Lil Nas X Knows You’ve Been Naughty

It is fair to say that this year has forced things into perspective. It’s also fair to say that this year has totally sucked. The “rules” that governed politics and pop culture and our civic and social lives don’t seem like they’ll ever go back to the way they existed before 2020. And maybe that’s a good thing.

This year has certainly helped Montero Lamar Hill see things differently. Hill — better known as the Grammy-winning artist Lil Nas X — got a much-needed break over the past few months that he almost certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. With lockdowns around the world all year preventing him from touring and making promotional appearances, it’s the first time in the 21-year-old’s short career that he’s had some shade from the spotlight.

That career began, of course, when his single “Old Town Road” seemingly took over the world for what felt like all of last year but was actually 19 weeks, which is how long it sat at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, a record-breaking feat. Not only did the song launch Hill into the public’s consciousness, but it also took on a life of its own, spawning memes and dance challenges, remix after remix with heavy hitters like Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug, and BTS, merch deals and even a children’s book. The follow up, 7 EP, was released at the crest of the “Old Town Road” wave, capitalizing on the buzz, with lead single “Panini” securing Hill’s role as a chart-topper without doing much to signal what his true ambitions as an artist and performer really were.

“I want my fans to know how much I love what I do and that I’m loving myself more too. This is my ‘I’m here to stay’ project.”

While these accomplishments are virtually unheard of for a brand-new artist, examining his trajectory makes clear the unique challenges young Black artists face when hitting the mainstream. There’s a constant tug-of-war between who they want to be and which lens we’re most comfortable observing them through. Black women artists and Black queer artists understand this even more acutely. Hill’s contemporaries, like Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion, are new to fame but face constant scrutiny. And in Hill’s case, being an out, gay man means there’s more untreaded territory to traverse. Even more reason to be careful.

Since March he’s split his time between his home in Los Angeles and with his family in the Atlanta area, where he’s from. He says the downtime was much needed. “I’ve been looking for approval in the wrong places.” he tells PAPER on a Zoom call. “I’m trying to learn to just be thankful for the people that do support me.” That support from his fans has come with its fair share of scrutiny as well.

“I do want to go beyond any other artist’s impact. I don’t want to do what has been done. I want to have a lifelong career.”

Hill’s media narrative has shifted almost as much as he’s traded out his collection of cowboy hats. First he was a genre-bending freedom fighter trying to get on the country music charts, testing the limits of what the genre could be and who had the right to make that distinction. This was replaced with bemusement at how his hit record spread around the world in a way that’s never been seen before, and the internet savvy that he possessed which made it all possible. And finally, his decision to come out last summer earned him even more attention as he was lauded as a trailblazer while also being questioned for his motives. This has been the toughest challenge for him to navigate.

According to Hill, he “planned to die with the secret.” He told the Guardian earlier this year that changed when he hit mainstream success. The new standard for 2020 pop stars is part politician, part artist. Hill is keenly aware of that fact, pausing and thinking long before answering even the smallest questions.

He felt the urge to set an example for his fans, as well as get ahead of the breadcrumbs his history on the internet would have led people down. He wanted it to be on his own terms. Even after this revelation, which came in the form of a tweet last June shocking even the people on his creative team, he’s still been tight-lipped about his dating and personal life. “I definitely dance around whatever I want to say or do on the internet,” he says “I want to get to a point where I can share everything with the world, but I’m not there yet.” This is out of an abundance of caution. He doesn’t like saying the wrong thing.

But this year has allowed him time to give more thought about how he does want to let his fans in. With his next project, which will be his first full-length album, out next year, he promises something more “honest” and less “PG-13.” It’ll be his attempt to wrestle his narrative back into his own hands.

“I definitely dance around whatever I want to say or do on the internet. I want to get to a point where I can share everything with the world, but I’m not there yet.”

On his first single from the project, “Holiday,” which dropped last month, Hill is cockier than he’s ever been. “Man, I snuck in on a horse, I got no remorse/I pulled a gimmick, I admit it, I got no remorse,” he rap-sings on the track. It also features his first explicit reference to being gay on a song. He raps, “I might bottom on the low, but I top shit,” a line he was nervous about including.

