As a married man, as a godly man, and especially as a Gen X-er, I probably shouldn’t entertain the likes of Megan Thee Stallion. However, when I caught the radio edit of Savage the other day, the Law/Gospel theologian in me heard reverberations of redemptive implications inculcated in verses rapped about otherwise frivolous matters. Most of the song’s lyrics are not repeatable in polite company and do not represent what I want my daughters to internalize — let alone what I want them downloading to their playlists. Megan has made a name for herself as a highly sexualized symbol in her stage presence and persona across several recordings including her 2020 EP, Suga. As such, it would be easy for me to dismiss her musical career as belonging to the whole class and category of ratchet music representing the worst depictions of African American cultural expression.

But what I hear coming through in Savage is a deflection of judgment and a plea asking us not to dismiss her or anyone else in this scene for being merely ratchet. What I hear is the affirmation that we are all a mixed bag of broken and beautiful as the familiar refrain asserts, “I’m a savage / Classy, bougie, ratchet.” To be sure, we all “fall short of the glory of God,” which means that no one is essentially any one vice — or virtue for that matter. Which is also to say none of us is beyond the scope of redemption, including Megan.

Savage defies categories and pushes back against the form of “law” which labeling and classifying entail. Invoking a form of what some would consider self-empowerment, Megan refuses to fall into any one category: as a rapper, as a Black woman, and more importantly as a human. But can we blame her? Nobody wants to be relegated to a category, a stereotype, a statistic, a label. As I consider what little I know about her personal life, I see more than a hot girl twerking, trying to stack cash and steal your man. I see the third-year pre-med student trying to honor the legacy of hard work and dedication she saw in her family matriarchs. I see the philanthropist giving back to the community. I see the afflicted daughter who lost her mother and grandmother in the same month (as she attests on Suga’s opening track, “Ain’t Equal”), I see the woman domestically abused by her boyfriend earlier this year.

Despite her celebrity status as one of the hottest rappers presently in the game, real-life suffering infuses the explicit content that amounts to little more than a cry for the transcendent. This is most acutely evident on “Crying in the Car,” which samples an ethereal loop of a gospel choir while Megan betrays a transparency and vulnerability implicit in the chorus’s echoing despair that apparently seeks solace and redemption. Narrating her struggle to contend with haters who despise her for coming up and attaining success, Megan petitions for grace and promises to do better, work harder, and strive more diligently, attributing her success to a synergy between hard work and Divine favor:

Please don’t give up on me, Lord, Lord
Promise to keep goin’ hard, hard
All of them nights that I cried in the car
All them tears turned into ice on my arms
Please don’t give up on me, Lord, Lord
Promise to keep goin’ hard, hard

And that’s why I keep goin’ harder
And harder
And that’s why I keep goin’ harder
And harder

Thankfully, the God who came for the ratchet, the wretched, and the vulnerable doesn’t require us to go hard in order to earn His blessings. He has provided us a righteousness in the One who went to the cross to bear our sin. His yoke is easy, His burden is light, and His grace is sufficient — even for the likes of Megan Thee Stallion, you, and me.