Megan Pete’s message has been clear since people started calling her a stallion – a male horse, of course – in high school: anything the guys can do, she can do better. Named for her pneumatic figure, the 25-year-old has become the biggest new star in the US by playing the male rappers at their own game. Money and sex – she has amassed tonnes of both, and shared every vivid detail of the process in her sparse, old school songs.
After coining the aspirational slogan Hot Girl Summer with her first US number one single last year, the wider world became fully aware of her this summer when she scored two more chart-toppers in quick succession. There was Savage, a TikTok lockdown dance craze given rocket fuel with the addition of a new contribution from her fellow Houston native Beyoncé. Then WAP, a wildly explicit duet with Cardi B with an eye-popping video that caused worldwide pearl clutching from moral guardians.
On her debut album, then, we ought to know what to expect: single entendres, graphic imagery and bulletproof self-confidence. Men are insufficient, called crybabys: “Long legs, he intimidated.” On Work That, her bedroom requirements are outlined in a manner every bit as unsubtle as on WAP: “Why you askin’ if I like it when you know that you don’t hear me?/All them big-mouth boys never last in it,” she complains. The tone is elevated slightly when she titles one song, a melodic collaboration with the Jamaican star Popcaan, Intercourse.
Hers is a clean sound: crisp beats that echo the earliest hip hop, with a clear, fast vocal delivery that’s a long way from the Auto-Tuned, sing-song style of so many rappers today. She samples The Jackson 5 on Go Crazy and lifts Dr Dre’s Nineties G-funk synths on Freaky Girls.
The only major surprise comes right at the start, on Shots Fired, when she addresses a far more serious situation. Rapper Tory Lanez has been charged with felony assault for shooting her in the foot, which he denies, in a confusing incident that has gripped hip hop social media since July. Over a menacing beat that recalls the sound of another generation’s shooting victims – Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls – she addresses Lanez directly, though not by name. “Who you takin’ shots at, goofy-ass bitch?/Watchin’ me succeed from your knees,” she spits.
It shows she’s no victim, in a song which also demands justice for Breonna Taylor, the Kentucky woman who was shot by Police in March. It’s a rare moment of proof that she’s more than a cartoonish sex machine too.