“Even saying it in the studio. I was like, ‘Damn, do I want to say this in front of these people?'” he says. The fear started to creep in. Would he alienate his straight fans? Even his queer fans? “Within the community it’s kind of like a taboo in a way to say,” he said. “Which doesn’t make sense because, you know, we’re all gay.” After much thought, he decided to keep it in.

Hill’s greatest strength as an artist and as a personality is his self-awareness, and his ability to bring you in on the joke. He doesn’t pretend to have it all figured out, and he doesn’t ever take himself too seriously, always offering a wink and a nudge that he finds it just as funny as you do that he’s a huge star.

While humour is what has not only made his fans love him so much, and made him such a family-friendly marketing alternative to other Soundcloud rappers who play in similar sonic worlds, it’s also left a question mark over his career. Is there much past the laughs? He thinks with his album, he’ll prove that there is. “I want [my fans] to know how much I love what I do and that I’m loving myself more too,” he says. “This is my ‘I’m here to stay’ project.”

He’s been hard at work this year, getting his hands dirtier in the songwriting process, trying to push the boundaries he previously placed on himself. Before recording “Old Town Road,” he had only just started making music. The song was recorded in under an hour, in a studio he paid just $20 to use. Now he has a lot more freedom. “I’m just taking my time on songs, much more than I did before,” he says. “I would go into the studio and whatever I did with the song that day, that was it.” EP 7 demonstrated how little he is governed by genre, just like all the other music industry traditions that he ignores. He says that’ll be the same on this record.

This go around, he’s less concerned about how his fans will receive the music, and more concerned with making something he’s proud of. Despite saying he has “zero doubt” his fans will love it. “I’m thankful for every single fan of mine, but I feel like it’s very important to me, as an artist, or creator in general, to create what I want to create no matter who’s watching, because I’ll never be happy if I don’t.”

Hill has shown how adept he is at directing your attention where he wants it, which is in part why he loves embodying different characters in his fashion and music videos. He’s hung up the cowboy hat to trade for a cyberpunk Santa getup, which is his new look for the “Holiday” rollout. “Every day everybody, we dress up in drag in a way,” he says. “It’s just so fun, like being able to be a different person all the time.”

Hill’s trepidation with establishing himself as one kind of artist or performer, seems less to do with fear of acceptance and more to do with being pigeonholed. When asked who his inspirations are, he lists off some of the top-selling artists of the past decade: Drake, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, Frank Ocean. He couldn’t land on one. As much as he wants to be thought of as a standalone icon, he just wants to do what feels right.

“I do want to go beyond any other artist’s impact. I don’t want to do what has been done. I want to have a lifelong career,” he says before trailing off. “Unless I decide to do something else.”

Photography: Charlotte Rutherford

Styling: Hodo Musa

Hair: Malcolm Marquez

Makeup: Anthony H. Nguyen

Studio: Hubble Studio

Shaq Sends Thirsty Comment on Meg Thee Stallion’s IG Live

Earlier this week, Megan Thee Stallion decided to go live on Instagram to say hi to fans. And among those watching was NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who seemed to leave a thirsty comment during the livestream.

Related | Megan Thee Stallion and Tinder Are Giving Away $1 Million

The retired basketball player’s son, Shareef, posted a TikTok exposing his dad. He took a screenshot, and encircled Shaq’s comment that said, “Watching that booty.” He captioned the video “I feel you pops,” and his face says it all.

Celeb Skai Jackson commented on the TikTok, saying, “OMG I-” which is what a lot of people have been feeling. And Rico Nasty also tweeted about the unexpected Internet moment, and wrote, “Shaq defffff listens to Meg.”

Shaq defffff listens to Meg 😂😂😂😂 — TACOBELLA (@TACOBELLA)1607743856.0

Shaq hasn’t responded to the whole thing, and now people are asking Shareef for a reaction TikTok featuring his dad.

Meg hasn’t said anything just yet about Shaq’s thirsty comment either, but fans are also waiting to hear her take on it.

Photo via BFA

Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion Are Giving Away $1 Million For ‘Women’s Empowerment’

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are currently giving away $1 million in the name of women’s empowerment.

