How Did Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Hiss’ Become the Rare Rap Beef Song to Debut at No. 1?
Hip-hop history has been littered with world-stopping, game-changing diss tracks — but you wouldn’t find many, if any, at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Historically, most of the great feud-starting moments on wax have met with little chart success, often being deemed too raw for radio, if they were even released or promoted as official singles in the first place.
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That’s changed some in the streaming years, as fans have been able to bypass gatekeepers to stream and purchase the most conversation-dominating diss tracks to their hearts’ content. Still, Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hiss” — whose venomous (though unspecified) disses set off a social media frenzy, including responses from some of the presumed targets — certainly is in rare air as a beef cut with its debut atop the Hot 100 this week, making for the rapper’s third No. 1 and first since 2021.
How was “Hiss” able to do it? And will it inspire other rappers to try something similar? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. “Hiss” debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week — Megan Thee Stallion’s first No. 1 since 2021, and her first without a credited co-collaborator. On a scale from 1-10, how big a deal do you think this debut is for the rapper?
Rania Aniftos: Honestly, a 10. Meg has been dealing with haters claiming that she fell off since her 2022 Traumazine album didn’t do quite as well as expected. If I were her, this accomplishment would feel like a big middle finger to those people, and a solidification that she’s here to stay in the rap game.
Hannah Dailey: 10! I think a first unaccompanied No. 1 is a huge deal for any artist, and Meg is no exception. It’s solid evidence that she’s come to a place in her career where she’s on the same level as the artists she used to need to collaborate with in order to elevate her songs to the place “Hiss” is now.
Jason Lipshutz: A 9. Megan Thee Stallion has established herself as a brand name in popular rap music, but since “Savage” and “WAP” each hit No. 1 in 2020, her singles catalog has been commercially spotty, with last year’s Traumazine album failing to spawn a top 10 hit. Meg would still be a major play in modern hip-hop in 2024 regardless of her Hot 100 performances, but “Hiss” hitting No. 1 gives her another chart win, signature song and flash point in a highly impressive professional run. “Hiss” hitting No. 1 wasn’t essential for Meg, but make no mistake, it’s a very big deal.
Meghan Mahar: 10. Objectively, this is HUGE. The only other solo No. 1 debuts by a female rapper are “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill and “Super Freaky Girl” by Nicki Minaj, both of which are undeniable hits by some of the most iconic women in the game. Megan was already a force, but this proves that she has the skill and staying power to make a long-term impact on the genre. On a personal level, this is especially touching to see, knowing that Megan is continuing the legacy of her late mother and rapper Holly-Wood and rising above the hate.
Andrew Unterberger: Let’s say an 8. It’s a big win for her, and along with her excellent guest appearance on Renée Rapp’s well-received Mean Girls near-hit “Not My Fault,” gives her some real momentum for the beginning of 2024. Is it a game-changer for her career? That’ll mostly depend on what comes next, I think.
2. While obviously the incendiary buzz surrounding “Hiss” and the responses it inspired were a big part in driving interest in the song, diss tracks have not traditionally been contenders for the Hot 100’s top spot — what do you think the biggest reason is “Hiss” was able to become the rare rap beef track to hit No. 1?
Rania Aniftos: Sadly, people love to see women go up against each other. It’s been a long time since there has been a female rap feud this high-profile, and watching a newer rapper like Megan square up against a longtime rap staple like Nicki Minaj will always lead to floods of people listening to and analyzing every lyric — and subsequently sharing their thoughts on social media.
Hannah Dailey: It doesn’t feel like a traditional diss track to me. Sure, certain lines here and there feel like digs at specific people, but overall, the song reads like a more general “F–k the haters” anthem in my opinion, making it more relatable and palatable across the board. Contrary to what a certain pink-haired rap queen might think, the song isn’t aimed at just one person.
Jason Lipshutz: “Hiss” may have picked up buzz due to its place in an A-list rap beef, but the track is brimming with quotable lyrics that got shared around social media and extracted for various TikTok clips. Part of the reason why Megan Thee Stallion can excel in a rap feud is because she has always understood how to deliver a scorching one-liner — so while some of the best lines of “Hiss” are aimed at one particular adversary, others are just top-notch bars meant to be repurposed against any and all haters. Those instantly memorable lyrics being packaged into a must-hear diss track is why “Hiss” took off.
Meghan Mahar: Aside from the multiverse of beef that led up to the release of “Hiss,” the track itself is a solid example of what Megan is best at: delivering clever bars over a Houston trap beat. The artist/producer duo of Megan and Lil Ju has consistently proven to be successful, with previous collaborations hitting the Hot 100 including “Captain Hook” (peak No. 74), “Body” (peak No. 12) and “Thot Shit” (peak No. 16). Megan knows what her fans want.
Andrew Unterberger: Megan just does this stuff really, really well. “Thot Shit” from 2021 and “Plan B” from 2022 were arguably even more effective diss tracks with even more fiery bars — just with more general targets, and none that felt the need to respond at length. I think after a particularly drama-filled past few years for the star rapper, folks have also been waiting for a scorched-earth song like this from her. She teased it well without risking overhyping it, and then just let the song take over from there.
3. Extraneous drama and outside context aside — how do you rate “Hiss” as a single? Does it sound like a real hit to you, or do you think it’ll die down quickly once the fury around it does?
