In 2014, a then-unknown Megan Thee Stallion tweeted: “I need a team [because] I promise this rap shit gone take off for me.”
That promise has been fulfilled in quite spectacular fashion. The 26-year-old, born Megan Jovon Ruth Pete, is now one of the world’s most famous and respected rap stars, with her three Grammy awards at last weekend’s ceremony marking the peak of her career thus far.
As well as winning one of the night’s “big four” awards – becoming the first female rapper this century to win best new artist – she is the first woman to win the best rap song category as lead artist. She shared her award with Beyoncé, who had joined Megan on the remix to Savage, a matter-of-fact statement of multifaceted womanhood. Billie Eilish meanwhile spent much of her winner’s speech trying to give her record of the year award away to Megan, repeatedly telling her: “You deserve this.”
That sentiment is shared by a generation of young women who regard Megan as an omnipotent figure. She has earned admiration for her rap flow, weighted with teeth-kissing technical mastery on top of the beat and rooted in the energetic club styles of the American south. Her punchline-rich lyrics are wittily self-confident, humiliating men for their sexual failings and dismissing female rivals as “bitches thinkin’ they the shit when they really toilet water.”
“Her cadence on records is phenomenal,” says Tiffany Calver, presenter of BBC 1Xtra’s Rap Show. “The lyricism and wordplay is amazing, but there’s just something so present about the way she is on a record, which hasn’t really been heard from anyone else, that consistently, in a really long time. She can take also records which have substance, but make them fun, so they can resonate with a larger audience. It’s not something that’s just pop and candyfloss.”
But it’s Megan’s self-styled “hot girl” image as a strutting monarch decreeing that every women is innately glamorous and sexually attractive – including those ignored by a narrow-minded and often racist mainstream – that has synthesised that admiration into adulation.
“You can just tell she’s confident in herself physically, and she’s sexually liberated,” says the British rapper Ms Banks, who has spent time with Megan in the UK. “That’s very relatable – you feel like she’s one of your homegirls. When women are seen to be sexually free [in music], it’s often for a man – in a guy’s video, with a nice car, and a girl next to him shaking her arse. But Megan is doing it for herself, in her own video.”
Megan began her rap career while studying at university in her native Texas, seeing off a crop of male rappers with a freestyle filmed on a Houston rooftop in 2013. She picked a statuesque artist name to match her 5ft 10in frame. “I’m tall as well,” says Ms Banks, “and seeing someone like her own her body the way she does, I never had that growing up. It’s epic.”
Breakthrough tracks like Big Ole Freak and Cocky AF situated her in the horny and uncompromising lineage of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown – as well, of course, as her confident male peers. “You can only rap about peace and Kumbaya and you’re supposed to be such a lady,” Megan complained in a 2018 interview. “I’m not scared to say what I want to do. If the boys can do it, we can do it too.” Calver compares her early years to a boxer in the ring, “just constantly jabbing. Every single time her lyricism was above the bar”.
The “hot girl” line became a meme that underpinned her first US Top 20 hit in 2019, Hot Girl Summer, its credo fleshed out in a tweet by Megan: “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc,” she explained.
The mantra was further defined in Savage, in which Megan described herself as “classy, bougie, ratchet”: a chorus that announced she, and thus all women, could be sophisticated and trashy at the same time. It chipped away at the sexist binary of decorum and debauchery that women are often sorted into. Ms Banks agrees: “She shines a light on the fact that we can be all these things in one.”
It was only a matter of time before she worked with Cardi B, the chart-topping New York rapper whose talent, frankness and sexual appetite match hers. Their track WAP, an ode to vaginal fluid whose male characters are in constant danger of either asphyxiation or drowning, went to No 1 in both the US and UK last August. It caused a level of face-fanning moral panic that recalled Mary Whitehouse, with conservative pundits queueing up to decry this tale of female sexual pleasure.
The outrage continued this week after their performance of the song at the Grammys, with Candace Owens saying the performance heralded “a weakening of American society … the end of an empire”, and Tucker Carlson accusing the pair of “intentionally trying to degrade our culture and hurt our children”.
Ms Banks believes there are double standards at play around this tall, curvaceous Black woman: “You don’t mind a woman wearing a leotard with her arse out if she’s slim, but if she’s got a bit of a bum, now it’s more explicit. Why? And I do feel like there’s a racist undertone.” She says that while sexuality is a major part of Megan’s brand, her dance moves are misinterpreted by white critics. “Back home, all over Africa and the Caribbean, there’s aunties of all ages that wind up their hips and move their waists, and it has nothing to do with sex – it’s a part of the culture. But on a bigger stage, some people are offended by it.”
Megan’s championing of self-confidence, not to mention her philanthropy and advocacy for higher education, is far more valuable than talkshow chatter. She was able to weather a much more serious attack in July 2020 when she was injured by bullet shrapnel in her foot, later accusing Tory Lanez – a rapper with five US Top Five albums – of being the shooter. He was charged with assault and pleaded not guilty, with the case still ongoing.
On Instagram she explained that her fear of police brutality made her reticent to come forward, and then wrote a widely admired piece in the New York Times that discussed how misogyny entwines with racism and is brought to bear on Black women. She has since rapped about the trauma: “At war with myself / in my head, bitch, it’s Baghdad,” runs one lyric from her debut album Good News.
In refusing to be cowed by that incident, Megan showed that her message of robust self-belief wasn’t just about feeling confident in the bedroom or nightclub – it was something to underpin a woman’s life. “It’s the way she owns her body,” Ms Banks reiterates, summing up her appeal. “She’s the captain of her ship.”
