Houston’s Hot Girls Having 2019’s Best Songs Is Both Trill & Important
Queen Bey and Megan Thee Stallion, Both Houston, Texas Natives, Have Recorded 2019’s Best Pop Music
Hot girls are running the summer. It might be Megan Thee Stallion’s fault. If not, blame Beyoncé. If you’re unaware, it’s fine. Houston always has, and always will be the silent force that likely best defines urban-to-pop crossover’s revolutionary spirit.
From Kamala Harris “not having shit to prove” to United States Women’s World Cup Team forward Megan Rapinoe scoring goals and then hitting b-boy stances in celebration (and so much more), 2019 has been a pop cultural year defined by women doing incredibly honest things that may have finally buried the notion that women, as a gender, are in literally any way, subservient and/or just a hair away from relevance as a cadre of most empowered first world leaders. Never a form to shy away from how culture best defines itself, two Black women from Houston, Texas — upstart emcee Megan Thee Stallion and Queen of Pop Beyoncé — have, in Stallion’s sexy, anthemic rap moment “Big Ole Freak” and Mrs. Knowles-Carter’s cover of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s cookout anthem “Before I Let Go,” successfully once again proven that Houston, as much as Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York’s five boroughs, or anywhere else, should actually always have the lead when soul music’s next progression demands to be defined.
Zero articles desperately searching for the “song of the summer” mention Hot Girl Meg’s “Big Ole Freak” as summer 2019’s best song. Yes, it’s been out since January, but save Bey, not much has come close, on a critical or casual level, to meet or exceed its excellence. “Big Ole Freak” is great because it’s non-nuanced and direct. Following in a fine tradition that starts somewhere around soulful rap progenitor Millie Jackson and her “Phuck You Symphony” or “Hot Wild Unrestricted Crazy Love,” spiraling through Lil Kim, and adding in yes, because that’s her and her actual homegirls twerk-freaking in the video clip, that Destiny’s Child-esque, adorably quasi-ratchet pop perfection.
One could easily make the statement that pop culture and the milquetoast listening ears of America’s general public only has space for one rapping Afro-American or Afro-Latina superstar. Thus, Cardi B’s release of “Press” — a song that lacks the sing-song hooks and irrepressible likability of “Bodak Yellow,” “Be Careful,” and “I Like It Like That” — was the “summer moment” that pop wanted, but sadly couldn’t have. Because Megan Thee Stallion is not a former TV star from Love And Hip Hop, nor a salacious ex-stripper, nor is actively being courted by rap superstars whose level of stardom mirrors that of rock stars, she’s amazingly slid under the broader pop cultural radar.
However, as if we’re turning back the clock some fifty years, “Big Ole Freak,” with its sumptuous sample of Al B. Sure’s 1987 R & B mega-hit “Nite and Day” is almost an urban-only success story that mainstream ears struggling to want more than Taylor Swift and Katy Perry’s burger and fries reunion or riding a horse down an Old Town Road are having to dig into the realm of Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram’s voluminous “underground” channels to discover.
Meg having an abundant lyrical talent while a distracted pop cultural zeitgeist accidentally turns a deaf ear is reminiscent of another Houston act, The Geto Boys. In an era where buff musclemen and mainstream-ready artists like LL Cool J and Run-DMC ran the rap crossover roost, a trio comprised of a portly emcee with a calm, preacher-like cadence, a boxer-turned-rapper, and a dreadlocked man who stood less than four feet tall really do not fit the billing of “must-hear/see superstars.” Recently, upon the untimely death of Bushwick Bill (who stood three feet eight inches tall), it was noted that his verse on 1991 released psychological thriller-as-rap song “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” “stands alone in hip-hop history, [and] remains a singular and oft-referenced text in genre scripture.” That being said, it took this song four months and needing to outlast eight other songs to hit number one on the Hot Rap Singles chart for only three weeks. As well, in a year where Naughty By Nature’s “OPP,” Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime,” Another Bad Creation’s “Iesha,” LL Cool J’s “Around The Way Girl,” plus C & C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” represented rap’s Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping moments, this Houston trio’s horrorcore hip-hop was outstanding, but also initially off the radar.