In honor of “WAP’s” success and their continued commitment to centering the celebration of female sexuality, both Cardi and Megan took to their Twitters to announce the giant giveaway — which will be facilitated through Twitter and CashApp until tomorrow, August 20.

Related | Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion Are Sending Fans Money

“Y’all made #WAP amazing!! we’re partnering with Twitter and Cash App to give away a total of $1 million dollars to celebrate all you powerful women out there,” Cardi wrote. “Tell us why you or a woman you know can use a piece of the $.”

Meanwhile, Megan echoed Cardi’s gratitude for “everyone supporting #WAP,” before instructing fans to drop their $Cashtags in the replies alongside the #WAPParty hashtag.

According to a press release for the promotion, 2,000 female respondents — chosen at random — will receive $500 each. As we wait for the winners to be announced though, you can check out both of their posts and the official rules, here.

y’all made #WAP amazing!! we’re partnering with Twitter and Cash App to give away a total of $1 million dollars to celebrate all you powerful women out there. tell us why you or a woman you know can use a piece of the $.

drop your $cashtag and use #WAPParty

— iamcardib (@iamcardib) August 19, 2020

To all everyone supporting #WAP we see you!! we’re partnering with Twitter and Cash App to celebrate all the powerful women out there by giving away a total of $1 million dollars.

how can some $ help you or a woman you know right now?

drop your $cashtag and use #WAPParty

— HOT GIRL MEG (@theestallion) August 19, 2020

Photos via Getty

Bella Thorne Joins OnlyFans

Best-selling poet and award-winning porn director Bella Thorne has inevitably joined the popular subscription service OnlyFans, PAPER can exclusively announce. As well as sharing exclusive paid content on her channel, Thorne is also in talks to star in a documentary film about her experiences on the platform.

To answer your next question, subscribing to Thorne’s OnlyFans will cost $20 per month, and she’s expecting to draw a lot of attention. (“With safe estimates earning Bella $1 million a month,” a press release predicts.)

Related | FaceTiming About Poetry With Bella Thorne

Thorne’s selfies are already incredibly popular on Instagram, but her pivot to a subscription-based business model speaks to the general shift by influencers away from social networking and towards paid content. As well as monetizing her posts, she also hopes to bypass Instagram’s strict censorship policies by using a service that’s popular among adult entertainers for imposing few content restrictions.

“OnlyFans is the first platform where I can fully control my image; without censorship, without judgement, and without being bullied online for being me,” she tells PAPER.

Related | Bella Thorne Posts Her Own Nudes to Thwart Hacker

She also told us a little more about her upcoming movie, to be directed by Sean Baker, known for Tangerine and The Florida Project. She’s a “huge fan” of Baker’s work, and says that she shares “the same vision of the movie being a conversation starter for many important topics.”

Thorne, who famously leaked her own nudes when threatened by a hacker, is a strong advocate for women owning their sexuality — as well as their financial freedom. A self-confessed “wannabe mogul,” it’s no surprise that she’s turning to OnlyFans, which is currently peaking in popularity thanks to a shout out in Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce’s “Savage” remix and has supposedly netted its creators more than $725 million in profits so far.

Whether she plans to share bikini pics or selfies or poems, we’re in. Subscribe to Bella Thorne on OnlyFans right here.

Photos courtesy of Bella Thorne

Everybody’s Searching for Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion on Pornhub

The viral release of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” has fans rapping about sex and wondering whether the music video’s tigers are real or photoshopped, but it seems that some listeners have… other thoughts on their mind after seeing the colorful, innuendo-heavy visual.

Pornhub released insights this week that show how “WAP” has impacted the site’s user behavior. Since the video dropped early August, searches for Cardi have spiked by 235% and Megan follows at 210%.

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s new single and video ‘WAP’ hit the internet on August 7th! New Pornhub Insights o… — Pornhub ARIA (@Pornhub ARIA)1597157189.0

The “wet and gushy” video included cameos from several major and up-and-coming names in music, including Normani, Mulatto and Rosalía. Kylie Jenner also made a controversial appearance and, perhaps as a result, searches for her name went up by 130% on Pornhub.

Related | There’s a Petition to Remove Kylie Jenner ‘WAP’

The news comes simultaneously with Cardi B’s announcement that she will be joining the slew of celebrities and influencers taking on OnlyFans; for only $4.99 a month, fans, listeners and literally everyone else can get access to subscriber-only content from the artist.

