”Bongos,” Megan Thee Stallion’s latest collaboration with Cardi B, serves as Meg’s first musical release of the year — a slight change of pace for the artist who famously pumped out two studio albums, a compilation tape and an EP in a little over two years.
Her most recent album, August 2022’s Traumazine, followed years of intense emotional and personal turmoil, online vitriol and legal sagas for the three-time Grammy-winning rapper. On Aug. 8, Tory Lanez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting Megan in July 2020, a long-awaited conclusion to three years of court drama.
“I feel like I’m finally closing all the old chapters and now I’m starting with a blank slate,” Megan tells Billboard in a new interview. “Very fresh, very new. I think the Hotties are gonna be so excited.”
“Bongos” — a raucous Brazilian-funk-nodding sequel to 2020’s historic “WAP” that debuts at No. 14 on this week’s Billboard Hot 100— is the first section of that new chapter. Alongside the song’s release, Megan and Cardi also treated fans to an eye-popping music video — with choreography courtesy of Sean Bankhead — as well as a showstopping performance at the 2023 MTV Music Video Awards.
With more new music on the horizon and a new collaboration with Flamin’ Hot called Flamin’ Hot University (FU), Megan Thee Stallion is carefully setting the stage to take the entire world by storm — again.
Megan Thee Stallion will serve as Thee Official Hot Girl Dean of Admission for Flamin’ Hot University, which features a one-of-a-kind online curriculum centered on food, fashion and lifestyle. FU will also give students the entire catalog of Flamin’ Hot snacks in a special limited-edition package — complete with exclusive merch designed by Melody Ehsani — approved by Megan herself. Proceeds from the merch line will go toward a scholarship for deserving students at Texas Southern University, the “Thot Sh–” rapper’s alma mater, thus helping them sidestep student debt.
In a hilarious conversation with Billboard, Megan breaks down some of her Flamin’ Hot University courses, provides an update on her forthcoming new album, reflects on her friendship with Cardi B, and gives her true reaction to Justin Timberlake yelling out her trademark “real hot girl sh–” ad lib after the VMAs.
How did you come up with the curriculum for Flamin’ Hot University? What are your responsibilities as the Hot Girl Dean of Admissions?
I’m basically just the overseer of all things Hot Girl at this camp. I just wanted to have a lot of things that have something to do with things that are personal to me, how to be a Hot Girl, you know? How to make your favorite snacks at 2 a.m. I feel like every college student knows the struggle. I feel like Hot Cheetos are definitely on the menu at every campus, this is what we eat! So I just want to do things that feel real to me.
Recently, the state of public education in the country has become increasingly muddled by some troubling political agendas. What does it mean to you to be able to give back to your HBCU during a time like this?
I know what it’s like to be a struggling college student. I know what it feels like to be discouraged: “I give up, my classes are hard, I can’t even pay for this, etc.” But I really got through it, and I wanted to be able to give back to other students that I know feel the same way I felt. So once I was able to give it, I was like, “Yeah, lemme put my people on.”
That’s real. What’s your favorite Flamin’ Hot snack?
Everybody knows I love me a good fried pickle, so I definitely love making Hot Cheeto fried pickles. That’s my sh–! With ranch!
When you sit back and reflect on how you’ve grown “Real Hot Girl Sh—” from a catchphrase to one of the most recognizable brands in contemporary pop culture, how do you feel?
I feel surprised half the time. Like, wow, I really just be talking, and I just be living, and people are like, “Yes, I wanna do that too!” [Laughs.] I feel like it’s amazing to just authentically be myself and it, you know, translates into a brand. And it makes me feel like, “OK, you know what? I can’t be doing too bad, right?!”
When it comes to the specific Flamin’ Hot University curriculum, what can people expect to see in some of your lessons?
They can definitely expect all of my Hot Girl recipes from the things that I personally would make out of Hot Cheetos and some stuff that I didn’t even know about. Some things that I took from other people. It’s a chef, his name is Chef Scotty and he also went to TSU, and he put me on a few snacks. So I feel like he definitely gonna figure out some things to eat at 2 in the morning.
We gon’ be eating real good!
We gon’ be eating real good! [Laughs]
One of my favorite parts of your TikTok is how hard you go in the gym. What role has physical fitness played in your life over the past couple of years?
Physical fitness helps me with my mental. If I feel like I’m a little stressed or I’m a little whatever I’m feeling that day, I know I can go let it out in the gym and it helps me clear my mind. I love boxing. I love anything HIIT [high-intensity interval training]-wise. I love pushing myself. When I’m in the gym, I’m like, “Girl, if you can’t do two more squats, I don’t know if you’re gonna be able to handle two more comments!”
