Looking at the stats, you’d think Megan Thee Stallion was on top of the world: “HISS,” the second single from her third studio album, was her first solo chart-topper. But as the silver-tongued Houston native has risen from cult-favorite Instagram freestyler to full-fledged cultural force after breaking through with 2019’s “Hot Girl Summer,” the rapper’s been weighed down by grief and betrayal, all highly public and intensely scrutinized. On 2022’s Traumazine, Megan began to let down her guard and open up about her pain. She teased its follow-up in late 2023 with a statement: “Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past, over and over again.” On MEGAN, she’s still going through it, but she’s not going down without a fight. The motif of the snake, coiled and waiting to strike, winds its way through MEGAN’s 18 tracks with cool, collected menace. “Still going hard with the odds against me,” she spits on “HISS” over an eerie beat from go-to producer LilJuMadeDaBeat. She’s got devastating burns for everybody within earshot on “Rattle,” snapping at an unnamed peer, “Your life must be boring as fuck if you still reminiscing ’bout shit that we did.” (Her claim to be “a motherfuckin’ brat, not a Barbie” on “Figueroa” might clarify its intended target.) There are moments of levity: “Otaku Hot Girl” flexes her arcane anime knowledge, while “Accent” recruits Hot Girl Summer tourmate GloRilla for a country-girl ode to being “thicker than a Popeye’s biscuit.” But you get the sense that for Megan, it’s awfully lonely at the top: On “Moody Girl,” she switches her trademark tagline to “real motherfuckin’ sad girl shit.” And over the metalcore guitar chug driving “COBRA,” she tells you how it feels to break down while the world is watching.

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