Ummm I did not know my onlyfans was charging ten dollars …I’m bringing it down to 4.99.Ya spend too much on vinyl… — iamcardib (@iamcardib)1597193726.0

And Pornhub isn’t the only place that “WAP” is trending. Along with topping iTunes and Spotify charts, Genius — a site that posts song lyrics and insight on music both from artists and fans — tweeted that both the explicit and clean versions of the track are at the top of the website’s charts.

“WAP” and the clean version of “WAP” are the top 2 songs on the genius charts right now 😂🔥 — Genius (@Genius)1597248080.0

Stream “WAP,” below.

Photo via YouTube

Cardi B Defends Kylie Jenner’s ‘WAP’ Cameo

The song of the summer is “WAP,” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. Of that, there is no question. What has stirred up a fair amount of debate since the accompanying video debuted on Friday is a not-so-surprise appearance by one Kylie Jenner. The makeup mogul was one of several high-profile cameos in the clip, which also gave us glimpses of Rosalîa, Normani and Sukihana.

Related | Megan Thee Stallion Was Made For This

Jenner got by far the most screen time of those, and soon enough a petition appeared demanding her removal from the visual, citing her history of blackfishing. At time of writing, it’s about 10K short of its 75K signature goal.

Now Cardi B has stepped in to defend Jenner on Twitter, although she quickly deleted her explanation for the 22-year-old’s memorable, leopard-print-clad appearance.

Related | Kylie Jenner: Get Rich or Die Following

“Why did i put Kylie on my music video? She treated my sister and daughter so lovely at her kid bday party,” Cardi wrote in the now-scrubbed tweet. “Travis and [Offset] are real close and Kris Jenner have giving me advice on certain things I ask for and her husband real cool with mine… Not everything is about race.”

Society if Jordyn Woods was featured in WAP instead of Kylie Jenner — sandhya 🧙🏾‍♀️ (@sandhya 🧙🏾‍♀️)1596926357.0

There you have it! Cardi B and Kylie Jenner are friends. But as some fans have pointed out, the relationship between Jenner and Megan is more confusing. Kylie and Meg were reportedly partying together right before the rapper was shot in the foot during an altercation between police and Tory Lanez. In a bizarre move, Jenner posted a photo of her bare foot on Instagram the next day, which came across as pretty insensitive.

I wanna say thank you to every woman that was apart of my video! The fact that you made time in your schedules mean… — iamcardib (@iamcardib)1596825460.0

Whatever you think of the Kylie Jenner “WAP” cameo, at least we have this genius photoshop of Viola Davis in Jenner’s place. Everything happens for a reason.

Screenshot via YouTube

No One Is Safe on Chance the Rapper’s ‘Punk’d’

Chance the Rapper announced in January that he would be the host and executive producer of the new Punk’d reboot, a title Ashton Kutcher held in the early 2000’s era of MTV. The show will be available to stream via Quibi, a new short-form content platform, on Monday, April 6.

Related | Chance the Rapper Is Hosting the ‘Punk’d’ Reboot

Although Kutcher’s past seasons are certainly beloved, fans on Twitter are excited to see snippets of Chance’s upcoming episodes.

In the preview, Chance is seen pranking Megan Thee Stallion (a gorilla is involved), Migos, Liza Koshy and Adam DeVine, as he laughs demonically throughout. The flashing warning reads: “No One Is Safe.” Safe to say, we can’t wait to watch in-full.

Chance also tweeted clips involving the above celebrities, as well as Ty Dolla $ign and Lil Nas X:

Photo via YouTube/ Courtesy of Quibi

Megan Thee Stallion Responds to Criticism of Her Twerking

While it’s no secret that Megan Thee Stallion is an expert twerker, it turns out that she’s been dealing with some backlash related to her love of a good butt-bounce.

Recently, the rapper sat down with Genius to chat about everything from her musical inspirations to her appreciation of the women who raised her. And while most of the conversation centered around her new album, there was also some talk about the trolls who think she spends too much time dancing.

