Megan Thee Stallion’s Traumazine Has A Message: Sexy Women Have Bad Days Too

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Written by Mide Olabanji

For many reasons, 2019 was a defining year for Thee Stallion. It was the year she landed her debut spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and solidified her entry into the rap industry, but also the year she lost her mother—who was equally a rapper, her manager and, in her words, her rock and everything—and grandmother in the same month. 2020 was similar to the previous year; a progressive career marked by a Beyonce-assisted remix, but also conflict with her record label and when she suffered a fatal shooting by a colleague. Following this series of events, Megan, in an ironic twist, released her first studio album titled Good News by the tail end of 2020. 

On the first track of the album, Shots Fired, she addresses the shooting head on. As she retells the incident of the night, Megan’s tone is fiery but tinged with regret and disappointment. While she shares that she regrets initially protecting her abuser and expresses disdain for her friend who betrayed her, the rapper made sure to let her opponents know exactly how she feels about them. Tory Lanez, her shooter and assaulter, is a “broke ass…goofy ass…lyin’…little ass…pussy nigga with a pussy gun in his feelings” whose supporters are mere clout chasers; and her friend is jealous of the attention that she gets, but where Megan is a steak, she is the shrimp in a side plate that needs to stay in her place. Before signing out, she points out that people’s response to her being down was to kick her and that she remembers the feeling well. 

After Shots Fired, Megan only sparsely addresses the incident in the rest of the album. In Circles, she insists that she is not in her feelings about it although, later on in the same song, she mentions that the bullet wounds, backstabs, and her mother’s death still make her sad and at war with herself. Although Something For Thee Hotties, a compilation album, came after Good News,  Megan only revisits the event in Traumazine; whereas Good News is confrontational, the latter is compassionate.  

Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, in 1920, borrowed the Greek word “trauma,” which literally means wound, to describe a deeply disturbing experience that alters a person’s psyche. Merriam-Webster also defines “zine” as a publication that is devoted to a subject matter. On first glance, it would be safe to conclude that Megan Thee Stallion’s second studio album, Traumazine, is a body of work that explores the private and public trauma she suffered in recent times. The rapper, however, adds a personal spin to it. She defines traumazine as “the chemical released in the brain when it is forced to deal with painful emotions caused by traumatic events and experiences,” and synonymizes it with self-realization. 

“When something happens to me, I kinda, like, push it to the side. Like if something is bothering me, I don’t sit down and talk about it or express myself. I’m just like okay, well, throw a bunch of stuff on my calendar so I can not even think about it,” Megan shares with SiriusXM. Freud found this suppression of intense or painful experiences, which he termed hysteria, to be an after-effect of trauma, and it comes at a cost. “The lingering effect of trauma is that you continue to react to mild stressors as if your life is in danger. And so you tend to be hyperreactive,” explains psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. “That [traumatic] event itself is over, but you continue to react to things as if you’re in danger.” Although Freud and Kolk have different words for it, catharsis and self-compassion respectively, they both agree that coming to terms with the event is the first step in the journey of healing. Megan realized that this intervention was needed when she noticed a pattern of “exploding” within thirty minutes of talking to people, laying the groundwork for Traumazine.  

As a nonchalant person who does not care to set the record straight or put other people in her business, Megan also found that it became easy for other people to tell her story and speak on her behalf. So although Traumazine is largely for her than it is for everybody else, the album invites listeners into Megan Thee Stallion’s mind and how she is navigating her life’s challenges. 

The encompassing body of work opens with a fiery NDA, where she confesses that she is tired of being humble and threatens to sue the people who disrespect her. On the third piece, Not Nice, she continues with this tempo, asserting that she is done being nice and is in fact mean. Yet, on the final track, a sensual Dua Lipa assisted song, she reveals that she is the sweetest. Two of the numbers that pointedly address her mental health struggles in detail, Anxiety and Flip Flop, are wedged between Scary, where Megan insists that her success and body make her a threat to her haters, and Consistency, an explicitly sultry song. Megan shares that this arrangement is intentional where, in the first part of the album, she knocks off the aggression in her, then says how she really feels, and finally transitions into party mode. More importantly, it reveals the multifaceted nature of Megan Pete — a sexy, confident, fiery, and depressed rapper who can be one thing this minute, another the next, and everything all at the same time. 

Anxiety was born out of Megan having a bad day and her subsequent attempt at writing about it to let off the steam, “but then I was like, let me try something different, let me put it in a song,” she tells Apple Music. When things are not rosy, Thee Stallion prefers to rap about how she wants to feel rather than how she feels in the moment, which made the writing of the song the hardest off the album. Even while recording the song, in Megan’s head she was writing in a diary, allowing her to be honest and vulnerable. “Anxiety is not even a song that I feel like I wanted to write for other people, like I wrote it for me, to me, kinda like to my mama a lil bit. And it was rough,” she maintains. 