HSE working to amend booster system as people receive multiple appointments
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is working to amend the coronavirus vaccine system, as multiple channels offering third jabs has caused challenges for the booster campaign, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor has said.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms O’Connor explained that the booster vaccine was available through vaccination centres, general practitioners and pharmacies.
Some people had gone to their local pharmacy to get their booster vaccine and then had received an appointment at a vaccination centre, she said. She called on people to cancel their vaccination centre appointment if they had received their booster through their GP or pharmacy.
Ms O’Connor’s comments come after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday that there were 87,000 no-shows for boosters last week, and the chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, Dr Denis McCauley, described the non-attendances as “very disrespectful”.
Ms O’Connor said the priority for the HSE was to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible.
When asked about the lower levels of people in the 60-69 age cohort who have received their booster vaccine, Ms O’Connor said that not everyone in that age group would have had their second vaccine more than five months ago. That was “a natural limiter”.
Ms O’Connor said people possibly were apprehensive or busier, now that many were back at work or were preparing for Christmas, but the vaccine was important as was the booster.
To date more than a million people have received their booster vaccine, she added, and appointments will be offered to people aged between 50 and 59 from Thursday.
“We will also have walk-in centres open to people to get their vaccine and as ever we encourage everybody to avail of the vaccine. It’s really important, especially with a new variant, that we try to protect as many people as possible,” Ms O’Connor said.
Meanwhile, Dr McAuley told Newstalk Breakfast that there were very few no-shows to booster appointments at GP surgeries, because people know their GP personally.
Now was not the time for “messing”, he said in relation to people failing to attend their appointments at vaccine centres.
“If you get a vaccine appointment, make sure that you go there rather than getting your hair done or going shopping – or if it is a work thing, stay on the helpline to get a new appointment.
“Be respectful of the mass vaccination centres. These are people who are working very hard and it is very disrespectful to have over 80,000 people not turn up in one week. It is not appropriate. You wouldn’t do it to your GP so why are you doing it to these healthcare workers.”
There was also a concern that some people were waiting to see what happens with the Omicron variant before getting their booster. Dr McCauley said that the booster would greatly reduce the chances of picking up the virus or having to go into hospital
Dr McCauley said there needed to be “a call to arms” for people to get vaccinated and he warned that when more information about Omicron emerged, booster appointments could be harder to come by.
All you need to know on getting the Moderna vaccine as a booster
People due to receive their Covid-19 booster vaccine in coming weeks will primarily be offered the Moderna dose at HSE vaccination centres.
The HSE is reported to have large supplies of Moderna due to expire next month, so that will be the main vaccine administered over coming weeks to the over-60s, over-50s, healthcare workers, and younger people in vulnerable groups – though it will be restricted to people over 30.
Anecdotally there are indications some people may be reluctant to take the Moderna vaccine. This may be due to Irish stocks about to expire shortly and/or confusion about its efficacy. This follows the company’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel warning last week the Moderna jab may not be as effective against Omicron as it had been with the Delta variant.
The HSE has confirmed recipients will have no choice on what vaccine they are given.
What type of coronavirus vaccine is the Moderna jab?
It is a new kind of synthetic “mRNA vaccine” – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is from the same stable. They provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalisation – and have played a critical role in reducing Covid-19 deaths since being approved. A downside, however, is that the Moderna version must be kept at -20 degrees.
Should people be worried about receiving a soon to be out-of-date vaccine?
|Total doses distributed to Ireland||Total doses administered in Ireland|
In short no, as they retain the ability to boost antibody production within currently approved time spans – though inevitably potency wanes over time. The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson&Johnson) vaccines were put on the market with emergency use authorisation of up to six months.
This compares with a shelf life of two to three years for most vaccines and other medicines. This is an “inevitable consequence of getting the vaccines out of the door as quickly as possible”, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Gino Martini told the journal BMJ.
Months later, these “emergency” expiry dates remain in force for these vaccines. For approved Covid-19 vaccines, the initial shelf lives were based on data available at the time of submission for regulatory approval.
The long-term shelf life has not been extended for any of the vaccines. A shelf life extension would require supporting evidence from relevant stability studies. Vaccine manufacturers are monitoring batches of vaccines with the aim of providing a longer shelf life; probably the usual two years.
What about the Omicron threat?
While Moderna said existing vaccines including its mRNA version will probably be less effective against the Omicron variant, most experts believe they will continue to provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisation. It should be stressed, however, definitive indication has yet to emerge. That will be a matter of weeks, if not days.
Moderna has confirmed it is developing an Omicron-specific booster though manufacturing the new vaccine would take time. Tens of millions of doses could be available in the first quarter of 2022, but scale-up would not happen until the second quarter – provided it is shown such boosters are required.
What is the latest indication on the benefits of mixing vaccines?
Evidence supporting a mixing of vaccine doses has hardened over recent months. A study this week shows combining a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a second dose of either the Moderna or the Novavax jabs results in far higher levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells compared with two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.
This finding also has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.
The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.
It follows separate data published last week suggesting the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.
Woman (90s) dies following single-vehicle crash in Co Clare
A woman in her 90s has died following a single-vehicle crash in Co Clare in the early hours of Tuesday.
The incident occurred at about 12.30am at Annagh, Miltown Malbay. The woman, who was the driver and sole occupant of the car involved in the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her body was removed to Limerick University Hospital, where gardaí say a postmortem will take place at a later date.
The road has been closed to facilitate an exam by Garda forensic collision investigators, and local diversions are in place.
Gardaí have appealed for witnesses – particularly road users who may have camera footage – to come forward. Anyone with information can contact Kilrush Garda station (065 908 0550), the confidential line (1800 666 111), or any Garda station.
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