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Why Megan Thee Stallion is more than just her milestones

After becoming the first Black woman to cover Forbes’ 30 under 30, the rapper is using her success as a foundation for important conversations that go beyond race.

Megan Thee Stallion is on a winning streak that shows no signs of slowing.

Since releasing her first single in 2016, the Texas-born rapper has won a Grammy for Best New Artist, launched countless number one hits, and is now the first Black woman featured on the cover of Forbes’ 30 under 30.

Speaking of her success, Megan has described an innate work ethic and desire to impart tangible change.

‘I can’t slow down right now’, she told Forbes. ‘I’ll take a break when I’m dead. I’m trying to really build something. When I start sitting, I feel like I’m not doing enough or I’m giving somebody else the opportunity to pass me’.

But Megan is more than her incredible milestones. When Black women succeed in any industry, their achievements are often sensationalised as by-products of identity and race. Megan is keen that each big win serves as an opportunity to break this pattern.

‘I want to be bigger than just my music. I want people to know Megan as everything that she ever wanted to be. Megan the artist. I feel like I’ve always liked to dabble and dab in a lot of things’, she stated.

Beyond her music, Megan is also a fervent advocate for women and Black women’s treatment in the rap industry, ensuring that her own applause doesn’t silence important conversations.

In 2020, arguably Megan’s breakout year as a rap artist, she made it clear she wasn’t apologetic about being staunchly feminist.

‘WAP’, the hit single produced alongside Cardi B, caused outrage at the time for its graphic description of female sexuality. But despite its controversy, the song still shot to the top of the charts and remained there for an entire summer.

Following with hit singles like ‘Body’ and ‘Savage’, Megan has been disrupting misogynist narratives in music – particularly rap and R&B – by giving women the same sexual empowerment men have so often enjoyed at their expense.

As GQ columnist Jonathan Heaf said at the time, ‘men rapping about violence, taking drugs and being promiscuous has often been heralded as triumphant, normalised even; when women do the same they are scorned for being anti-feminist and out of control.’

Megan has now used the launch of her latest album Traumazine, and her Forbes cover, to raise awareness around mental health.

The record, which she describes as ‘deeply personal’, addresses Megan’s experiences of anxiety and grief in the wake of her mother’s death.

‘This is like the first time I ever talked about things that I’m feeling, or talked about things that I’m going through, so it kind of made me nervous to write a lot of these songs’ she told Forbes.

It’s telling that in an interview framed around being the ‘first Black woman’ on the cover of Forbes’ 30 under 30, Megan was quick to shift topic.

Black women are too often applauded for achieving in spite of their Blackness, as if that in itself is an obstacle to be surmounted.

Artists like Megan, inhabiting spaces historically carved out for men, are renouncing this narrative not only by hitting major milestones, but ensuring those milestones amount to more than tokenistic recognition.

For Megan, it is ultimately always about her work. Whether that’s musically, academically (she completed her Bachelors in Health Administration from Texas Southern University last year), or politically.

Her work with the Southern Black Girls Consortium has seen Megan support philanthropic efforts to support young Black women through non-profit funding and activism.

It’s a testament to her overarching message as a performer; to not only protect Black women, but ensure they reach their full potential.

That each of Megan’s big wins feels like a win for others isn’t a reflection of her trailblazing as a Black woman.

Rather it is a by-product of a tenacious drive to start conversations, create powerful work, and deflect her ovations to issues bigger than herself – and the colour of her skin.