Related | Megan Thee Stallion Was Made For This

“I don’t know when it happened, that sometimes people get offended by twerking, but that shit is crazy,” she said. “I love to throw my ass. I love to shake my ass. That’s one of my favorite things to do, and I be seeing motherfuckers be like, ‘All you do is shake your ass.'”

However, Megan refuted the criticism by listing a number of other things she does, before talking about how some of her nitpicking haters may be willfully ignoring some important details.

“I be like, ‘Damn. Actually, I go to school and I rap and sometimes I be cooking. I’m a dog mom. I’m an awesome friend. [Twerking is] not all I be doing,” Megan added. “It’s just that maybe when you’re logging in, you came to see me twerk. ‘Cause you ain’t see that freestyle I just dropped?’ I can rap and twerk.”

Watch Megan’s response, below.

View this post on Instagram

“I don’t know when it happened, that people get offended by twerking. It’s not all I be doing, it’s just that maybe when you loggin’ in, you came to see me twerk, ’cause you ain’t see that freestyle I just dropped? I can rap and twerk.” —@theestallion on “B.I.T.C.H.” 😤💯 #AppleMusicXGenius

A post shared by Genius (@genius) on Mar 25, 2020 at 10:31am PDT

Photo via Getty

Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion Are Sending Fans Money

As concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus outbreak continue to grow, workers across the board have been hit hard by cut hours and lost wages, as more and more people have been encouraged to quarantine. And while there have been some proposed solutions, including stipends and rent assistance, many are still struggling in the here and now — which is where Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion come in.

Related | Megan Thee Stallion Was Made For This

Over the weekend, both rappers offered financial help to fans via CashApp, so that they could “go get some food then stay inside,” per Lil Nas X.

And while Megan didn’t overtly cite the coronavirus outbreak as the reasoning behind her decision to help her fans, she did shout them out for “going so hard supporting me.”

“I wanna support y’all and bless them pockets real quick !!!” she wrote, before referencing her new album Suga. “We’re apt to have a #SUGASPREE !”

That said, it’s unclear how long they’ll be doing this for — though let’s hope more celebs start following their example soon.

See both of their tweets, below.

hey guys drop ur cashapp. gonna send some of u some money to go get some food then stay inside.

— nope (@LilNasX) March 12, 2020

Hey hotties since y’all have been going so hard supporting me I wanna support y’all and bless them pockets real quick !!! We’re abt to have a #SUGASPREE ! Drop y’all’s cash app names👇🏾 #partner

— HOT GIRL MEG (@theestallion) March 12, 2020

Photos via Getty


Fans are rallying behind Megan Thee Stallion with the hashtags #FREETHEESTALLION and #FREEMEG. This all began on Sunday afternoon, when Hot Girl Meg retweeted a fan who was tweeting about wanting new music from the rapper. She announced that she would be talking about the issue on an Instagram live session.

During the live session, Meg was emotional as she revealed that she can’t release new music because her label 1501 isn’t allowing her to until she renegotiates her contract. She then warned new artists to read contracts

“I’m signed to independent labels. I’m not signed to them big-ass labels these other artists are signed to, and they get pushes, and they get placements, and they do all kinds of shit. So anything you see me do is because I woke up and did it that day,” she said. “I work for everything that I do. I really be working. And to try and stop me from working is really crazy! All I want to do is make music. All I want to do is put out music.”

Related | PAPER People: Megan Thee Stallion

She then warned up-and-coming artists about the dangers of signing on the dotted line without reviewing documents thoroughly. “To new artists coming out, I just want to say: It might seem good, it might sound good…but you definitely got to read,” she said. “Don’t sign nothing without no real lawyer, and make sure your lawyers is not the lawyers [of your label.]”

Megan has since tweeted the trending hashtags herself, and has been retweeting fans who are calling for her freedom to release new music again.

I think this tweet just about sums up how we feel about this whole situation:

Photo via Getty

Megan Thee Stallion and Phony Ppl Turn Up in a Car Wash

New York R&B quintet Phony Ppl and Houston’s finest Megan Thee Stallion dropped “Fkn Around” just last month, and the soulful track has already garnered nearly a million Spotify streams.