Rania Aniftos: It’s a hit for sure. It’s fiery and has plenty of remix wiggle room. Meg could surely ride the wave of success with a club remix of the track or adding a collaborator. I mean, she could even get really messy and reunite with Cardi B for a verse.
Hannah Dailey: I like it! I love it when Megan comes out swinging – I think that’s when she’s at her best (see also: “Plan B”). And while I would be pleasantly surprised if it nabbed a second week at No. 1, I also don’t think it will completely fall off the Hot 100 anytime soon.
Jason Lipshutz: If the high-water mark for a diss track like this is “Hit ‘em Up,” in which 2Pac’s rage transcended the feud that provoked it and defined an all-time lyrical takedown, “Hiss” gets about halfway there. The song will always be associated with this beef, but I do believe “Hiss” stands on its own as a showcase for Meg’s authoritative flow and inimitable wordplay, especially since so many of the lyrical shots exist as general flexes more than specific disses. Its chart fortunes are a little harder to read — maybe it hangs around the top 10 for a few more weeks? — but I don’t think of “Hiss” as a stunt single that will quickly be forgotten.
Meghan Mahar: I think “Hiss” is a strong single and a definite hit for Megan, but I don’t think it will be an enduring No. 1 hit. It will likely phase out with the news cycle, especially because we’re approaching other major album releases and music-centric moments like festival season. However, Megan’s songs have always gone viral and created big trends, so I think this sets the stage for her next release to be even bigger.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s not “Savage” or “WAP,” and we’ll see what radio ends up thinking of it, but it’s definitely a real hit. As much as folks may love the drama, they’re not streaming this song over 29 million total times in one week just to rubberneck at the car-crashiness: Numbers like that mean the song is almost certainly a heater in its own right.
4. If you were in Megan Thee Stallion’s team, how would you advise her to best take advantage of the extra interest and momentum generated by “Hiss” for the rest of 2024 — if at all?
Rania Aniftos: Stay sassy, stay spicy! That’s what fans have always loved about her and while “Hiss” is a diss track, at its core, it has those biting, clever one-liners that Meg is so uniquely good at.
Hannah Dailey: I think the best thing she could possibly do is continue keeping the drama to her music. The more she stays quiet about her feuds outside of the studio, the more intrigue she generates for her next single. So long as she doesn’t speak on it publicly, people are going to be tuned in to her music to discern what she really thinks about it all.
Jason Lipshutz: I’d get that new album ready pronto. Obviously a full-length that includes “Hiss” coming sooner than later would help capitalize on this injection of buzz, but also, “Hiss” and preceding single “Cobra” seem to have clarified Megan Thee Stallion’s current aesthetic, after Traumazine contained bright spots but felt a bit disjointed. Let’s hope these more urgent recent singles coalesce into an album worthy of Meg’s dynamite rap approach, and that we get that project while “Hiss” is still riding high.
Meghan Mahar: Hot Girl Summer is incoming — Megan just announced that she’s going to be releasing a new album in time for summer and going on tour, so it seems like she and her team are already doing a great job of leveraging her current situation from a business angle. From a creative standpoint, I would love to see Megan leverage her momentum to tap new, interesting collaborators — and even more women, both in and out of rap. It would turn her situation into an even more positive one and further prove that she’s for the girls.
Andrew Unterberger: Yeah let’s get that new album out post-haste. Megan has often been the victim of unfortunate timing in her career, and she’s had some difficulty building further momentum off her wins. “Hiss” is a real moment for her, but the heat from it might not last all winter. She’s gotta make her next big move sooner rather than later.
5. Now that “Hiss” has come to loom so large over the early year, do you think we’ll see an uptick in diss tracks among rappers looking to create a similar moment for themselves in 2024?
Rania Aniftos: I think we’re going to see a rise in diss tracks from female rappers. I hate to see it, because in a male-dominated genre, women should be lifting each other up, instead of tearing each other down. But unfortunately, sometimes, streaming numbers and chart success speak louder than the right thing to do.
Hannah Dailey: I don’t think we’ll see any uptick in diss tracks among any artists we’d actually be interested in hearing a diss track from. Less-established rappers may try to manufacture drama to attract more ears, but I doubt anyone as relevant as Megan will waste their time with it.
Jason Lipshutz: Yes, but also, trying to re-create a diss track debuting atop the Hot 100 will be like movie studios trying to figure out the next Barbenheimer — these things have to happen organically, or they’ll never work, which is why Barbie vs. Oppenheimer was a fun pop-culture moment and any following attempts to pit two movies against each other on opening weekend have done nothing to move the general public. So while I’m sure we’ll see plenty of attempts at headline-grabbing takedowns post-“Hiss,” they’ll likely come across as contrived, and come up short.
Meghan Mahar: Part of me wants to say, “I hope not,” and acknowledge that women deserve more support in rap — but diss tracks and beef are part of rap culture regardless of gender, and they keep things interesting, so an uptick is probable. If we do see more diss tracks, I would ask that they come with substance — for example, I don’t think that the track that was released in response to “Hiss” had a compelling narrative or argument. So if you come for someone with a release, come correct.
Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, I’m a little worried that rappers will see this moment and attempt to get some secondhand warmth for it — or worse, that their teams/labels will push them to try. Beef is a vital part of hip-hop and pretty much always has been, but when it becomes an established as a way to get to No. 1, the risks of it leading to some genuine ugliness that leaves no one looking good are very real.