Ride on: The unstoppable rise of Megan Thee Stallion

n the night of November 30, 1994, rapper Tupac Shakur was shot five times in the lobby of Quad Studios on Times Square in Manhattan. He suspected Brooklyn hip-hop artist Biggie Smalls (also known as the Notorious B.I.G.) of being involved in trying to kill him.

Three months later, Smalls released a track titled ‘Who Shot Ya?’, which had the provocative lyrical throw down: “Can’t talk with a gun in your mouth, huh?”

Biggie denied the song was about Tupac. Whatever the truth of that, it incited rap’s bloodiest feud – between the East Coast and West Coast rap communities.

The following June, Shakur responded to ‘Who Shot Ya?’ with the track ‘Hit ’Em Up’. In it, Smalls was referred by name as a “mark-ass bitch”.

Three months later, on September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times in his car in Las Vegas. Six days later he was dead.

His murder remains unsolved.

In the early hours of March 9, 1997, Biggie Smalls met a similar end, murdered in a drive-by shooting in LA. He was 25. His murder also remains unsolved.

Cut to – completely unrelated – July 12, 2020, and a dark roadside in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, following a pool party at Kylie Jenner’s house.

After an argument, Houston rap superstar Megan Thee Stallion was shot in both feet with a semiautomatic firearm, allegedly fired by a Toronto rapper called Tory Lanez, shouting: “Dance, bitch!”


Megan Thee Stallion at the Grammys in 2021. Picture by Jordan Strauss

Lanez denies the shooting.

Three months later, Megan’s debut studio album Good News opened with the track ‘Shots Fired’ – in which she slams Lanez, singing over a sample of Biggie Small’s ‘Who Shot Ya?’ “You shot a 5’10” bitch with a .22,” she raps. “Talkin’ ‘bout bones and tendons like them bullets wasn’t pellets.”

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Lanez faces up to 27 years in jail if convicted of felony assault. The case goes to trial on September 14 – two weeks after Megan Thee Stallion headlines the Electric Picnic in Laois.

She was born Megan Jovon Ruth Pete on February 15, 1995 in San Antonio, Texas. Her father missed her birth as he was in jail and she was raised in Houston by her great-grandmother, her grandmother and her mother, Holly Thomas, who worked as a bill collector by day and by night rapped under the name Holly-Wood.

“I grew up watching her writing [raps] and going with her to the studio, which I thought was normal. I started writing, and I would sneak her CDs with [instrumental versions of hip-hop hits] and rap over them. Holly-Wood was the first female rapper I ever saw.”

When she was 15 she started rapping herself. At 18, while a student at Prairie View A&M University, she posted online videos of herself rapping. Within two years, she was calling herself Megan Thee Stallion (“because I’m tall and fine”) and her debut single ‘Like a Stallion’ came out in early 2016. The following year, her ‘Last Week in HTx’ video was a huge YouTube hit.

Her mother died in March 2019 of brain cancer.

“I’ve lost both of my parents. I just started learning that it’s OK to want to go get therapy,” she said. “As a Black person, and when you think of therapy you think of ‘Oh my gosh, I’m weak’. You think of medication, and you just think the worst. Now it’s becoming safe to say, ‘All right now, there’s a little too much going on. Somebody help me.’”

In summer 2019, she released ‘Big Ole Freak’, a single from her EP Tina Snow, and then ‘Hot Girl Summer’ with her friend and fellow rapper Nicki Minaj. In January 2020, she released the EP Suga featuring lead single ‘B.I.T.C.H.’ – which included samples ripped from Tupac’s ‘Ratha Be Ya N*****z’.

Full of braggadocio, she was rapping in an arrogant, sexual way that had previously been the domain of men in hip-hop.

“You can only rap about peace, and kumbaya, and you’re supposed to be such a lady,” she proclaimed. “I’m not scared to say what I want to do. If the boys can do it, we can do it too.”

In April 2020, her single ‘Savage’ (with fellow Houstonian Beyoncé on the remix) became her first US top 10 hit.

Then in July, she was shot.

Her career almost ended, and she had to undergo surgery for gunshot wounds at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

In August, ‘WAP,’ her collaboration with Cardi B, went to number 1 in America. An unashamed eulogy to all things vaginal, it is probably the most sexually explicit song to ever top the US charts. The song caused predictable controversy, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson saying the song “degraded our culture and hurt our children”, while Congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine tweeted that “America needs far more women like Melania Trump” and fewer like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.

On August 20, Megan claimed for the first time publicly that Lanez pulled the trigger that almost crippled her.

Speaking in an Instagram Live video, she said: “You shot me and you got your publicist and your people going to these blogs lying. Stop lying.”

In September, Time magazine put her on its cover, and named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The following month, in October 2020, she went on prime time American TV’s Saturday Night Live and lambasted the attorney general of Kentucky investigating the death of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old African-American woman fatally shot by police officers.

In March last year she won three Grammys. At the awards show, she and Cardi B performed ‘WAP’, cavorting together on a giant bed. Conservative author Candace Owens said the show celebrated “the destruction of American values and principles”.

Be that as it may, Megan Thee Stallion is racing towards global superstardom – with a new single ‘Pressurelicious’ just out, ahead of an as-yet-untitled sophomore studio album expected soon, a headline slot at Electric Picnic in September, on foot of wowing Worthy Farm at Glastonbury, and the Longitude fans at Marlay Park three weeks ago.

Success doesn’t faze her – probably because of the values she was raised with.

“I’m doing it for me, but I’m also doing it for the women in my family who made me who I am today,” she once said.

“I’ve always seen everybody in my life be independent. My daddy passed away when I was 15, so my mama was still going hard taking care of us. If we were going through money problems, my mother and my two [maternal] grandmothers always made sure I didn’t know.

“We could’ve been struggling, but they made it work.

“I’ve always seen strong women making it work – so I’ve always wanted to have that same drive that the women in my family have.”

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