Taking a shift from the excess and glamour of southern bass-heavy Hip-Hop of the Texas region, aka chopped & screwed and trap, Megan Thee Stallion delivers as expected on a lyrical and technical level. Unfortunately, the production doesn’t match the levels of Megan’s talent, as we get a darker approach to the sounds, like more piano. That isn’t to say it has a steady consistency of mediocrity since beneath the levels of percussion, the interest in details wanes poorly. It can be slightly excusable or somewhat overlooked, like with boom-bap percussion beats where their role is to coast and let the lyrical poignancy enthrall you to the depths of emotional understanding. Or it isn’t, because with certain styles like trap, where the redundancies in elements of the percussion make the sound come off dull. Unlike these two examples, Megan Thee Stallion is trying something different on Traumazine; she’s focusing on trauma from a shooting involving Tory Lanez, taking us through these complex emotions that reflect events. She does so fiercely, keeping us focused on her craft, despite the production being lesser.
After some fiery, hard raps to get the flow moving on Traumazine, Megan Thee Stallion starts to pedal back, getting lost within a vast chasm of sounds. Megan is spelunking with poorly refurbished material, barely keeping her against the wall as she digs deep and delivers a flurry of emotional prowess. She’s shifting the construct, letting the sounds flow through atmospheric motifs in the sounds, which mirrors a darker side of Megan. Despite these notable upticks in idyllic shifts, it never held firmly together–some structural and melodic stumbles take you away from the mystique of Megan’s person. She has the ferocity, the heat that keeps us sizzling–hot girl summer after hot girl summer. But parallel to the mundane beats, some of Megan’s choruses, bridges, and so forth lack the appeal of the captivating simplicity and sternness of “Sugar Baby” and “Body” off her debut Good News. Traumazine isn’t constantly stumbling from this since we get some allure from choruses/hooks on her more grounded raps, like the effervescent flex “Budget” or “Ms. Nasty.”
Unfortunately, as Megan Thee Stallion switches up the tonal complexion, we are left with unappealing genre-bending that makes me question the producers as much as the songwriters. Though not in a pessimistic, judgmental kind of way. But there are various moments where this doesn’t cross the mind, as Megan consistently finds enough correlation between style and substance. With “Anxiety,” there is excellent cohesion between the piano and drum patterns, allowing the choral backgrounds to mesh as an instrument along with the rest. Other moments arise from the level of energy Megan’s features bring, whether it’s that crisp braggadocio from Latto or that hardcore understanding like “Scary”–eerily reminds of Bad Meets Evil’s “Scary Movies” from the Scary Movie 1 soundtrack. It’s similarly the case with other rap features that match the direction with engaging verses, like Pooh Sheisty. But Megan reminds us she isn’t just fucking with other young guns; she delivers a fantastic posse cut with Sauce Walka, Big Pokey, and Lil’ Keke. They are on an upper echelon in their realm, especially the latter two.
However, “Her” was that first moment it started to shift for me with the inconsistencies. At first, intrigue arose from its sound, but it becomes a dud with a hook that’s slightly more attractive and colorful, albeit dwindling from an overly basic house beat. It doesn’t transfix you with new dimensions, keeping a steady pattern that rarely switches to make your ears perk up, and Megan’s verses are a slight afterthought. Similarly, on “Red Wine,” Megan’s semi-aggro-flow and intimate chorus aren’t crafted with a smooth contrast that its switches aren’t coming across naturally. Though it’s after where we hear a steady progression of inconsistencies, whether from yawn-inducing choruses or verses that retread past sentiments/bars we’ve gotten. On the fritz, the second half, Megan finds herself steering toward pop with these performances from Lucki Daye and Jhene Aiko that are audibly beautiful, despite being contextually dry.
As I’ve said prior, Traumazine doesn’t stunt Megan Thee Stallion’s lyrical integrity and prowess, continuously finding ways to deliver her points even when the tracks are not desirable. Notably, “Sweetest Pie” gives us proper Megan colloquialisms and other checkmarks in her style–albeit the captivating fun in her delivery–it isn’t the best fully formed. Though catchy because of Dua Lipa’s dance-pop/disco-influenced melodies, I don’t hear the best synergy between the two–it’s like Megan’s backing vocals for Jhene Aiko on their track together. Fortunately, as the first single, it stunted my expectations and added oomph to some of the aforementioned tracks that stood out and others like “Plan B” and “Not Nice.”
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Traumazine, despite mixing intrigue from a slight deterrence of her more lavished debut. There was enough for a return, but it doesn’t breach past the constraints heard and never something with sonic depth. Megan Thee Stallion isn’t here to show a decline in talent as that is as pertinent as ever, but a lot of the surrounding factors make tracks stumble, that you might not be able to return for Megan’s verses. Give it a spin, as it might be more your speed as this time, it wasn’t mine.