Music

Megan Thee Stallion Starts To Open Up On The Confessional ‘Traumazine’

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In the lead-up to her second album Traumazine, Megan Thee Stallion repeatedly noted that it had more emotionally-charged themes and greater vulnerability than her debut, Good News. In a June interview with Rolling Stone, she said, “I want to take you through so many different emotions. At first you was twerking, now you might be crying.”

She reiterated the sentiment in an August Q&A session on Twitter. “I wrote this album for myself,” she admitted. “I wanted to start writing in a journal but I said f*ck it I’ll put it in a song.” She also confessed that “saying certain things you’ve never said out loud before is hard.” Fans understandably presumed that this meant the Houston rapper would address the various public misfortunes that had befallen her since her Tina Snow EP rocketed her to stardom.

Traumazine delivers on Megan’s promises, but it doesn’t stray too far from her established formula. Production-wise, it runs the gamut from Thee Stallion’s preferred speaker knocking Texas trap to a very on-trend detour into Miami Bass and house, while lyrically, Megan returns to the rapid-fire freestyle form that first impressed her fans, peers, and early mentor Q-Tip. The newer, more confessional attitude peppers her hard-hitting, boastful verses with lines that hide the hurt behind defiant bluster.

On songs like “Not Nice,” Megan’s gift for storytelling comes to the fore. “I kept your bills paid. You were sick, I paid for surgery,” she reminds a disloyal acquaintance. “But I pray you boo-hoo, do me wrong, where they deserve to be.” The specificity of her examples lends weight to her jabs – for every verbal right cross, someone has crossed her. Meg’s also unafraid to drop the facade of the tough-girl rapper and bluntly state a long-standing issue. On “Anxiety,” she wishes she could “write a letter to Heaven” so she can “tell my mama that I shoulda been listenin’.” I just wan’ talk to somebody that get me,” she accepts.

But even with the more vulnerable material here, Meg shines brightest when she sticks to the brash, explicit material that defines breakout hits like “Big Ole Freak” and “WAP.” “Ms. Nasty,” which pairs a thumping bass kick with an ‘80s R&B melody, offers another worthwhile inclusion to this tradition, opening with the straightforward come-on “I want you to dog this cat out, whip it like a trap house / Stand up in that pussy, stomp the yard like a frat house.” “Pressurelicious” with Future and “Budgets” with Latto match this energy, the latter pairing working best. We need more songs with these two together.

Other guests include Rico Nasty, with whom Meg displays incredible chemistry on “Scary,” Key Glock, who gifts her a suitably spiteful verse on “Ungrateful,” and Pooh Shiesty, who makes fans feel his absence from the spotlight (he’s currently locked up on a gun charge, facing a eight-year sentence) on “Who Me.” There are also contributions from R&B singers Jhene Aiko and Lucky Daye, which have the unfortunate side effect of highlighting the weaknesses of Meg’s own singing voice. She’s at her best spitting bruising bars with her gruff Texas twang as she does alongside her Lone Star compatriots on “Southside Royalty Freestyle”; when she tries to croon her own choruses, the effect feels raw and unpolished — and not in a good way.

The pop swings are also hit-and-miss. While “Her” fits in among the Beyonce-inspired post-Renaissance wave of future ball favorites, “Sweetest Pie” with Dua Lipa sounds like Meg chasing the success of peers like Doja Cat. This misunderstands what listeners want from the two artists. Meg wins because of tracks like “Gift & Curse,” “Who Me,” and “Scary.” Give her a lush, groovy soul sample and an 808 to vent her frustrations over, you get the verses on “Flip Flop.” These are the kinds of songs at which Meg excels. The added emotional depth is a bonus, adding relatability to her aspirational boldness. This will be the formula for Meg’s future success.

Traumazine is out now on 1501 Certified/300 Entertainment. Get it here.

Megan Thee Stallion is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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