In the first few seconds of Anxiety, just before she gets to rapping, Megan is heard saying “Let me just take a second/Just got a lot to get off my chest,” signaling an attempt to finally confront her trauma. The track then picks up with “I’m a bad bitch and I got bad anxiety,” reconciling two distinct personalities of Megan’s. This important information is an underlying backdrop of the song where in the chorus she reiterates, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, bad bitches have bad days too/Friday, Saturday, Sunday, bounce back how a bad bitch always do.” 

In general, women experience depression and anxiety twice as much as men, but exposure to life-event stressors such as trauma, violence, and racial discrimination specifically place African American women at a particularly high risk. Corroborating this report is the data that revealed that African American women are more likely than their white counterparts to report feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness. Despite these stressors, statistics show that many African American women do not seek professional counseling. On Anxiety, Megan is overwhelmed and clueless about where to direct her pent-up emotions; she raps, “Today I really hate everybody/And that’s just me being real.” She acknowledges that she has issues but, unfortunately, has nobody to talk to about them. “They keep saying I should get help/But I don’t even know what I need,” she exhaustedly confesses. 

Cheryl Woods–Giscombe and her colleagues highlight some of the factors that explain Black womens’ disparities in mental healthcare use — mistrust of healthcare providers, cultural differences, stigma, lack of awareness of available services, and the superwoman role that Black women have had to embody since slavery. Attached to this role are perceived obligations to project strength, suppress emotions, resist feelings of vulnerability, succeed despite limited resources, and prioritize caregiving over self-care. Even at her lowest when Megan finally considers seeking help by dialing emergency 911, she still finds a way to dismiss the severity of her condition by concluding “they probably won’t think it’s that deep.” The music video of the track is a loop of an animated Megan in her regular hot girl clothes–a crop top, thong, fishnet stockings and heels–but flailing with no one to help her till she sinks into a body of water. Sticking with the look is a commitment to the general theme of Traumazine, emphasizing that sexy women (can) also struggle with their mental health. “[Traumatized people] knowing that [their] reactions are understandable and are rooted in [them] getting stuck in the past is a terribly important part of beginning to recover from trauma,” shares Kolk. At the end of the day, all Megan wants is this understanding, to hear someone tell her that “‘It’ll be okay’/Bounce back cause a bad bitch can have bad days.” 

“Behind this smile, I’m fightin’ these tears cause a bitch be sad as fuck,” she continues with Flip Flop, the succeeding song. Here, Megan speaks on the incomparable pain of losing both of her parents, especially her mother who was an integral part of her life and career; coupled with her being an only child, she doesn’t know who to trust at this point in her life. The rapper did not particularly receive a sympathetic public reaction to being shot. “They keep saying “speak your truth”/And at the same time, say they don’t believe,” she recounts on Anxiety, following up with “I don’t know why they want me to fail/I don’t know why they hate me so much” on Flip Flop

Thee Stallion is convinced that her physique contributes to how she is received. She is not the small, fair skinned, dainty damsel in distress so people find it hard to empathize with her plight but also easy to dismiss her pain. “I’m not a little lady, like I’m not petite and I’m not shy. I’m loud and I’m outspoken [which] sometimes could be a little intimidating to people so sometimes I feel like people expect me to make myself smaller or, you know, be nicer, talk a type of way, act a certain type of way, to be a little more accepted,” she shares with Apple Music. 

She echoes this sentiment in Not Nice where she raps, “I guess my skin not light enough, my dialect not white enough/Or maybe I’m just not shaped the way that make these niggas give a fuck.” It is important to note that this strict eurocentric idea of female beauty that excludes Megan, which rapper Nicki Minaj cosigns with Big Foot, is backed by the patriarchy and consequently misogynoir for the women who do not fit into this standard. Megan, however, remains unfazed, continuing with, “But fuck it, ‘cause I’m black, biggie-biggie black, ass biggy fat.” 

Trauma can sometimes leave lasting effects, going as far as altering how the brain works. For Megan, her experience has made her more empathetic to other people who are struggling with their mental health even when they put on a tough facade: “I understand you might be having a bad day, it might have nothing to do with me, so let me treat you with a little bit more courtesy. I just feel like I wanna treat people how I would want everybody to treat me.” She now also has a website dedicated to raising awareness about mental health where she shares therapy platforms and mental health resources, including those tailored to marginalized groups like Black girls, Black women, Black men and LGBTQIA+ folk. As Thee Hot Girl Coach, such a project destigmatizes mental health, reminding her fans, fondly referred to as Thee Hotties, that everyone struggles sometimes and that it is okay to seek help. 

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