Without a doubt, the women of hip-hop and R&B ruled this pandemic year in 2020.
While COVID-19 claimed over 1.5 million lives worldwide and significantly impacted the music industry,Megan Thee Stallion gave us nothing but Good News and career highlights. At the same time, Beyoncé andCardi B focused on philanthropic efforts and political impact in the U.S.
Megan Thee Stallion
Good News first. Megan’s debut album saved us all just in the nick of time upon its November 20 release, peaking at the #2 spot on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart. During the week of the album’s rollout, the 5’10 rapper released her size-inclusive Fashion Nova Collection while pursuing health administration studies at Texas Southern University.
Megan’s momentous year began in March, with a string of confident single releases from her Suga mixtape, which featured her first #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Savage” — a taste of the Good News she kept on giving us.
In August, things amped up after her controversial “WAP” collaboration with Cardi B topped several music charts, including the Billboard Global 200 songs chart and Billboard Hot 100, amassing a record number of 93 million downloads in its first week.
Megan’s next highlight came from her powerful “Protect Black Women” performance on Saturday Night Live in October, in response to her shooting incident this past summer.
“I was recently the victim of an act of violence by a man. After a party, I was shot twice as I walked away from him,” wrote Megan in a New York Times op-ed, titled “Why I Speak Up for Black Woman.” “Even as a victim, I have been met with skepticism and judgment.” The essay led to a letter from Rep. Maxine Waters, another highlight for Megan in 2020.
Megan grabbed several other accolades in 2020, including being named one of the most influential people of the year by TIME magazine, GQ magazine‘s Rapper of the Year, and placing on Forbes’ annual 30 under 30 list of influential artists, entertainers, producers and others.
Perhaps topping things off, the Houston Stallion earned four Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year for her “Savage” remix with fellow Houstonian Beyoncé.
Megan also scored a gig as a brand ambassador for Rihanna‘s Savage x Fenty, securing a collab with Rihanna that will likely be another career highlight for Megan. Maybe in 2021?
Before Megan, Beyoncé laid the foundation with her own savage ways, and her sassy, unapologetic and sometimes revolutionary music.
Queen Bey scored nine nominations at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards this year, for a career total 79 Grammy nominations and 24 wins. If she wins eight of those nine nods, Beyoncé will become the artist with the most Grammy wins of all time, beating classical music conductor Sir Georg Solti‘s 31 wins. Just four more Grammys and Beyoncé will pass bluegrass singer/musician Alison Krauss as the woman with the most career Grammy wins.
In 2020, Beyoncé shifted gears towards more philanthropic efforts in response to COVID-19 and other causes, which earned her the Humanitarian Award at the 2020 BET Awards. Beyoncé pledged over $6 million to support mental health relief programs during the pandemic through her BeyGOOD foundation, including launching a mobile COVID testing initiative for the Black community in her hometown in Houston, Texas.
Released on Juneteenth, Bey’s 2020 single “Black Parade” scored four Grammy nominations, including Song Of The Year and Best R&B Song. Proceeds from the song benefit BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, which supports small Black-owned businesses.
The “Freedom” singer stood up for the culture again to speak out about the deaths at the hands of police of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as other Black individuals whose deaths drew widespread outcry.
In July, the queen released her short film, Black Is King, to celebrate Black beauty, Black history, Black hair, and Black art. It was inspired by Disney’s 2019 remake of The Lion King and the Beyoncé-curated soundtrack companion album The Lion King: The Gift
“It was truly a journey to bring this film to life, and my hope for this film is that it shifts the global perception of the word Black, which has always meant inspiration and love and strength and beauty to me,” Beyoncé told Good Morning America. “Black Is King means Black is regal and rich in history and purpose and in lineage.”
Grammy-winner Cardi B also had a standout 2020, including her controversial “WAP” collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion winning Favorite Song Rap/Hip hop at the American Music Awards in November.
Despite an outcry from some about the song’s vulgar lyrics, “WAP” made history as the first all-female rap collaboration to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, just a week after its release in August — extending Cardi’s record as the female rapper with the most number-one singles on the Hot 100.
Cardi also used her words instead of her lyrics to start larger conversations about police brutality and voting in support of President-elect Joe Biden during the 2020 election.
Despite being canceled numerous times by fans on social media who criticized her political stance, Cardi prevailed this year. And while cancel culture doesn’t always offer teachable moments, the 28-year-old sought after her own through political conversations and debates with the likes of Bernie Sanders andCandace Owens.
In terms of fashion, the “Bodak Yellow” rapper went from rapping about $1,500 red-bottom Christian Louboutin heels to sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week. The fashionista also used her entrepreneurial skills to launch brand partnerships and deals, including with OnlyFans, adding to her collections with Fashion Nova.
“It’s a lot of game that I have learned. Slowly but surely, I know I’m gonna get better,” said Cardi as one of Billboard’s Women of the Year honorees for 2020. “I know the value I bring to a company, and that’s one thing artists have to understand. I feel like in 2021, I’m gonna come up real strong.”
By Rachel George
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