap Sh!t playfully freestyling to herself in the mirror instead of eating her feelings.

Meanwhile, “Anxiety” chronicles Megan’s hold-it-together-in-the-elevator thought bubbles—affably splitting the difference between self-deprecation and legit Talkspace freakouts. There’s a lucid humanistic feel to the song—enhanced by loopy pianos and a wailing vocal sample—that makes it somehow feel both insular and grand, like the tragic rich people’s plights in a Sophia Coppola flick. But along with Megan’s gracious confessions that “bad bitches have bad days, too,” there’s some real talk about loss (”It’s crazy how I say the same prayer to the Lord and always get surprised by who he take”) that hits you right in the heart.

Some of the ratchet fun we’ve come to expect from Meg is embodied in songs like the humid soon-to-be strip-club anthem “Budget,” and the punchline-packed “Scary.” The former, which features Miami’s Latto, conveys big make-it-rain energy, with a quotable bar about how “I like my hair to my ass and my niggas down on they knees.” The Latter—all ghoulish synths and loud 808s—comes on like some aural equivalent to an MJ-eating-candy-corn gif. It’s a whole Chiller subscription of hair-raising bars, wherein Meg refers to herself as a “thick-thigh nightmare,” then threatens to pop up on the opposition like she’s Candyman. “Scary” is destined to inspire some creative riffs on that immortal Halloween staple, the sexy nurse’s outfit this coming Hot Nerd Fall.

Though the sappy hook on “Red Wine” seems a bit contrived, the song boasts some introspective asides (”All of these shots turning me into a masochist/Happiest when everybody attacking me”), and, in typical Meg fashion, an out-of-left-field gag line (”Treat this pussy like an opp—shoot it up—keep busting” belongs on the Mount Rushmore of sexual invites). The candy-paint car-show-appropriate “Southside Freestyle” bristles with hometown pride and gives this cleverly sequenced, well-balanced LP the rugged hood-famous feel of a must-have mixtape. Traumazine is truly a whole mood.

From Rolling Stone US