Related | Megan Thee Stallion Was Made for This

With groovy melodies from Phony Ppl and a rapped verse from the H-Town Hottie, this song required an equally dynamic music video, which was released today. From Phony Ppl dancing in a car wash to Megan’s sultry solo to an appearance from PAPER Award winner Foe Thee Frenchie, the “Fkn Around” visual is everything we wanted and more.

Today, PAPER premieres an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the shoot, which shows Phony Ppl and Megan Thee Stallion dancing in front of cars and talking about everything from turkeys to trips to Australia — unaware that the cameras are still rolling.

Watch the BTS and stream “Fkn Around,” below, which is all essentially about being blissfully commitment-free. And just in time for Valentine’s Day! Enjoy:

Photography: Jabari Jacobs/Tamara May

Houston Loves Megan Thee Stallion

On December 3rd, at White Oak Music Hall, I attended Megan Thee Stallion‘s last performance of 2019. Her Red Bull “Thee Outlaw” show was her homecoming in a sense — a triumphant return for Houston’s sweetheart, a young Black woman from Texas who brought the “motherfuckin Souf” to hundreds of festivals and venues throughout the United States over the past year. Kandy red hot slabs with sinister neon lights that glowed from their underbellies welcomed me as I arrived, alongside a “THIS WHY YA HOE MI55IN” sign bordered by white styrofoam cups of lean — the city’s unofficial drink.


Related | Megan Thee Stallion Was Made For This


It was an audiovisual reminder of the experience to come. Slab cars are physical embodiments of Houston’s rap culture — of Megan Thee Stallion’s origins and the city she calls home. Most importantly, they’re owned by CornBread aka Kandy Red Bread and Paul Wall , an early pioneer of Houston’s contemporary rap presence in mainstream hip-hop and Swishahouse fame.


Houston loves Megan Thee Stallion. It was clear, when Texas Southern University’s drumline performed an HBCU interpretation of “Big Ole Freak”, that their presence was to honor an ex-student who’s proud of her alma mater. As Slim Thug and Paul Wall, two of the city’s living legends, opened her homecoming performance with a DJ set that paid homage to Houston’s forefathers like Lil Troy and Lil Keke, attendees chunked up the Deuce in respect to the North and South side. As a Texan native who resides out of state, there’s few experiences where I’ve felt at home, but in that music hall there was a resounding spirit of homecoming — a familiar aura as attendees encouraged each other to throw ass, reciting every word of Megan Thee Stallion’s discography, from her early mixtapes at 1501 Entertainment to the universally acclaimed Fever.


The show felt like a thank you from Megan Thee Stallion to Houston — the city that supported her mom Holly Thomas’ rapping career, and prayed over her after Thomas died. The city that provided an only child with sisters in the music industry like Beyonce, Solange and Normani. The city that inspired Homecoming, Beyoncé’s Emmy-nominated documentary of her historical Coachella performance that transported audiences across the globe to an HBCU in the Dirty Dirty South. Megan Thee Stallion is Houston, and Houston is Megan Thee Stallion. She’s earned her role as the city’s ambassador from her early YouTube freestyles, especially the Dallas versus Houston, where she exterminated my hometown outside of our beloved Reunion Tower.


Related | Megan Thee Stallion Is Bringing Hot Girl Texas Style to Your Wardrobe


At a young age, Holly Thomas AKA Holly-Wood brought Megan Thee Stallion to studio sessions, where she was exposed to Biggie and Pimp C as her mother executed bars in the background. From 2001 – 2007, Holly-Wood achieved city-wide success through a tribute single to Houston legend DJ Screw that garnered heavy rotation on 97.9 The Box, a local hip-hop station. Her mother’s love for hip-hop inspired Megan Pete’s transformation into Megan Thee Stallion, and they found love in the exchange of verse, structures, and feedback on how to strengthen Megan Thee Stallion’s natural rapping abilities. We’ve witnessed the lineage of male rappers and their offspring for decades now, but Holly-Wood and Megan Thee Stallion reminded lovers of hip-hop about the genre’s maternal line.


