This summer felt dominated both by Megan Thee Stallion's perfect catchphrase "hot girl summer" as well as the endless quest to both analyze and co-opt it. But Megan is part of a whole wave of women, from Cardi B and Princess Nokia to City Girls, Saweetie, and Rico Nasty, whose lyrics offer new perspectives on what it's like to be a woman in an era where new generations are remaking the rules. They might not be explaining their worldview the way academics do. But, hey, who really remembers what they read in dusty philosophy books anyway? Below, we picked out a few signature songs that carry this movement and analyze them like the feminist texts they are.
Megan Thee Stallion: "Pimpin," Fever, 2019
None of Megan's songs boil down her philosophy quite like her lyrics on "Pimpin,'" from this year's album Fever. It captures how Megan created a hypersexual persona that still doesn't cater to men. "Lick, lick, lick, lick, lick / This is not about your dick / These are simply just instructions on how you should treat my clit," she raps. The song paints a picture of a woman who enjoys sex for her own pleasure and doesn't put the needs of men above her own. As she says, "Damn I want some head but I chose the dough instead / I could never ever let a nigga fuck me out my bread." She's focused on her career and doesn't want audiences to be confused simply because she likes to rap about sex a lot. According to Megan, she's actually the farthest thing from boy-crazy: "Ain't no dick alive that can make me lose my mind / every nigga that done tried still be crying on my line."
BbyMutha: "Rules," Glow Kit: Blk Girl, 2016
BbyMutha has been creating a lane for modern moms with albums that weave sexually explicit tracks with touching interludes of her talking to her kids. And she pulls it off seamlessly. On her 2016 hit "Rules," she gives listeners some honest, vaguely motherly life advice about how to keep their sex lives private. On the fun, head-bobbing chorus, she repeats: "You can't give your pussy to a nigga who's not used to getting pussy / 'cause that pussy gon' be everybody's business." She explains in the first verse that she learned this from personal experience, sleeping with a saxophonist who was using her to make another woman jealous. But in classic BbyMutha style, the track isn't petty or conniving. She simply distills the lessons from the incident with a hilariously reserved cool mom attitude.
Jhené Aiko: "Triggered," 2019
While Jhené Aiko's Big Sean breakup track "Triggered" may not be a conventional rap song, Aiko has given us enough bars in her career that we'll count this one, her most raw depiction of womanhood in years. In her emotional stream of consciousness, Aiko looks for the right way to express how badly Big Sean hurt her while "trying her hardest not to disrespect [him]." She starts to question whether "[she's] overreacting," a few times during the song, which calls him a motherfucker on the chorus. But instead of forcing herself to keep it cordial, she ultimately allows herself to feel angry. When she closes on, "Triggered, when I see your face / Triggered, when I hear your name / Triggered, I am not okay … you need to stay out of my way," she seems to be validating her own emotions. And her track will likely give other women space to do the same.
Cardi B: "Be Careful," Invasion of Privacy, 2018
On "Be Careful," Cardi B explains her perspective on cheating. She's not into retaliating with similar behavior if she finds out a lover's unfaithful because, as she raps, "Karma for you is gon' be who you end up with." She holds out hope that he'll change on the chorus, warning, "be careful with me." But on the track she's largely accepting that he's responsible for making his own bed and she's prepared to drop him if he doesn't change. "It's gon' hurt me to hate you, but lovin' you's worse," she proclaims. Who knows how this translates to her real-life philosophy, considering she took back Offset back after rumors they split because of his infidelity. But at least in her music, if a lover wrongs Cardi, she has no qualms with kicking him to the curb and flexing in a diamond-studded veil at their conspicuously-timed funeral.
Rico Nasty: "Rage," Nasty, 2018
No one gets the mosh pit going like rockstar rapper Rico Nasty. Her high-energy tracks encourage women to be as reckless as they want to be, and no song captures that like her more rock-influenced song "Rage." As she raps, she "might give a fuck on a rare occasion," because she really, "like bad bitches who be ragin'." Her concerts are essentially parties for women to follow their wildest impulses the way men have been able to in mosh pits for decades. And she gets audiences into the spirit by leading by example, kissing fans and spitting in their mouths on stage. On "Rage" she's really not kidding when she says, "If you talk it then be about it … Do what you gonna do, you don't gotta explain it."
Princess Nokia: G.O.A.T., 1992 Deluxe, 2017
New York staple Princess Nokia insists that all of her nerdy quirks are actually next-level swag. She schools listeners on her game in "G.O.A.T." saying, "It's me who took the weirdo shit / to another level and I'm killin' it." In the first verse, she shouts out the mash-up of cultures that she embraces wholeheartedly. She mentions anime and being a "skater boy" and rocking the Pelle Pelle jackets and saggy jeans of New York's Black and Puerto Rican communities. Even though her peers didn't always understand her growing up, she celebrates that it's all good now. "I got my own movement … I change rap, forever man … I been the G.O.A.T. eatin' off the land … They ain't want me, that's beginning-ish / Now I'm too hot, and they suck my dick." Ten points for the nerd team!
City Girls: "Where the Bag At," PERIOD, 2018
City Girls' "Where the Bag At" is a quintessential sex work anthem. It gets the dancefloor going while bringing listeners into a world where, "if it don't make money, it don't make sense." The City Girls duo, Yung Miami and JT, flip the script on demanding men who want picture-perfect women to be their arm candy or housewives, reminding them they'll have to pay for it. Yung Miami says she'll "put it to the side for a Benz," while JT echoes, "pay a bill just to kiss me." But they're not simply bragging about their worth; they're also giving pretty solid financial advice. According to the lyrics, they already own their own cribs and cars. But they want more cribs and cars just to use for sex with new clients (genius!). In true hustler fashion, City Girls really know how to make their assets work for them.
Saweetie: "ICY GIRL," High Maintenance, 2018
In Saweetie's hustler anthem "ICY GIRL," she explains that she's not stacking paper just to look fly. "You tryna get a bag of weed? / I'm tryna get a bag a week," she raps. "Put it in my savings and invest in the right companies." In the track, she weaves classic brags that "her time is very pricey" with real-talk explainers that she's hustling to help her whole team achieve their dreams. A key part of keeping her focus is also steering clear of any drama, as she raps, "You beefing with my enemy does not make you a friend of me / Girls so weird stay clear I'm living drama free." Saweetie lets listeners in on the un-sexy truth of hustling for an icy life, which is that the hustling itself isn't always glamorous.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.