Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Beyonce and Nicki Minaj made Billboard history this week. This time along though, they brought two up-and-coming artists to break ground with them. Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj’s “Say So” remix topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. And at No. 2 was Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” remix, which featured Beyonce delivering raps that had social media and the blogosphere in a frenzy.
For the first time ever, four Black women occupied the top two spots on the Billboard Hot 100. And they didn’t do it with the help of male artists, or any other acts. This was an instance of four self-contained entities pulling dual power moves and steepling the Hot 100. The collaborations made perfect sense. Doja Cat, like Nicki, is a vibrant, genre-bending artist while Meg and Beyonce are beloved, Houstonians with a similar knack for setting the cultural agenda. Both tracks feature all four artists in their wheelhouse of liberated lyricism unconcerned with the male — or any other — gaze.
While Nicki Minaj achieved her first No. 1, Doja and Megan benefitted the most from this unprecedented circumstance. Doja Cat has notched her first No. 1 at just 24, while Meg, who at 25, could very well reach the top in the coming weeks (though she’ll face staunch competition from the 6ix9ine hive). But it doesn’t matter if Megan doesn’t hit the top spot with “Savage,” because she’s already at the top of her game.
What happened in the last week was a culminating moment for a movement of women who rap. For several years, Megan, Doja, Cardi B, Rico Nasty, and dozens of other women have deconstructed the tokenizing stigmas surrounding women in rap. For decades, women dealt with subjugative energy that relegated many of them to be a “first lady” of a crew, or otherwise feeling compelled to have proximity to a male artist to be marketed effectively. Acts were pitted against each other, festering a sexist perception that there could only be one “queen of rap.” Even the idea that there is such thing as a separate genre called “women’s rap” is fundamentally reductive.
Women in rap, of all styles and aesthetics, have collectively been shattering constructs one triumph at a time. And this shared moment between four powerful artists is one that concretely exemplifies something everyone should know by now: women in rap are too big to be relegated.
In recent years, Nicki Minaj has faced criticism for several legitimate, alarming reasons. But in the context of a discussion of advocacy for women in rap, she deserves credit. It makes sense that she was involved in this moment. Nicki deserves credit for using her stature (and devout Barb stanbase) to empower other artists, whether that’s collaborating with Doja or Megan or shouting out women peers on Queen Radio. She has the following to annex herself from the rest of the music world (as it looked like she was going to do during the most caustic moments of her Queen era), but she’s using her considerable power to solidify up and comers.
Beyonce isn’t known primarily as a rapper, but her co-sign is big enough to have had the same star-making effect for Megan. Given their shared Houston roots and Megan’s status as a Roc Nation signee (for management), it feels like the Beyonce collaboration was inevitable for Megan as she continued to rise. But with a recitation-worthy verse replete with quotables like, “If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain,” Beyonce delivered the kind of appearance that will have the “Savage” remix playing through what Megan has already branded a “Savage Summer.” Megan personally expressed that she “cried” when she heard that Beyonce wanted to jump on the record, knowing that the song could very well be a gateway into her next realm of music stardom.
And the same is true for Doja Cat, who has previously said that she “wished” for a Nicki feature. Some of her fans believed that the Gucci Mane-featuring “Like That” would feature Nicki when the feature name was blurred out on a Hot Pink tracklist she shared. But while “Like That” didn’t turn out to be the one, the summery “Say So” proved ripe for the team-up. The original track was a perfect example of Doja’s versatility, as she assumed the role of pop starlet for the first half of the song before jumping into a charismatic verse that served as a thematic harbinger for Nicki’s contribution.
And while Nicki’s “used to be bi, but now I’m just hetero” bar is distractingly puzzling and other critics noted that the foursome’s feat doesn’t quell concern about the industry’s colorism, the moment is still one to marvel for fans of popular music. Two years ago, Megan was known for viral freestyles while Doja was the “‘Moo’ girl.” Now they’re solidified stars, crafting a blueprint for mainstream success that other aspirants can follow. It’s also worth noting that both “Say So” and “Savage” celebrate women with volition of their bodies and romantic experience independent of external judgment.
When Black women in the music industry and their supporters were calling for unity among each other, it wasn’t just about solidarity for the sake of solidarity. Working together paves the way for moments like what we had this week, where women could consolidate their impact and smack us in the face with a double dose of reality that Black music runs the pop world.