In 2018, Megan Thee Stallion levied a vivid threat. “Bitch, p-pretty please / I want you to come say something to me,” she rapped on “Tina Montana,” one of the most propulsive songs from her EP that year. “I’ve really been itching to go the fuck off / I put this Giuseppe heel in your mouth.” Tina Snow was a confident album, full of punchy one-liners that referenced Megan’s proclivities for sex, money, and control. It was also the then-23-year-old artist’s first release with her label, 1501 Certified Entertainment.
Two years and one chart-topping record later, the contract she signed is the subject of pending litigation—and of her newest album. The Houston artist, née Megan Pete, sued 1501, claiming that it had been blocking her from releasing new music. Now 25, she contends that the contract she signed while “young and naive” is financially exploitative and creatively restrictive. But this month has been a good one for her so far. A Texas judge granted her a temporary restraining order against the label and its CEO, Carl Crawford; the order was extended Friday. (For his part, Crawford has denied all of Megan’s allegations.) And last week, Megan released Suga, an eclectic nine-track EP on which she flouts 1501’s control through her defiant lyrics. While Megan’s broader legal battle is ongoing, these smaller triumphs are encouraging—not just for her, but for other artists in the industry too.
Many rising musicians, especially young women of color, have had their careers hindered by arrangements similar to Megan’s, in which a label wields near-total control while giving musicians paltry sums. Megan’s complaints echo those of artists such as the singers Kelis and SZA. The Oakland rapper Kamaiyah, too, recently released Got It Made, the first mixtape put out by her new independent label, which follows years of delays that Kamaiyah endured while signed to Interscope Records. Still, Megan’s degree of candor—especially since she remains signed to her label—is comparatively rare. Beginning with an Instagram Live broadcast on March 1, in which she first spoke publicly about her dispute with 1501, the rapper has been startlingly transparent about the particulars of her financial arrangement with the label.