Song You Need to Know: Megan Thee Stallion, ‘Shots Fired’

In terms of, what bar on Megan Thee Stallion’s new diss track elicits the most satisfying cackle, the stand-out line from “Shots Fired” might be, “He talking ’bout his followers, dollars and goofy shit/I told him, ‘You’re not popping, you just on the remix.’” It’s catty and cutting, and most vicious of all, backed up by the evidence: Poor Tory Lanez can’t even score a hit without hanging on the coattails of little Jack Harlow. But it’s the line that follows that better defines “Shots Fired”: “Now here we are, 2020, eight months later/And we still ain’t got no fucking justice for Breonna Taylor.”

Since July, when Lanez allegedly shot her twice in the foot while she walked away from him, Megan has discussed the incident in a way that’s bridged the personal with the political and cultural factors also at play. (Lanez is facing an assault and weapons charge; he recently pleaded not guilty.) In a recent New York Times op-ed, Megan tied the shooting to the myriad ways that black women remain “disrespected and disregarded” in society while living under the constant threat of violence from both men and the state. And yet when they speak out against that violence, Megan stressed, they’re met with skepticism, dismissals, and additional threats.

What’s more, when Megan first broke her silence about the incident in August, she hammered home the point that, immediately after being shot, she refused to name Lanez or say exactly what had happened for a very significant reason: “The police is shooting motherfuckers for anything. The police was literally killing black people for no motherfucking reason. Soon as the police tell us all, ‘Get out the motherfucking car.’ The police is really aggressive. Do you think I’m about to tell the police that us black people got a gun in the car?”

All these elements are contained in “Shots Fired,” and for all its gratifying takedowns (“Who you taking shots at, goofy-ass bitch?/Watching me succeed from your knees, sucking dick”; “I’m a steak, you a side plate, shrimp, stay in your place”), there’s an undercurrent of genuine righteousness.

It’s hard not to think of “Shots Fired” alongside 2020’s other notable diss track, “Song 33,” Noname’s ruthlessly efficient response to J Cole’s sweaty handwringing over how certain people, perhaps including Noname, were perceiving his action — or lack thereof — during this summer’s uprising against police brutality and systemic racism. The two inciting incidents for both songs aren’t parallels, but both instances involve a man’s wounded pride, a perceived slight, and a woman he feels the need to rein in.

Following its release, in a moment of grace, Noname walked back “Song 33,” saying her ego got the better of her and that clapping back at J Cole, even as she tried to simultaneously call attention to the issues she cared about, ultimately just created more distractions. It’s unlikely Megan will feel any similar need to walk back “Shots Fired,” but for all the justified fire she’s spit, both on the track and elsewhere while discussing Lanez’s alleged assault, there’s been that same touch of grace. It’s a much more savage kind of grace, as is Megan Thee Stallion’s style, and it’s doubtful Tory Lanez even deserves that. “Should’ve let them lock your ass up,” Megan quips as the song comes to an end. But she didn’t, and he ought to be thanking her for just roasting him on “Shots Fired.”

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.