So, I definitely go in the gym and I push myself and I motivate myself and I’m pushing my body. But, to push your body, I feel like it’s to push yourself mentally. The gym is definitely a mental thing. To get yourself out the bed in the morning or whatever part of the day, even if you don’t have time to work out in the morning, if you push yourself to finish your day and go to the gym, I feel like it’s all mental. And I feel like you feel like, “Oh my gosh, I did it,” and now you can reward yourself. Working out just feels super rewarding. I feel very accomplished after I work out.
Congratulations on the “Bongos” release and VMAs performance! The music video is very elaborate. What was it like shooting that?
It was so much fun! Every time me and Cardi link up, it ain’t nothing but laughs and a whole party. Both our teams absolutely love each other. Everybody hangs out on their own time anyway, so it kind of felt like we was going out every morning. Oop, Cardi had me waking up so early for these damn — lemme not even curse — Cardi had me waking up so early for these shoots!
How early y’all was up?
Baby, I will start my glam at 3 in the morning to do my first shot at like 8 or 9, and sometimes it didn’t even happen at 8 or 9. If I’m up at 3 in the morning, I’m probably shooting at 3 p.m.! Like goddang! But it was a great time though.
Y’all built different, because 3 a.m. is crazy.
3 a.m. is crazy! But you know you can’t pay the sun to stay out long, so you gotta get all your shots during the day.
While recording “Bongos,” did you and Cardi feel any pressure to re-create or live up to the heights of “WAP”?
I know for myself, I don’t make music with any expectations. I don’t really care about charts and stuff like that. Obviously, everybody wanna be No. 1, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to give their fans these bragging rights. But I just make music because I love to make music, so I’m not making it like, “Oh, I gotta top this” or “Oh, we have to be better than the last time.” I’m like, “No, we’re gonna make a song because we like to make music, and it’s gonna be fun!” It doesn’t have to be the same vibe. That was already its great, own moment. It served its purpose at that time. That was two, three years ago. We two different women now! So this is different.
I wasn’t expecting it to be anything like “WAP” because we’re not even in the same headspace. I think it was COVID. Baby, we was in the house recording! [Laughs.] Now we outside! It’s time for everybody to be in a good mood. It’s time for everybody to feel a different way. I was so excited when [Cardi] sent me this song because I had never recorded over a beat like that before. I never rapped to anything like that, and I felt like it was a challenge. I was like, “Oh, this is something new. OK, girl, you want me to go to work today, I got you!”
What is it about Cardi specifically that makes her such a good collaborator and friend?
Speaking to the collaborator part like, she literally just let me do me. This is the second time she’s sent me a song, and I’ll be like, “Friend, can I do whatever I want to do on the beat? I’m finna put two verses on here, all right?” She always let me do whatever I want to do creatively. I just appreciate that so much because sometimes people try to give you a direction and they want you to do what they want you to do, but she’s like “Megan, what you think?” She’ll ask me what I think about this song like, “OK, how you think we could make it better? What should we do next? Just do whatever you wanna do and then we’ll piece it together.”
I love the creative freedom that she gives me. She’s always open to whatever I’m saying or any suggestion, so I love that about her. She not scared to try nothing, and her ego ain’t big. She’s not a woman that’s scared to say “you’re right.” So, I really love that about her work-wise.
Friendship-wise, she’s just so real. When I first met her, she was so shy! Anybody’ll probably see her online and they think her personality gonna be one way, no, it’s so opposite. But like as we got more [close as] friends — you know people start off shy and then they get like “Oh, yeah, this the real you”? — I feel like I definitely get to see the real her. She’s just so nice, and she’s really a kind person. That’s what I really like about her. And she just raw. First thing that come to that lady brain, she gon’ say it! And I like that. I respect people like that. She’s definitely a “take it how you wanna take it” type of person.
When can we expect new music from you, girl? We’re starving!
It’s definitely coming very soon. I’m really excited about this chapter of my life because I feel like I’m finally closing all the old chapters, and now I’m starting with a blank slate. Very fresh, very new. I think Thee Hotties are gonna be so excited. I’m trying different things. I got a lot of things that I produced with Ju and with some new producers.
Oh, you got behind the boards!
Baby, I was behind the piano! Yeah! [Laughs] It’s very exciting. I can’t wait for Thee Hotties to really get in my head with this new person I feel like I’m becoming.
What sounds are you thinking of? Is there anything you know for sure you want to address? Is there a tour on the way? What other tea can you give us!
The tea is… everything about the music is tea! [Laughs] Just expect the unexpected. Expect a lot of rawness, a lot of realness, a lot of sh— talking. Just know I’m coming and I hope everybody ready.
Oh, we ready! One quick question before you go: Were you expecting Justin Timberlake to say “real hot girl sh—” in that TikTok?
Dawg! That’s why my mouth was open big! I was so excited! It’s a good feeling when you know the icons know about you. It made me feel good. I was like, “C’mon, real hot girl sh—!”