Cardi B's "WAP," which features Megan Thee Stallion, has become a cultural phenomenon.
The song has exploded in popularity on TikTok, with people remixing Megan Thee Stallion's first verse with songs like "Let It Go" or "The Phantom of the Opera."
The trend plays both into TikTok's history of making mashups with popular audio and its reliance on Black culture.
Insider asked an expert about why Megan Thee Stallion's "steady as a metronome" flow stands out.
What’s going on with TikTok?
On Cardi B's most recent viral track "WAP," rapper Megan Thee Stallion has perhaps the most memorable verse — at least, it seems that way given the sheer number of TikTok mashups including her vocals.
The opening lyrics of her first verse of the song ("Gobble me, swallow me, drip down inside of me / Quick jump out 'fore you let it get inside of me") have been splashed across many TikTok videos as people mash together Megan Thee Stallion's bars with any number of unlikely instrumentals.
It's been over a month since Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's recent chart-topping hit was released on August 6. In that time, the song has become a cultural phenomenon, sparking ire among conservatives like Ben Shapiro for its sexually empowered lyrics. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with a record number of first-week streams (it currently sits at No. 2).
It's also become a crucial part of TikTok culture. Along with a massively popular dance challenge created by Brian Esperon, a choreographer from Guam, "WAP" itself has spread to every single musical corner of TikTok.
Most 'WAP' remixes feature Megan Thee Stallion's iconic first verse
While "WAP" itself is popular across TikTok, Megan Thee Stallion's first verse of the song is the most prolific, and for good reason: it's fast-paced, falls directly on beat, and moves with a confidence that makes it incredibly catchy.
"Megan Thee Stallion's rhythmic flow is precise and 'steady as a metronome' which helps it synchronize with any consistent beat," Prince Charles Alexander — a professor in Berklee College of Music's Music, Production and Engineering department as well as a recording and mixing engineer who has collaborated with artists like Destiny's Child and Mary J. Blige — told Insider over email.
The precision of her flow is what makes it possible to use editing and recording software to re-tempo the song and fit it over any other track.
As Vulture music critic Craig Jenkins writes, the song's minimalist beat puts a focus on the lyrics themselves. That may lend some insight as to why Megan's verse, as opposed to one of Cardi B's, has become the focus of the TikTok mashup trend.
"I would venture that the lyrics [of Megan's verse] just sound like a tongue twister that everyone wants to master," Alexander told Insider.
"Because I've been around hip-hop since its inception and have heard fast rappers like Bone Thugs 'n Harmony, Twista, Mystikal, Busta Rhymes, and countless others deliver rapid-fire lyrics, this verse stands out because its onomatopoeia (a word that looks it sounds) and imagery fit an empowerment narrative," he said.
"And that narrative works for not only Megan and Cardi, but also for a large community of gendered and nonbinary consumers of these lyrics."
People are making videos using mashups of 'WAP' with a wide variety of songs
"WAP" mashups on TikTok (or other platforms like YouTube, where mashups amass hundreds of thousands of views) aren't limited to any particular genre or style.
In fact, part of the meme itself is mashing "WAP" up with well-known tracks that completely change the song's vibe.
The most popular mashups on TikTok pair Megan Thee Stallion's verse with an impactful moment — think a beat drop, or the beginning of an iconic chorus — of a well-known song.
One of the most popular "WAP" mashups on TikTok marries the track with Rihanna's synth-heavy single "S&M," giving it a club sensibility that's different from the original vibe on Cardi B's hit.
That particular mashup appears to have been originally posted on the YouTube channel oneboredjeu, and one upload of the sound on TikTok has been used in approximately 189,000 videos per TikTok's public count.
Some of the most popular 'WAP' mashups use songs that are deliberately different from the song's original mood
One of the most popular "WAP" mashups lays the verse over "The Phantom of the Opera." The mashup, which was originally posted on TikTok by user @pescatarian_mama_, eventually made it all the way to Andrew Lloyd Webber himself.
Another mashup, uploaded by @bussysounds, pairs Megan Thee Stallion's verse with the chorus of "Let It Go" from "Frozen."
"'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'Let It Go' [are] very 'white-breaded' juxtapositions situated 180º from WAP," Prince Charles Alexander told Insider. "It is a cultural reversal that matches the role reversal female empowerment of WAP. At the end of the day we do it because we can."
"Because we can" seems to be the ethos behind many "WAP" mashups, which continue to proliferate across TikTok.
You can hear Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B's voices over K-pop tracks like Twice's "Likey," remixes of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me", "Determinate" from Lemonade Mouth, and myriad other tracks that play to familiarity, nostalgia, or surprise.
'WAP' mashups play into TikTok's musical meme history and its reliance on Black culture
Megan Thee Stallion is no stranger to trending on TikTok. In early 2020, her song "Savage" became on the of the app's most popular dance challenges.
But the track's mashup popularity is also tied to TikTok's reliance on, and fascination with, Black culture. Black women like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Flo Milli, Doja Cat, or Nicki Minaj drive the culture of the app through their music.
"From the blackface minstrel yodeling of Al Jolson to the successful TV run of Nat King Cole to the utter dominance of the charts by Drake, black culture, whether appropriated or pure, is American culture. America's issues with race play themselves out in the entertainment of modern-day stereotypes," Alexander told Insider, recommending Donald Bogle's "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks" as further reading.
"Megan, Cardi, and the rest are giving us the paradox of being black, female, and American in the 21st century. They are stereotypically fetishized while simultaneously more free than anyone could possibly hope to be," he said.
"The lie and the truth, the best and the worst, the yin and the yang coexist; and TikTok is ready to give it to us in bite-size pieces."
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