5 Takeaways From Megan Thee Stallion’s New Album Traumazine

7 minute read

There’s a poignant moment in Megan Thee Stallion’s June interview with Rolling Stone where she reflects on why she received backlash for being shot in the feet in 2020, allegedly by the rapper Tory Lanez. Because she dared to name her alleged assailant after initially keeping his name private, Megan was immediately accused of lying and faced an onslaught of criticism and skepticism.

She said that out of nowhere, she became a “villain” in a situation in which she was in fact, the victim. She wondered aloud, “I don’t know if people don’t take it seriously because I seem strong,” then continued: “Is it because I’m not light enough? Is it that I’m not white enough? Am I not the shape? The height? Because I’m not petite? Do I not seem like I’m worth being treated like a woman?”

As Megan has become more famous, the battles she’s faced became tougher—both interpersonally and within herself. The 27-year-old Houston native has been in the spotlight for about four years now since she dropped “Cocky AF,” one of her first hit songs, blowing up further with tracks like “Savage,” “Hot Girl Summer” and the Cardi B collaboration “WAP.” Since then, she’s released five projects, a mixture of full-length albums, mixtapes, and EPs. Her sixth, Traumazine, which arrived today, is an 18-track album that takes listeners through her psyche as she processes different struggles in her life. These include the loss of her mother and grandmother, the grueling demands of fame, a messy legal battle with her label, and the difficulties of balancing her career as Megan Thee Stallion with her life as Megan Pete.

On Traumazine, Megan alternates between knocking down every obstacle that stands in her way and realizing that some obstacles will take longer to get past than others. Here are the five biggest takeaways from her latest album.

Megan is pissed off, and for good reason

In the past three years, Megan Thee Stallion has been through many ups and downs, all of them experienced under the intense scrutiny of the public eye. On social media, she assumes a persona of being carefree and easy to get along with. But on her latest album, Megan wants to make sure listeners don’t get the wrong idea. She can be all of those positive things—but don’t try to cross her.

At the start of the album, Megan’s anger is raw and can be felt in her delivery of certain bars. On the opener, “NDA,” the tone of the production is dark and ominous as she raps about not being the person to mess with anymore: “Next one of y’all hoes wanna get bold, I’m gon’ check that/ And the next one of y’all blogs wanna spread lies, I’m gon’ sue you/ the next bitch that break my NDA, they goin’ for you too.” Megan then shows off her penchant for insults on “Not Nice” as she takes shots at the people who’ve done her wrong and surmises that people don’t take her seriously because she’s a Black woman. “I guess my skin not light enough, my dialect not white enough/ Or maybe I’m just not shaped the way to make these n—as give a f-ck.”

She shines when she’s at her most vulnerable

Being a good artist requires growth and relatability, two hallmarks of many of the songs in Megan’s discography. With Traumazine, we see her dig deeper into her insecurities on tracks like “Anxiety,” where she raps, “I’m a bad bitch, and I got bad anxiety,” and “Flip Flop,” where she talks about how fame can be isolating in not knowing who you can trust. She delivers one of the most gut-wrenching lines in the album on this song when she says, “If your mama and daddy still walkin’ this Earth/ Then you probably ain’t feelin’ my pain.”

Megan honed her singing skills for this new record

On her projects, Megan tends to experiment with different sounds, and sometimes the risk doesn’t pay off—see: “Don’t Rock Me to Sleep” from Good News. That song faced criticism for its overtly bubblegum-pop flare, which seemed out of touch with the rapper’s sound. But she didn’t give up on experimenting, and now she’s managed to mold her singing into tracks that sound like her own. We see this in parts of “Flip Flop,” “Star” featuring Lucky Daye, and “Consistency” featuring Jhené Aiko, on which Megan harmonizes beautifully. Aiko and Daye’s names appearing on the tracklist was a shock to many, as the rapper doesn’t do features with R&B artists often, but it’s a risk that paid off.

She knows how to pick collaborators who bolster a track

Megan doesn’t need help making a song great. After all, there are few people who can keep up with her boisterous rapping style. Still, she chooses from those few wisely. For “Scary,” Megan chose a rapper whose style fit the bill to a tee: Rico Nasty. The haunting track features a spooky production perfectly suited to Rico’s gothic flare and expressive rap delivery. The album also features collaborations with Latto, Memphis rappers Key Glock and Pooh Shiesty, and Future. She pays homage to her hometown, inviting three famous Houston rappers—Sauce Walka, Lil’ Keke, and Big Pokey—to trade bars on “Southside Royalty Freestyle.”

With this record, Megan is free in more ways than one

Dr. Adrienne Heinz, a trauma and addiction research scientist at Stanford University, told SELF that to process trauma, “You have to walk through it to get past it.” On Traumazine, it feels like we’re watching Megan do just that. We see the highs and the lows; it’s an intimate look into how she’s feeling.

But beyond her own emotional journey, there’s a legal one she’s been enduring, too. For the past two years, Megan has faced a legal battle with 1501 Certified Entertainment—the record label she initially signed with in 2018. She’s been wanting out of her contract for some time and sued the label in March 2020 for allegedly stopping her from releasing new music. In short, Megan needed to fulfill her contractual obligations with a certain number of albums released under the label. After she released her previous project, “Something For Thee Hotties,” 1501 claimed the project was not an album, and Megan filed a countersuit arguing that it was. If a judge rules in her favor, then this album might fulfill her obligations.

Alluding to these challenges, she tweeted: “Thank you hotties for rocking with me through the bullsh-t WE ALMOST OUT.” If this album does help her get out of her contract, it’ll be a poetic end to her time as the “1501 Queen” and a kind of rebirth of Megan Thee Stallion.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com