Continuing an impressive release pace, the woman known as the Houston Hottie has been gifting fans with mixtapes, studio albums and extras with at least a yearly project since exploding onto the mainstream hip-hop scene back in 2019 with her Fever mixtape. Racking up the awards and accolades in the meantime, Megan has set out to prove she can go bar-for-bar with any rapper in the game – male or female – with a series of impressive freestyles and quotable lines. Apparently the last project in her contract before she’s able to escape from an unfavourable label deal, Traumazine continues to dive into all of the drama surrounding her as a public figure, this time with more of a focus on coping with the trauma and coming out strong on the other end. There has been criticism that Megan’s projects are all highly similar, and it’s still valid as the tracklist extends to 18, but you can’t deny how great she is at what she does. There are a couple tracks here where she tries something different, and it falls flat. The fans know what they’re here for, and they get another helping here – as Megan says herself on the opening track, “How many more ways can I say that I’m the baddest?”
Just like on Good News, “NDA” opens with a status update about everyone trying to disrespect or knock her off her throne in recent years with a hard-hitting aggression fit for a fiery battle-rap. Megan’s clearly been inspired by 90s hip-hop as of late, moving away from the poppier, genreless mould of today’s music and bringing back boom-bap loops, siren-like synths, and horrorcore-adjacent stark piano and low bass notes to better match her trademark snarl. Addressing the Tory Lanez drama among others, there’s a moment where you can hear her pause and catch her breath that lets us know she’s giving everything she has. The album’s opening run of tracks is easily its strongest, as her delivery on the chorus of “Ungrateful” has to be up there with her quotable career-highs. Truly tapping into her inner Scarlet Witch, Megan lets her foes know they should be grateful she’s showing mercy while Key Glock echoes her flow with a colder energy. “Not Nice” contains some of the most scathing disses on the project, even if the chorus doesn’t land quite as hard, while “Budget” sees her teaming up with a kindred spirit in Latto – the two are both no-nonsense rappers from the South who are equally willing to drop a lyrical knockout punch or a goofy punchline. The call-and-response flow in the chorus brings a playful energy to Megan’s scorched-earth start, the beat cutting out and getting chopped up to accentuate some of her best bars.
The opening excellence continues with tracks like “Her” and “Gift & A Curse.” The former is a brief but incredibly fun track where Megan jumps on the current house wave with verses primed for crowds to scream every word – they sound like a grown-up playground chant at times. The repetitive chorus is the same kind of annoying as her single “Body,” that is, hilarious or excruciating depending on your mood, but that’s almost part of her brand at this point. “Gift & A Curse” sounds like Megan on top of her throne, each line almost sounding like it’s delivered with an extra smirk or a suppressed chuckle as she builds herself up in grandiose ways and attacks the US Supreme Court with the same fervor as her haters. “Ms. Nasty” switches up the energy slightly – it’s a nice touch that the shimmering synths of the beat juxtapose what might be the most X-rated song on the album with something so pretty and pristine, and her new perspective comes through when she notes that she’s now wary of being so confident and liberated since the beneficiaries of it “might harass [her].” The tracks “Who Me” and “Red Wine” contribute to the album’s first real loss of steam, with Pooh Shiesty appearing on the former and failing to stay on beat while Megan’s formula becomes all the more evident, and the latter featuring one of her most uncomfortable singing performances yet on the hook. She’s been criticized for it before, but this one is a new level of breathy and low-effort, with awkward ad-libs in the back – it’s unfortunate, because the verses are actually quite good.
Two titans collide on the track “Scary,” which appropriately comes with some cheesy Halloween effects and shrill screams interlaced into the beat to house Megan and Rico Nasty’s collective energy. Honestly, this track probably could have gone a lot harder than it really does, but it’s engaging enough just to hear these two interact, delivering some great wordplay and a cheeky hook – Megan’s “Ask Jeeves” bar is something else. Not many people are capable of stealing the spotlight from Megan, but Rico comes close on her zany verse. The tracks “Anxiety” and “Flip Flop” find Megan getting a little more emotional and confessional than ever before, with her own confident spin on the subject still laced in. “Anxiety” coasts on bouncy, cheerful pianos and a quirky yodeling sample in the back as Megan raps about bouncing back from bad days – hot girls have bad days too, after all. Speaking about her mother’s passing and comparing herself to the Marilyns and Britneys of the world that society mocked and objectified, the sentiments continue onto “Flip Flop” as she searches for the genuine people in the tough times. It’s Megan’s best chorus here from a singing perspective, though the track itself feels short. “Consistency” kicks off a run of features with a heavenly appearance by Jhene Aiko on a track that cleverly samples The Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets,” but “Star” doesn’t measure up with an obnoxiously bubblegum template that feels like a truly awkward fit with her harder verses and Lucky Daye on autopilot.
If there’s one thing that’s consistently great about Megan, though, it’s her single choices, and the biggest ones all appear for a final send-off. Despite a bit of a lacklustre effort from Future on “Pressurelicious,” it’s still nice to have another “WAP”-style track where Megan trades bars back and forth, the two bouncing off of each other surprisingly well. “Plan B” should have been another culturally-dominating banger like “Thot S**t” was, with some of Megan’s most memorable and quotable bars of all time and a stank face-worthy throwback sound, while “Sweetest Pie” not fitting with the rest of the album at all doesn’t matter too much when it’s as much fun as it is – Dua Lipa is on another planet right now. In between the singles is “Southside Royalty Freestyle,” where Megan pays respect to some hometown heroes on a cypher-style track.
If this is what Megan’s putting out when she’s trying to rush out projects and move on to new management, everyone should be scared of what she’s going to do next. While it might have a couple more misfires than her last few projects, Megan’s exploration of her throwback roots is an exciting new direction and her endless hot girl summer should only continue.
Favourite Tracks: Plan B, Gift & A Curse, Ungrateful, NDA, Budget
Least Favourite Track: Red Wine