Despite some complicating factors – label issues, the decision to release an EP rather than the promised debut album – Megan Thee Stallion’s story is one familiar to all rap fans in the 21st century. Having built up credibility in the mixtape world, she’s now stepping up to a mainstream level while trying to keep the fiery energy of 2019’s Fever, and with Suga, for the most part she succeeds.
Now an international chart hit thanks to its Beyoncé-helmed remix, Savage still packs a punch with its uptempo trap beat and lyrical braggadocio (“I would never trip on a nigga if I had him / bitch that’s my trash, you the maid so you bagged him”) while B.I.T.C.H. is a stylish reboot of a 2Pac classic, all G-Funk era synths and banging bass.
Another well-executed homage is Captain Hook, which sees Megan switch between two different deliveries, ‘Gimme The Loot’ style, over sparse but characterful accompaniment, and Hit My Phone with Kehlani is a sweet funk-flavoured duet that’s hooky in all the right places.
Given how widely publicised The Neptunes’ contributions were, it’s doubly disappointing that they provide two of the weaker tracks musically. Stop Playing’s woozy layers never quite mesh with each other – perhaps a problem with mixing and mastering? – while Crying In The Car feels cheap and underdeveloped. Nonetheless Megan performs well on both of these tracks, the latter an opportunity for introspection about how fame changes relationships.
The tracks here are mostly short and sharp, a brisk pace that suits her blunt style, but if the listener is left wanting more there’s also a brilliant ChopNotSlop version of the EP that slows the pace down and plays intriguingly with the structure, just like DJ Screw used to do on his classic tapes. All in all Suga is a very promising work, an enjoyable snapshot of a rapper becoming a bona fide star.