For better and worse, the career of Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion — who is rapidly becoming the breakout star of this problematic year — can be divided into two roughly concurrent eras: pre-“WAP” and post-“WAP,” pre-Lanez and post-Lanez. The former addresses her NSFW summer smash single with Cardi B; the latter the July incident in which rapper Tory Lanez allegedly shot Megan in the feet after an argument. Megan addresses the incident (without mentioning Lanez by name) in the scathing diss track that opens the album, “Shots Fired,” which samples Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” and degrades the object of her disdain in an impressive variety of ways. That business handled, she then moves on to the primarily bills of fare on “Good News”’ agenda: partying, self, sex, and dudes who don’t meet her standards.
Before “WAP,” Megan was a self-proclaimed “hood Mona Lisa,” creator (and trademarker) of 2019’s summer smash “Hot Girl Summer,” with Texas-accented raps and vocals that are confident, provocative and sexy but also show a rare sensitivity: “Ain’t Equal,” from early 2020’s “Suga” EP, tells of losing her mother and grandmother in the same month, and the remix of the EP’s “Savage” brought a status-rising collaboration with Beyonce.
Post-“WAP” and post-Lanez, Megan has become more than a musician — launching the Don’t Stop Scholarship Fund for women of color, penning an editorial for the New York Times titled “Why I Speak Up for Black Women” and making a similar statement during her October musical performance on “Saturday Night Live” — but apart from the opening track, she keeps “Good News” focused on fun while still being a proud statement on Black womanhood. Her brand of eroticism has grown harder and much more direct (particularly on “Body” and the “Don’t Stop” single with Young Thug), and she’s jettisoned “Suga”’s experiments with R&B for a more traditional hip-hop approach, although songstress SZA makes a welcome appearance at the sweet center of “Freaky Girls,” with its sampling of Dr. Dre’s G-funk-era synths.
The slow, tic-tock-ing “Cry Baby” presents Megan and DaBaby racking up numbers of sexual partners as if they were ticking off lottery numbers. While the low-voiced rapper indulges himself happily, Megan makes fake-me-out crying noises and claims that the sex was over before it even started. “Damn, he probably wanna wear my hoodie,” she raps, before dismissing her lame lover.
In general, men don’t fare too well on the album. “Work That” piledrives its way into “WAP” territory with steely soul and lines such as “Why you askin’ if I like it when you know that you don’t hear me?/ All them big-mouthed boys never last in it.”
It’s not only lousy sex that’s an issue where men are concerned. On the bluesy, brassy “Sugar Baby,” she implores her cheapskate lover to save his money for the future, to “invest in this p—-y, boy, support Black business,” but at the same time she says she’s “not even coming over till I know how big your d— is.” Only on the syrupy “Intercourse,” with a heavily autotuned rude Jamaican toaster Popcaan, does MTS seem sated, with the spare, hard knocking “Baby” coming a close second.
However, “Movie” (with Lil Durk), “Do It on the Tip,” (with City Girls & alter-ego Hot Girl Meg) and “Go Crazy” with Big Sean and 2 Chainz don’t go much of anywhere and take up too much oxygen on the overly long album. The best bits of “Good News” highlight something there isn’t enough of: Megan Thee Stallion alone, with her melodic sensibilities set to spacious R&B. While “Circles” shows off some serious skills in steely soul and “What’s New” is the album’s contagious tune (with a whistling hook that’s alarmingly reminiscent of Maroon 5’ “Moves Like Jagger”), it’s “Outside” that says the most with the least. Produced by fellow Houstonian Juicy J and guided by the purr of a slow, ticklish electric piano, Megan rhapsodizes about realness, strength, and states her position as one that’s alien to all of her fame and fortune.
“And I’ma be outside ’til I don’t wanna be
And I’ma show this ass ’cause it’s what they wanna see — look!
I ain’t for the streets, ’cause bitch, I am the street.”
More warm-blooded than most of “Good News,” on “Outside” and other uncluttered tracks, Megan pulls off something tart, true and real, while maintaining all that is best about her hard exterior. One wishes there was more of that sound on her debut album, but overall, “Good News” finds Megan moving confidently to the next level.