When an artist has an enormous personality, it can threaten to eclipse their work. This year, Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby both showed why this needn’t be the case. They proved that personality and artistry don’t have to be weighed separately or held apart out of fear that these elements will contaminate each other. Meg and DaBaby were 2019’s biggest breakout artists because they infused their personalities into their music, rendering their songs just as colorful and likeable. Their names and faces took up a ton of space, but, miraculously, not too much. If we analyze their individual rises, we see sustainable models for attaining fame and holding onto it in a time when the largest stars can be picked apart and tossed away at rapid rates. 

In a culture fixated on idol-building, once a celebrity is quickly birthed, they are eventually subjected to intense scrutiny to determine whether their public offerings truly possess sufficient substance. This process tends to occur after the initial glamour of the artist’s emergence has dissipated. While some may argue that it’s too soon to tell, Megan and DaBaby’s charms don’t seem to be time-sensitive. Their trendiness might have peaked in the summer, but authenticity doesn’t risk expiration. These rappers both display genuine love for their craft and, significantly, the fame that comes along with it. Whenever they’re seen performing, doing interviews, or interacting with fans, they’re entirely engaged. A disaffected demeanour might benefit some artists by sparking curiosity, but at the end of the day, most people are searching for a pathway to joy. 

This has been one of the most admirable aspects of Megan and DaBaby’s success; it doesn’t appear contrived. Their album rollouts and social media activity haven’t come across as conscious constructions of personal brands, but open-invite parties. Their music didn’t feel like separate entities that existed alongside their public images. It was all seamlessly woven together so we weren’t simply handed a product. In 2019, that’s the ultimate winning formula. When the music provides just as much access to the artist as a tweet, the pressure isn’t there for the artist to be constantly connected to their fanbase - an expectation that inevitably leads to slip-ups and disenchantment. 

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Even more impressive, Megan and DaBaby’s parties didn’t die down. The “Hot Girl Summer” philosophy wasn’t restricted to a single season. It lives on every time someone gives Fever a spin and is transported back to when they first heard those booty-bouncing anthems in the thick heat. After DaBaby’s recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, a tweet went viral that shared a clip of his heavily-choreographed performance of “BOP” and highlighted that “DaBaby’s having more fun than anyone has at SNL in years.” The performance re-enacted the “hip hop musical” that DaBaby released for “BOP” to revive the dying art of the music video. It’s not exactly clear when ‘fun’ became a rare resource, but DaBaby and Megan are producing it in abundance and distributing it generously. 

It’s this dedication to fun that explains another remarkable feature of these rappers’ distinct journeys. Megan and DaBaby did not rely on beef or scandals to propel them to the top. In fact, they seemed to be cool with everyone else in the game. Despite the ridiculous inclination that people have to pit female rappers against each other, as if only one can exist at a time, Megan was committed to befriending them all. Before any rivalry could be fabricated between Megan and the often-combative Nicki Minaj, they went on Instagram Live together to exhibit a healthy relationship. While Meg-talk was ubiquitous, she could have capitalized on her own slogan by making the “Hot Girl Summer” single a solo endeavour. However, she grabbed Nicki for a feature to make the track as empowering as possible. DaBaby similarly seems like he could get along with anybody. Being the most coveted rap feature for pop to exploit at the moment, he just joined Camila Cabello on her song, “My Oh My”. Cabello shared a photo of her hugging the Charlotte rapper backstage at Fallon, as he flashes his wide smile. A similar photo cannot be found of the former Fifth Harmony member and her “Havana” collaborator, Young Thug. DaBaby thrives in all contexts.

While DaBaby and Megan experienced parallel rises, their trajectories repeatedly coincided, resulting in some of the most electrifying moments of 2019. Their collaboration on Fever, “Cash Shit”, was a big win for both of them. When placed side-by-side, the argument that Meg and DaBaby were serving as one another’s counterparts this year became even more convincing. They traded libidinous bars and DaBaby insinuated that Megan is the only one who could match his sex drive in real life as well. However, the erotic tension between them never manifested outside of music (at least not publically). It became a running gag on Twitter that DaBaby is Meg’s work husband. Their live performances of “Cash Shit” on late night programs, at award shows and at music festivals announced that they were conquering the industry in similar ways, but on separate paths. 

Megan and DaBaby’s characters also managed to be so endearing because they weren’t solely centered on them being hormone monsters. Meg has been juggling her role as resident hot girl with her academic duties. She has reminded fans that she has to fit homework assignments into her busy schedule, as she’s studying Health Administration at Texas Southern University to realize a dream of opening an assisted living facility. The way she has balanced driving the boat in the club with less exciting tasks has made her all the more relatable. While DaBaby has maintained a somewhat intimidating demeanor, he has also shown that he has a soft side. His random acts of kindness have become common repost-able content. He gifts fans autographed shoes, hands out large sums of cash to the needy and appears genuinely apologetic when forced to cancel a show

During the summer of 2019, DaBaby and Megan were inescapable - their songs blasting out of speakers at every function and their faces popping up on everyone’s social media feeds. They avoided the potential downfalls of oversaturating the cultural landscape by pulling back a bit as we got deeper into autumn. Knowing when to retreat is just as crucial as knowing how to flood the market. These rappers didn’t feed off irritating antics, so a break from them wasn’t desperately needed. However, DaBaby and Meg easing up on the gas is just another example of how flawlessly they executed their takeovers. 2019 is coming to a close and we’re still excited to see more of them in 2020. Artists often take the route of evading the public eye and letting their work speak for itself. This year, we fell in love with DaBaby’s cheeky grin and Megan Thee Stallion’s stuck-out tongue, yet their music remained central to the conversation.