Earlier this month, So So Def impresario and hip-hop icon Jermaine Dupri created a firestorm when he made his feelings on today’s female rappers known. Despite playing an instrumental role in the careers of acts ranging from TLC & Xscape to Da Brat, the legendary mogul has found himself disillusioned with what he sees as a downturn in individuality. “"I feel they're all rapping about the same thing,” Dupri relayed to People. “I don't think they're showing us who's the best rapper. For me, it's like strippers rapping and as far as rap goes, I'm not getting who's the best.”

Met with defiance by those very women plying their trade in the genre, Jermaine’s sights were calibrated on the new crop of sex-positive rappers commandeering hip-hop’s relationship with love and lust. Spearheaded by artists such as Saweetie, Cardi B, Cupcakke and Rico Nasty, this new wave of empowered women is heeding the examples of trailblazers such as Trina and Lil Kim, giving it a distinctly 21st Century flavor. Seen as artless by some and taboo-shattering by supporters, this renewed emphasis on female MCs using their material to explore their own desirability is proving to be a fiscally rewarding endeavor. And few are excelling at it quite like a multi-faceted figure from Houston, TX.

Billed as Tina Snow, Hot Girl Meg and a host of other variations, Megan Thee Stallion’s notoriety has skyrocketed over the past year or so. Brash, imposing and laden with neatly crafted vulgarities, Megan has become the unlikely host for her hometown’s time-honored rap traditions. Snapped up by Kevin Liles for the star-studded 300 Entertainment roster—whom she signed with as she wanted to be “somewhere I was gonna be a priority” -- what makes Megan such a unique proposition is that she never actively strived to emulate any female MC that came before her. Instead, Megan’s primary objective is to embody the energy of the music she loved growing up and reskin it from a woman’s perspective. Most notably, that of her idol and fellow Houstonian Pimp C. “[Songs like] ‘Take it Off’ made me feel so confident and cool,” she informed Rolling Stone. “I was like, ‘If a girl was saying this stuff, this will probably go even crazier!”

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Filled with allusions to steamy trysts and stacking money, the DNA of the late Sweet Jones may be easily discernible within her work, though she is anything but a pale imitation. In fact, Megan’s period of rapid expansion has been aided and abetted by the fact that she’s arrived in the game with a unique backstory. Where most aspiring artists pin all of their hopes on the pursuit of making it, Megan’s journey to fame and fortune had to coexist with her pursuit of an education. On track to graduate this fall, the rapper behind tracks such as “Big Ole’ Freak” and “Cash Shit” displayed an aptitude for multitasking by working towards a degree in health administration at Texas Southern University. Although she’s admitted that managing her work-life balance has become increasingly difficult, her admirable rationale for undertaking this degree makes her innately easy to root for. “I want to run the hospital,” she reveals to The Ringer. “I don't want to do the dirty work, but I definitely want to put it there for people to come and help others.”

Enacting a dream her late mother once chased down under the name “Holly-Wood”, Meg’s promiscuous bars and supreme self-confidence actually harbor a disarming quality that lets her detractors write her off as another female rapper using sex appeal in order to make a quick buck. In reality, Megan is propelled forward by an undiminished drive to effect change and achieve her long-term goals. In a moment of reflection, the proud Texan rebuked the concept that she was some sort of overnight success. “Everybody's telling me, “Oh Megan, it happened so fast!" And I'm like, “Well shit. I feel like I've been writing all my damn life! She remarked to Billboard. “So, for it to finally happen for me, I'm just thinking -- we've got to keep working harder. Because my main thing is just to keep outdoing myself.”

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Faced with the deaths of both her mother and grandmother within a two-month spell of heartache, Megan kept on the promotional trail and turned in one of the most highly-rated hip-hop projects of the year with Fever. But for all that her fastidious work ethic is a crucial piece of the puzzle, another integral cog in her success has been an acute awareness of social media’s power as a currency in itself. Boasting a combined reach of 4.5 million between Twitter, YouTube & Instagram, Megan has continually used social media as a way to present herself as a bonafide superstar. She has been undeterred in her aim of having a #hotgirlsummer and this motto has gradually morphed into a crucial tenet of her brand. From Spotify playlists to surreal Wendy’s co-signs, the catchphrase has taken on such a life of its own that it’s become one of the trending searches on Apple Music before its corresponding anthem ever dropped. A motto that’s long since superseded Megan’s pre-existing fanbase, it raises the question of whether each social media post is more carefully orchestrated than it may appear. 

On the subject of visual artistry, her desire to diversify her revenue streams doesn’t only extend to improving lives with healthcare facilities. Set to team up with the renowned Hype Williams for a film accompaniment to Fever, she’s also vocalized her plans of breathing new life into what she sees as the lethargic realm of horror movies. The epitome of an artist that Jermaine Dupri would take umbrage with at face value, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s far more than meets the eye when it comes to Thee Stallion. Decried by one legend and fawned over by another, the upside potential of Megan’s approach was thoughtfully clarified by none other than A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, in an interview with The Fader:

“She’s barred out. Some people may think her stuff is just over-sexualized, but it is her approach to it. It’s her tact with it. It is very innovative to me — especially to see a young woman like herself being in a position of standing in her power, to stand in her royalty and never let that be shaken. It’s just something in her that I really love.”

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