City Girls and Megan Thee Stallion Celebrate Their Rap-Game Dominance
“Real ass bitch, give a fuck ’bout a nigga. Big Birkin bag, hold five, six figures.” So begins, and such is the sentiment of, the City Girls song “Act Up,” their most popular single to date as well as their mission statement. Self-possessed and braggadocious in equal measure, Jatavia Johnson and Caresha Brownlee, known professionally as JT and Yung Miami, have become a glossy fixture in rap music since their 2018 debut album, Girl Code. With raunchy lyrics and attitudes to match, their rise has been swift, albeit uncertain. When JT was sent to prison in 2018 on charges of credit card fraud, just as the group was gaining notoriety for their feature on the Drake single “In My Feelings,” Yung Miami stuck to the plan, promoting their music on her own with precise determination, even begging DJs to play their songs at clubs. When JT was released last year, the Miami-born rap duo released their second studio album, City on Lock, which helped position them among a group of young Black women who are dominating hip-hop. Included in that class is the three-time Grammy Award–winning, Houston-based rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who recently called up the Girls to discuss their journey from the projects of Miami to Nobu Beverly Hills. — JULIANA UKIOMOGBE
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Hey, girl.
YUNG MIAMI: Hey, Megan.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Where’s JT?
JT: Hey, y’all.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: My first question is, people think they know Miami from their vacations or what they see in movies or on TV. Tell me about your Miami.
JT: The Miami I grew up in has no palm trees. It’s hood. It’s fun and all that, but it’s not beaches and it’s not what you see on Miami Vice. It’s more like corner stores and projects.
YUNG MIAMI: Yeah, what JT said. It’s way more realistic than what y’all see in the movies.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Can you talk about how Miami has influenced you? What elements of the city do you draw inspiration from for your music?
JT: The struggle, the fast life, the stealing. Growing up around my mom and auntie, they were always talking to men for money. I’ve never seen my mom in a real relationship. I’m not trying to throw her under the bus, but my momma was always about her money. My auntie was always about her money. That’s what I grew up around, that type of life, the stealing and hustling. That’s where the influence comes from in the music, besides growing up in the Slip-N-Slide Records era, when we had the raunchy music with Trick Daddy and Trina. That’s all we really know.
YUNG MIAMI: I’m from Opa-Locka. The stuff that I saw growing up were shootings. My momma used to steal. My daddy was selling drugs. My mom used to sell clothes for us to get by. She’d just steal clothes and sell them. That was basically my upbringing, just growing up in the struggle.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: I feel like y’all’s music definitely helps a lot of us. Even myself, when I want to put on some shit that makes me remember, “Let me get to this bag, let me get to this money,” I play City Girls because y’all really make me feel comfortable. Our types of struggles are different from a lot of struggles that other women go through. This is actually hood shit. That’s why I relate to y’all so much, because we had similar upbringings. When did you realize that music was something that you could actually do and something that you actually wanted to make a career out of?
JT: Girl, when they said I was going to jail, there was nothing else to do. It happened so fast, us getting booked so quickly, and people were gravitating to us and we were packing out clubs our first time. So it was like, “Damn, we got it all. The lyrics, the lifestyle. We got the look. We got something that can probably take us to another level.” But I never thought it would take us this far. I just knew it was going to get me through the situation that I was in.
YUNG MIAMI: JT went to jail and I used to have to beg the DJs to play our song. I used to be like, “JT, we got to rap for real.” They were going up for our songs in the club and she’d be like, “Bitch, I’m in jail. I’m not thinking about no fucking music.” And I was like, “JT, this is our way out. I think we should take this seriously.”
JT: Yeah, when we first came in, it was like something was missing. That’s how I found out about you, because people used to always write me on Twitter like, “Oh, there’s this other girl. She’s from Texas. She be talking about the same shit y’all be talking about.” At the time, there was nobody really on that type of shit.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Yes!
JT: Like, “If you ain’t got no money, you can’t fuck me.” Then we had such kid voices so it’s like, “Hold on, how old are these girls?”
MEGAN THEE STALLION: I loved it. I remember the first time I ever heard y’all. I was like, “Oh my god, these bitches is it.” I feel like I’m ratchet, but I was definitely like, “Okay, this is a whole different accent. This is a whole different style. This is a whole different experience.” I’ve been a fan ever since. How did you celebrate your record deal? What was the first thing you bought?
JT: Caresha got that Range Rover.
YUNG MIAMI: I got that Range.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: JT, what’d you get?
JT: At the time, girl, I was so hood. I think I gave my ex-boyfriend some money for his lawyer and he still went to jail for a long-ass time. Whew, girl, I hate him. Other than that, I don’t remember. I was just spending money fast. I ain’t going to lie.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Can you two talk about the first time that y’all met and what made y’all click?
JT: Oh my god, that was so long ago. We went to the same school, but I’m a year older than her. I don’t know how we met. Probably through MySpace or just being kids. I liked her family. You could do whatever you wanted over at her house. Her momma was so nice. Her family has always been lit and welcoming to me. I think they like me better than her. Her daddy especially.
YUNG MIAMI: He likes you better than me. My daddy hates me.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: When did making music come into the friendship?