Similar, but different in comparison the Megan Thee Stallion sliding, yet thriving under the radar is Beyoncé covering Frankie Beverly and Maze’s 1981-released Black family reunion and cookout anthem “Before I Let Go.” It’s 2019’s boldest song, and also a moment where Knowles-Carter, like so many trill ass Houstonians before her, decided to calmly, yet forcefully take control of their own narrative by the throat.
Beyoncé in 2019 is in the midst of best defining herself as the reincarnation of Diana Ross in 1979. She’s “The Boss.” Ross in 1979 was a decade removed from being the lead singer of The Supremes, a pop music icon, movie star, and in the midst of dramatically asserting her independence. Beyoncé in 2019 is two decades removed from Destiny’s Child, a pop music icon, movie star, and in the midst of dramatically asserting her independence. As a Houstonian, there’s always a sense, if you were to use, say, Swishahouse Records as an example, a narrative that the best way to define your boss level status is to do it well within the confines created by, but without the aid of, the establishment.
Regarding the 1981 release, Frankie Beverly told Billboard, “I just thought it was a great little song, but I never thought it’d be all this. It really changed everything for me. It was a huge song at the time, and it’s one of those things this band will be able to carry on forever.” Regarding Mrs. Knowles-Carter’s cover, Beverly noted, “I feel bigger than ever! I feel like I have a huge smash out there. It’s definitely a blessing. Other people have done my songs, but the way she did this was in a class of its own. I’m hearing from people I haven’t heard from in years. She’s done something that has affected my life. I haven’t even spoken to a publication like yours in quite a while. So it’s changed things around for me.”
Swishahouse Records was founded as an independent label in 1997 that initially specialized in releasing mixtapes made by DJs who slowed down, scratched over, and remixed top-40 songs. From there, they released albums by artists including Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, and Slim Thug. Much like Beyoncé releasing her single in a way that asserted her excellence at a time when people maybe weren’t necessarily even contemplating how great she truly was, and sounding so unassailably good that if you think otherwise you could be a hater, Swishahouse’s strategy of unifying Houston’s streets behind singles before rap and pop’s mainstream could do anything other than accept their excellence, one-time Aftermath Records A&R Angelo Sanders noted, “[Swishahouse are] able to get their product out on the streets to specific regions at a greater speed than a major … They’re able to flood that whole Texas market with a product before the majors are able to notice what is going on out there.”
At present, “Big Ole Freak” has been named as one of Billboard’s 50 best songs and videos of 2019. As for “Before I Let Go?” You’ve probably eaten a spare rib or hot dog to it or two so far this summer. As for the legacy of Houston’s big year? Beyoncé’s “Before I Let Go” is played at the close of the Netflix release of her iconic 2018 Coachella performance. This two-plus hour greatest hits performance was also released as a full album, which for the purposes of the streaming-happy and commercially resurgent music industry likely feels akin to discovering a one-stop pill that heals all of the industry’s remaining financial ailments. Ideally, the likes of Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Tierra Whack, Rapsody, and numerous others are allowed the longest tail journey to chase massive success. At present, mainstream pop culture’s attention span for artistic excellence in hip-hop is short. But, given what Megan Thee Stallion has accomplished so far with a single from out of relative “left field” and other releases that deserve so much more acclaim, one can only believe that this portends well for the future.
For the past four decades, Houston’s defined itself as an essential player in the present and future of hip-hop and pop culture. In exceeding the existing standards in this regard set by the likes of the Geto Boys and Swishahouse Records, what Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion are accomplishing for the future of music and popular culture in 2019 is significant and worthy of praise.
Or, I could just close this like chopped and screwed ‘Yoncé does on Netflix album closer and originally 2013-released single “I Been On.”
Rolling high, leather and wood
Keep it trill, that’s what good