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Grammy Awards

Megan Thee Stallion’s superstar night at the Grammys

Three wins for ‘Savage (Remix)’ and a hot performance of ‘WAP’ were the talk of the night

It wasn’t like Megan Thee Stallion needed any validation. Still, the trifecta of Grammys she won Sunday night added more proof to an undeniable truth: In a genre as maniacally competitive and male-driven as hip-hop, Megan is a true thoroughbred, one of the game’s superstars. And as has been repeatedly true for Black superstars on “music’s biggest night,” she found herself involved in one of the program’s most awkward moments.

But it was Megan who reigned supreme on this night. This is no novelty act and there’s little reason to doubt she won’t be a long-term force, exuding maniacal defiance from the moment she utters her first syllable into the microphone. Her performance of “Body” and “Savage (Remix)” hit hard — but neither one more than the horny performance she and Cardi B did of “WAP.” The collaboration was an instant fire starter, and arguably the night’s most talked-about moment. Even host Trevor Noah, who should already be on the shortlist for next year’s master of ceremonies, was left speechless.

The annual awards show was held outside Los Angeles’ Staples Center with a limited audience, a stark reminder of why the night had been postponed due to the pandemic. For Megan, it also came after a year in which her career also came face to face with catastrophe.

The road to fame is nearly always paved with barbed wire and tears. Her mother, Holly Thomas, who also served as her manager, died from a brain tumor in March 2019, just weeks after she lost her great-grandmother. Whatever happened in the SUV with her and rapper/singer Tory Lanez in July left her with bullet wounds in both feet. Megan was initially silent about the ordeal, claiming she was reluctant to turn a Black man over to authorities during a summer of social upheaval. However foolish, many took her silence as complicity and shifted blame in her direction. Both she and Lanez traded verbal jabs, and it was clear to see the event had taken its toll on her.

Lanez is facing felony charges for assault and carrying an unregistered firearm. The case is pending, with the latest proceeding coming late last month when a judge ruled Lanez could not speak publicly about the incident.

Regardless of how the case turns out, it remains true that Megan has fueled her career on talent instead of relying on controversy. She was deserving of each award Sunday night, though other candidates, such as Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” were equally competitive and deserving. The Grammys and Black artists, especially those in hip-hop, have a problematic history. Only 10 Black artists have won album of the year, the last win coming in 2008 when Herbie Hancock released River: The Joni Letters, covers of songs by a white artist, Joni Mitchell.

Megan wasn’t nominated in that category, of course. But it was equally uncomfortable watching a masked-up Megan sit through Billie Eilish’s awkward record of the year acceptance speech for “Everything I Wanted,” who said that Megan deserved the win. The gesture was in good faith, but it followed a frustrating tradition of white artists such as Adele and Macklemore doing the same to Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar.

That notwithstanding, Megan still had a night to remember. And for Houston, which watched some of its most recognizable names, such as James Harden and J.J. Watt, exit stage left — and superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson attempting to force his way out, too — this was a moment of pride.

In Megan Thee Stallion, Houston indeed has a problem. Thankfully, it’s one of those good problems. Because she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Justin Tinsley is a culture and sports writer for The Undefeated. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single-most impactful statement of his generation.