JT: Bitches used to always be hating on Caresha, and I used to get mad. I wanted her to make a song about these girls and I wanted to say their names. But it didn’t really work out. It worked out more with the niggas. It was better just saying, “Fuck the niggas.” Bitches be irrelevant.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Do you think competition in hip-hop is bullshit or is it something that really motivates you?
JT: I’m not really a competitive person. The only time I ever felt down-and-out is when I was in a halfway house and I couldn’t do stuff. But now that I can, I can’t blame nobody else or even be competitive with nobody. It’s motivating just to see women right now winning, and to be a part of it.
YUNG MIAMI: The same thing she said.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: I definitely feel like we are creating herstory. When they look back years from now, they’re going to see, “Oh, these was the women that was really taking over.” People really don’t know that a lot of us are actually cool outside of the rap shit or outside of the internet. A lot of the time, how we come across on the internet is not really reflective of how we are in real life. Both of y’all are so sweet, but y’all so real, too. That’s what it is. Sometimes it’s hard to translate how real you are over a screen.
JT: Yeah, because I don’t play. I don’t give a damn. They be getting on my nerves. They be forgetting that we are human and we see that stuff. A bad thing is going to catch my eye more than a good thing because I know that you mean that bad thing. Love be so fake, but hate be so real.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: People can really dehumanize other people on the internet. They act like you’re above replying to a nasty comment. Like, girl, if this was real life, somebody would say something back to you. What is it like dealing with the music industry while trying to stay authentic and independent?
JT: The music industry has a crazy up-and-down kind of feel. It fucks with our mental state a lot because now we’re focused on numbers and streams and shit.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: When you think about, “We have to chart like this or we have to write like this,” is it hard for you to keep that same City Girls sound we all know and love? Do you feel like you have to be more cookie-cutter?
JT: I was just sending Caresha some songs we did in 2018, and I was like, “We got to redo these songs because we ain’t give a fuck what we said.” When you get in an industry and you start hearing other people’s music and start looking at the charts and start reading the comments, you try to be more like what you think is going to sell more than what is truly yourself. When I was sending her these songs, I was like, “Caresha, we got to redo these songs because this is us right here. This was us when we had nothing to lose, when we had no money. This was us.” It’s hard to stick to that sound, though, as you grow.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Can you talk about adversity and using it to your benefit?
JT: I’m so comfortable and content with myself that I don’t even think I’m struggling. I be like, “Bitch, I’m so happy.” Back then, I was really struggling. And when you’re struggling, I feel like you make the best music. When you ain’t got nothing to lose, you make the best music. I really come from nothing, so anything is a blessing to me. I got lazy and comfortable at one point, but I’m getting back into that mode where I feel like we’ve got something to prove. So right now, that’s what I’m on. It’s comeback season.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Miami, what was it like when JT was away? Did you have any moments where you thought everything that y’all had worked for was in jeopardy, and how did you get out of that? How did you persevere?
YUNG MIAMI: We already knew she was going to jail, so we had a plan. I was like, “Okay, she’s going to go to jail and I’m going to do whatever I got to do to keep it going.” I feel like I did a good job. Everything was new for me, too, so it’s literally like I was in the middle of the ocean and I had to motherfucking swim. We had that song with Drake [“In My Feelings”] and I felt like I did good. I thought I held the group down. It was hard. Sometimes I’d be sad, like, “Damn, I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this.” And then I had other moments where I was like, “Man, I’ve got to do this because if I don’t do it, what’s going to happen? Is City Girls just going to go away?” So I just attacked it.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: When JT was away, I didn’t even feel like both of y’all wasn’t still together. I saw the City Girls name everywhere. It still felt like she was home. I definitely feel like you did what you were supposed to be doing when she was gone. So shout out to that. What do y’all see as a benefit of being a duo?
JT: I feel like Caresha has more of the City Girls side to her, the whole aura of it. She’s a party girl. She’s lit. She’s going to be shaking her ass and I’m probably going to be standing there mad about something. That’s what’s good about being in a group, because if it was just me by myself, everybody would just be like, “Damn, I hate them because them bitches is boring.”
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Name your top-five favorite things to rap about.
YUNG MIAMI: My pussy, of course. Money, niggas, and every now and then I’ve got to throw my kids in there.
JT: I like to rap about money, stealing, niggas, scamming, and my struggle with prison.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: Tell me the one place you really want to perform when COVID is over.
JT: I really want to do Rolling Loud Miami because I just know it’s going to be so fucking lit. The first time we did Rolling Loud—well, Caresha did it by herself before, but when I went, nobody even knew us like that. I was just so fucking happy to be on stage. This time around, whenever it comes back, I can’t wait to get on that stage and feel the love. I don’t even care if not one person sings along.
MEGAN THEE STALLION: It has been a great-ass time for City Girls music, so they’re going to be singing that motherfucker. My last question is this: What is the most lavish and extravagant thing you two have experienced since you’ve become successful?
YUNG MIAMI: These niggas.
JT: And eating yellowtail with chopsticks at Nobu.
Hair: Taneisha “BK” Bullock and Pamela “Pink” Isaac
Makeup: Jazzmin Jordan and Michele Latrice
Production: Second Name
Tailor: Faith Mallory at Touched by Fhi
Photography Assistant: Alex Rotondo
Fashion Assistant: Brandon Washington
Special Thanks: Hilton Atlanta