"They put that check in my hand, now I’m killin’ ’em,” raps Megan Thee Stallion on “Realer,” the opening track on May’s Fever mixtape. Those words became somewhat prophetic: This year she toured with Meek Mill and Future; collaborated with Gucci Mane, Chance the Rapper, Quavo and City Girls; and made fans of Solange and Lizzo thanks to her blunt-force rhymes and savvy branding. The Houston native, 24, declared 2019 the year of the “Hot Girl Summer” — a nod to her devoted followers, whom she calls “hotties” — and turned the catchphrase into a top 20 hit of the same name that featured Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign. In a banner year for women in hip-hop, Billboard’s 2019 Powerhouse preaches sisterhood above all else: “There’s just so many rules that people try to place on women rappers, so we just have to keep breaking these barriers down.”
Your trademark for “Hot Girl Summer” was approved a few months back. What did that teach you about becoming a businesswoman?
I have so many different ideas, and I’m kind of an off-the-wall, spontaneous person, so I didn’t realize that if you have an original idea, you can actually own it. When I saw all these people using “Hot Girl Summer” as a part of their marketing plan, I was like, “Damn, let me do that!” I didn’t even think [the phrase] would be that big of a deal — it was crazy. So it definitely taught me to protect myself and my ideas ahead of time.
When do you feel the most powerful?
Definitely when I’m in the booth. When I hear a song come together and get chills, I know it must be going hard. So I feel really powerful when I’m rapping. It makes me feel good, and I’ll continue to work hard and stay humble. I just want to keep getting better and giving my hotties what they want.
You also signed a management deal with Roc Nation this year.
Before [the deal], they came in and tried to help me get my business together. When I was getting enrolled in school [at Texas Southern University], they made sure things went smoothly. They were supportive before I even got signed, so it feels like a family. I could really see myself being part of the team.
Now that we’re getting into Hot Girl Winter, what are the essentials for this season?
You definitely need ChapStick. You don’t want to be out here kissing all dry. You need that DayQuil on deck so you don’t get sick. Not booty shorts, unfortunately. You need your tights on and a little jacket. And you still have to drive the boat [take shots] because even though it’s cold outside, you can be a hot girl in the house.
You’re finishing up your health administration degree. You have talked about opening an assisted-living home in Houston after you graduate. Is that still the plan?
I have seven more classes left — and the way this career is going, I can’t fit a lot on my plate. So we’re going to finish when we finish. But I grew up watching my grandmother take care of my great-grandmother, and I know there’s other families going through that same thing, where you got two elderly people taking care of each other. I know it’s hard, so I still want to make that easier for people in my community.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 14 issue of Billboard.