In the crowd at the Houston show were Southern rap elders Bun B and Devin The Dude, looking down in admiration as they saw Megan Thee Stallion flawlessly execute a headline set with active crowd participation, choreography, and stage design. As I looked at Bun B, I wondered what Megan Thee Stallion means to him. What she means to Texas hip-hop as a whole. As a demi-god in Southern Rap, B’s early career was characterized by the lack of respect afforded to Southern rappers from those based on the coasts. But Houston has produced generations of rappers who have contributed to the development of hip hop, and through Megan Thee Stallion the city has found another champion — alongside Maxo Kream and Travis Scott, her male counterparts who have achieved mainstream success.


But who had every person across the United States saying “Hot Girl Summer” and “Real Fuckin Hot Girl Shit” all 2019? Meg. At 10 PM central time, saddled on a white horse, draped in white glitter and silver jewels with a matching cowboy hat and boots, welcomed by Ginuwine’s “Pony,” Megan Thee Stallion made her triumphant return.


Megan Thee Stallion has the gift of turning any person into her trick, from celebrities such as Wiz Khalifa, Moneybagg Yo and Trey Songz to the “hotties” at her homecoming performance. Before she performed her feature on Gucci Mane’s Big Booty, she summoned for “five hot girls and one hot boy to show they motherfuckin ass,” and they appeared within seconds to twerk alongside her. After they left the stage, Megan Thee Stallion rallied her “hotties” again to continue the “Hot Girl” lifestyle, no matter the season, and transitioned into a performance of her Billboard-charting single with Nicki Minaj. A number of alter egos presented themselves throughout the set, from Hot Girl Coach, HTown Hottie, and Tina Show, before her current form as Hot Girl Meg from Fever. Reminiscent of Nicki Minaj’s alter egos from her Pink Friday era, Megan Thee Stallion is a student of contemporary womxn hip-hop, and that’s why she’s one of the best in the game.


Related | Watch Normani and Megan Thee Stallion Do Marilyn Monroe


Days after her headlining performance, Billboard Women In Music honored Megan Thee Stallion with a Powerhouse Award. “Everybody really knows that it’s women who’s running the scenes,” she said when accepting the award. “I’m just happy to be apart of it. I can’t believe that they let me up in here I’m 24, I’m from Texas and I really like to grind. I really like to work. I’m just getting started. Y’all gon’ see where I take it.” So far we’ve seen her bring in the New Year with Beyoncé and Blue Ivy, collaborate with Normani, and show appreciation towards her team by taking them on vacation to Cabo — like the Southern sweetheart Holly raised her to be.


No other rapper right now has the sex appeal, freestyle ability and respect from her rap elders that Megan does. She’s known for being authentic to the game without selling out. Her debut album, scheduled to be released this year, could be one of the defining moments of the decade in pop culture and music. No matter the trajectory of her career, just remember her line from “Hot Girl”: “Bitch, I’m from Texas, we get rowdy.” Houston and the Lone Star State will go to war with any state, or coast, for our champion.


Photos courtesy of Red Bull Music

It’s Time to Have the Colorism Conversation

As underwhelming as I found Avengers: Endgame, one line caught my attention. During a conversation with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) notes that he was able to see “a pod of whales” in the Hudson because Thanos snapping half of Earth and its inhabitants away had helped save the natural environment. Blaming climate change on overpopulation instead of corporate greed is factually incorrect, but the movie really got me thinking about what would happen if a large chunk of humanity suddenly vanished.


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What if, I wondered, Thanos got specific and used his overgrown purple fingers to snap white people out of existence? A close friend and I concluded that capitalism would probably still be a thing. As would homophobia. Transphobia. Wars over religion. And, without a doubt, colorism. Colorism is anti-Blackness and Black self-hatred at its most insidious: discrimination against darker-skinned people of color by those with lighter skin-tones and — often — more Eurocentric features. And it is something Black people use to police ourselves.


Colorism is so pervasive in real life and popular culture that not even our most powerful Black celebrities are immune to it. Over the past few months, we’ve seen famous Black women like Ari Lennox, Teyana Taylor, Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s eight-year-old daughter Blue Ivy became central to very public discussions about Black facial features. Lennox and Taylor were referred to as “rottweilers”. People have ridiculed the width of Lennox’s nostrils. Vicious rumors about Megan actually “being a man” persist because of her strong build. Her wide nose also garnered comparisons to Lenny the Shark from Shark Tale. Blue is an especially depressing case because she is a young girl who has faced public scrutiny — especially over her “nappy hair” — since before she was born. This past week, K. Austin Collins (a Black male Vanity Fair film critic) and Violet Lucca (a white female Vogue editor), bonded over what Collins described as Blue’s “ugly duckling phase.”


