After months of speculation from fans asking about new music and delayed video projects, Megan Thee Stallion has finally broken her silence. In a shocking live video on her Instagram, the Houston rapper revealed on March 1 that she is unable to release new material due to a contractual agreement with her former label, 1501 Certified Entertainment. Making headlines last fall when she signed a new management deal with Roc Nation, the rapper now claims that she didn’t know what was in the 1501 contract at the time of signing, and she has asked for the terms to be renegotiated. However, she says that 1501 has denied that request.
“Soon as I said, ‘I want to renegotiate my contract,’ everything went left,” she said in the Instagram video. “It just all went bad. It all went left. So now they’re tellin’ a b*tch that she can’t drop no music.”
Megan is known for her memorable freestyles and playful lyrics that have captured the hearts of her ride-or-die fans, whom she affectionately calls “hotties.” With two platinum singles under her belt, as well as a collaboration with Nicki Minaj (the catchy “Hot Girl Summer”) that ruled last summer, being featured in two Superbowl ads (for Sabra and Quibi), and an upcoming appearance on NBC’s Good Girls, Megan should be celebrating her recent triumphs. Sadly, though, this recent revelation has some fans worried for her future in music, with many rallying to support her.
— JUSME BACK (i think 😭) (@thejusmekamil) March 1, 2020
“When I signed, I didn’t really know what was in my contract,” Megan says in her video. “I was young, I think I was 20. And I didn’t know everything that was in that contract. So when I got with Roc Nation, I got management—real management. I got real lawyers, and they were like, ‘Do you know that this is in your contract?’”
And this just isn’t a Megan problem—it’s industry wide and has affected several artists in the last few years, mostly women.
None of us have seen Megan Thee Stallion's contract with 1501 to really comment fairly. But one thing we've seen in hip-hop history is that when you combine Youth and Need, the likelihood of signing an exploitative deal becomes immensely more likely.
— I’m Gary #CABBAGES (@noyokono) March 1, 2020
What is perhaps most troubling about Megan’s claim is that we’ve heard this story many times before in several iterations. A lot of music artists, no matter the genre, have spoken out recently against bad contracts and the turmoil that follows.
In a tweet sent on March 2, singer JoJo, who has been in a similar situation, showed her support for Megan Thee Stallion, tweeting, “I’m here for you @theestallion” with two orange heart emojis.
I’m here for you @theestallion 🧡🧡
— JoJo. (@iamjojo) March 3, 2020
JoJo rose to fame in 2004 with the head-bopping hit single “Leave (Get Out), which made the singer the youngest artist in history to top the Pop 100 chart. Having signed a seven-album deal when she was just 12, the singer’s career halted to a standstill after the release of her second album, The High Road, which featured radio friendly track, “Too Little Too Late” in 2006. The single went on to break the record for the biggest jump into the top three on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time, which was previously held by Mariah Carey in 2001 with her single, “Loverboy.”
Despite her rising success, JoJo claimed that she’d get no response from Blackground Entertainment and its imprint Da Family Records whenever she tried to turn in her third album, and filed in a lawsuit in 2009 citing breach of contract, in which she ultimately came out the successor in 2014. In 2018, the singer re-recorded a string of singles and albums for fans in order to access her discography on streaming platforms. If this sounds familiar, it might be because it’s also what Taylor Swift plans to do following her struggle with record executive Scooter Braun, who purchased the rights to her first six albums via Big Machine Records, where she signed a contract when she was too young to consider the ramifications. Kesha has also been in the news for fighting a very public legal battle, including allegations of exploitation against Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald) and his label, Kemosabe, for several years. Her case has also caused a lengthy hiatus for the singer.
No matter where you turn, musicians who are either rookies or veterans in the music industry have been sharing their experiences about the seemingly shady dealings they have encountered. In a recent interview, Kelis spoke about her plans for the 20th anniversary of her critically acclaimed album, Kaleidoscope and her fallout with musician/producer Pharrell and co-collaborator Chad Hugo, which Kelis claims was due to a sketchy contract.
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“I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do,” the singer says. Kelis claims that she was “blatantly lied to and tricked,” by the duo and “their management and their lawyers and all that stuff.” In the end, she notes, she made nothing from sales of her first two albums. She admits she was “too young and too stupid to double-check” the contract, and when she confronted her partners about it, their response was, “Well, you signed it.”
Since her Instagram live session, Megan Thee Stallion has sent out a plea on Twitter, asking her fans to show their support with the hashtags #FreeMeg and #FreeTheeStallion. In a TMZ article published on March 2, the details of the rapper’s contract were made public, revealing just how bad the situation really is. Not only does she only receive a $10,000 advance for her albums, 1501 Certified is also entitled to 60% of her recording income while the remainder goes to her, but not before she pays engineers, mixers and featured artists who work on her songs. Luckily, Megan Thee Stallion was granted a temporary restraining order in Harris County Texas which will prevent her label from blocking music the rapper plans on releasing this upcoming Friday.
Despite the influx of support, Megan has received her fair share of criticism online for signing a bad contract. However, she wasn’t the first and will not be the last, so long as youth is being taken advantage of and sexism runs rampant throughout a male-dominated music industry.
A recent report on gender equality and lack of representation found that women within the music industry, whether producers, songwriters or artists, encounter several pitfalls while navigating the space. “What the experiences of women reveal is that the biggest barrier they face is the way the music industry thinks about women,” said report leader Dr. Stacy L. Smith in a press release. “The perception of women is highly stereotypical, sexualized, and without skill. Until those core beliefs are altered, women will continue to face a roadblock as they navigate their careers.”
Taylor swift had millionaire parents and lawyers and STILL got locked in a contract that bit her in the end yet Megan Thee Stallion is being treated like a dumb dumb for falling into the same trap with even less resources
Y’all are exhausting 🙄
— Just call me Shelly (@ellisromance) March 2, 2020
Now that women are reporting their mistreatment in the music industry, we’re starting to see more awareness about the realities they face. What’s clear is that music labels need some serious restructuring to ensure that their artists are happy and treated fairly. But as long as profit is prioritized over artists’ well-being, Megan Thee Stallion’s ordeal will continue to be a played out for countless other young women in music for years to come.
Here’s hoping for a resolution—not only for the Megan Thee Stallion but for any artist who has been screwed over by horrible contracts.