The music video for "Cobra," released late Thursday, begins with Megan's mouth speaking aloud the song's thesis, a nod to what has been a tumultuous year for the rapper: "Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past, over and over again."
As the music begins, brooding electric-guitar chords, she reveals her snake eyes and fangs before crawling out of the mouth of a large serpent that recently slithered out of its skin.
Since early 2022, Megan Thee Stallion — real name Megan Pete — had been embroiled in a legal battle with her label, 1501 Certified Entertainment, during which she filed successive lawsuits to get out of the deal she signed in 2018 with the label’s founder, former MLB star and Dodgers player Carl Crawford.
The lawsuits called the contract “one-sided” and “unconscionable.” Pete alleged in her complaints that the label owed her more than $1 million in unpaid royalties, had failed to promote her music or allow her to record new music with other artists, and signed her to a deal that was below industry standards.
Attorneys for 1501 and Crawford countersued, saying Pete was the one who owed. The label said the performer needed to pay it more than $10 million in earnings and royalties from touring, merchandise sales and her sponsorships, endorsements and commercial work with other brands.
The label also said in court documents that Pete had “consistently refused to comply with the [contract] provisions she does not like.” And the label said her 2021 release “Something for Thee Hotties” was not a full-length album, 1501 alleged that Pete still owed it another full-length release.
In late October, both sides agreed to a settlement that had the label and the Houston rapper mutually agreeing to "amicably part ways."
"Both Megan and 1501 are pleased to put this matter behind them and move forward with the next chapter of their respective businesses,” the label said in a statement at the time.
Months earlier, Lanez's criminal case for shooting and wounding Pete after a 2020 party in the Hollywood Hills ended with his conviction. Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, received a 10-year sentence in August.
Pete gave tearful testimony during the trial, recounting both the trauma of getting shot by Peterson, someone she once considered a friend, and also the toll of online abuse she received for speaking out and from those who doubted her story. The backlash had also been fueled by lyrics from Lanez and Drake, who both took shots at her account of the shooting.
In her new serpent-themed single, which she produced and released independently and had been teasing for weeks, Megan Thee Stallion metaphorically sheds the challenges of the past year, moving confidently toward a new chapter in her career. But the song also reckons with the pain she is leaving behind.
She packs the song with references to depression, anxiety alcoholism and suicidal ideation. "Yes, I'm very depressed / How can somebody so blessed wanna slit they wrist?" she bluntly raps in the first verse. In the chorus, she further admits, "This p— depressed ... I'm about to stress him," a clear reference to her critics.
Throughout, Megan acknowledges such outside voices and the public spectacle of her emotional struggles, rapping, "Breakin' down and I had the whole world watchin'." She also takes aim at those close to her who failed to support her and "stop her" from harming herself.
In the video she is locked in a glass box, where she begins to peel back the dead skin encasing her body to reveal her smooth face and raw skin. Surrounding her are robed onlookers, filming her transformation with their phones. Later, we are shown ominous faces buried and staring out from beneath a pit of black vipers.
"Cobra," which had been leading trending videos on YouTube, is also the first single off an upcoming untitled album. It is expected to be her first album without the support of a label and released independently through her Hot Girl Productions. As a part of her comeback, she has also celebrated her feature-film acting debut in the A24 musical comedy "Dicks: The Musical."
Leading up to "Cobra," Megan had been cryptically posting about the song as "Part One," sharing photos of snakes. She has yet to tease a second installment. Even so, the "Cobra" video ends with a snake slithering off her body toward a nest of eggs, which begin to crack open.
The video ends before we can see what lies inside.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.