It’s wild that any woman would subject a young child to such a harsh misogynistic gaze, and that a Black man would willingly perpetuate racist stereotypes. But Black men and white women have always been allies in these causes. As bell hooks wrote in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, they can either act “as oppressor or be oppressed” themselves, and have chosen the former strategy. Their idea of liberation? Becoming on par with white men.


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History has repeatedly shown that white women will act in their own self-interest, punching down on Black women and young Black girls like Lucca did, and it’s not up to us to make them change. But Collins — who deleted and apologized for his tweet, admitting that Black girls “in particular” deserve better — presents a more interesting case. hooks marks the modern struggle of Black men as one informed by patriarchy. In Ain’t I a woman, she states that “the Black male quest for his ‘manhood’ in American society is rooted in his internalization of the myth that simply having been born male, he has an inherent right to power and privilege.” Black men, similar to white women, are one notch away to attaining total privilege by virtue of being men. Blackness is their one obstacle, and they spend entire lives trying to clamber over it. This can result in a powerful form of self-hatred that ultimately benefits and sustains white supremacy and is almost immediately taken out on Black women, the social class right below both Black men and white women.


Black self-hatred targets those physical and social attributes that make us undeniably Black, and spits on anything that resembles love for and pride in Blackness. Lennox, Taylor and Megan are all women who blatantly love themselves. They are talented, stunning and firmly secure in their Blackness. So they get called ugly in a very “I don’t want her or value her, so no one else should” kind of way (and in a way that is inspired by colorist stereotypes about femininity) to knock them down a peg. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but light-skinned Black celebrities simply aren’t subject to this same aggressive abuse.


Colorism can be traced back to slavery, and perhaps before it, but was coined as a term in Alice Walker’s In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens in 1983. Colorism’s function is to limit Blackness, control Blackness and, ultimately, erase it. Any trait that reminds us of who we are — our difference — is deemed undesirable: dark skin, wide noses, wide lips. Meanwhile, their opposites are rewarded for presumed proximity to whiteness.


An enslaved person was able to demand their freedom earlier just based on their lighter complexion. They were able to own property and operate it as a tenant, whereas the most someone with a darker complexion could do was be a farm laborer. Post-slavery, many historic “firsts” by Black people have been accomplished by those with lighter skin — think Obama as the first Black president or Thurgood Marshall as the first Black supreme court justice. Darker-skinned Black people, women in particular, rarely feature in pop culture because mass media only rewards a particular kind of Blackness. This reward system is the reason that the wider colorism conversation always stalls — because to acknowledge its existence would appear to set us back even further.


Per colorism, Blue is as light as her famous mother, but she still “fails” to hit those Eurocentric feminine beauty standards that would disqualify her from experiencing abuse rooted in Black self-hatred in other ways. Her father Jay-Z, with his wide nose and large lips, has been deemed “ugly” for decades. People have always used this against him, to declare one of the world’s most successful artists as unworthy of marriage to Beyoncé. And there has always been anger at the fact that Blue inherited his 4C hair and wide nose, to the extent that Beyoncé actively addressed these anti-Black projections on Lemonade track “Formation,” pointing out that she loves those things in her husband and her child. Even if white supremacy would have her hate them. Then, on “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” she samples Malcolm X’s famous “Who Taught You How to Hate Yourself” speech to drive this point home.


58 years after Malcolm blatantly pointed out these issues of self-hatred in our community, we remain at square one. Why are we repulsed by our own skin if it’s not beige? Why do hair types past 3A disgust us? Why are we always telling each other to get nose jobs or oversexualizing our lips? Who benefits from this hate, and what does it mean that we channel most of it towards Black women? Ari Lennox, Teyana Taylor, and Megan Thee Stallion know colorism all too well, and it’s something Black girls like Blue Ivy have to learn about at a remarkably young age. But we must stop normalizing our own self-hatred — even though white supremacy has convinced us for centuries that we should.


Because there may come a day when white supremacy is no longer a thing. And who will we blame then?


Photo via Getty