Houston-based rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who had a breakout 2019 with her debut album Fever and was the progenitor of the nationwide sensation known as “Hot Girl Summer,” has found herself at the mercy of a crummy contract that she signed with a record label earlier in her career. Now 25, she’s using the legal route to fight back. This is a familiar problem in the music industry, as up-and-coming artists often agree to terms that are more than management-friendly. But what’s interesting about this specific case is the well-known former baseball player on the other side of that battle.
In an interview for the March issue of Rolling Stone, Megan mentioned that she hoped to release Suga, her second album, some time this spring. But on Sunday, she said in an Instagram Live video that a contract dispute with record label 1501 Certified Entertainment has virtually prevented her from releasing any new music for the time being. TMZ reported Monday night that Megan had filed suit against 1501, as well as its CEO: Carl Crawford, the former outfielder and speedster for the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers. (Yes, he also played for the Boston Red Sox, but all involved parties would prefer to forget what happened there.)
After Crawford’s playing days were over, the Houston native took some of his $171 million in estimated career earnings and put it toward building a record label and studio, founding 1501 in 2017. He received valuable guidance along the way from fellow Houstonian and music mogul J. Prince. Crawford has done a bunch of interviews to boast about how his label discovered Megan Thee Stallion, as she signed with 1501 in early 2018 and is its biggest name. Since then, she inked deals with 300 Entertainment in November 2018 and Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation this past September. The latter was what made Crawford territorial about Megan.
On the same day the Roc Nation deal was announced, J. Prince posted on Instagram a photo of himself and Crawford, congratulating his partner for Megan’s rise. “The music business is a business filled with sharks and cut throat people,” the caption read. The timing and tone didn’t feel coincidental. Jay-Z might have a lot to offer Megan, but 1501 was with her from the start and still had a contract in place.
Crawford had clearly been stewing over this; he said he wasn’t aware of Megan’s management deal until she announced it to the public. In an interview last October with Dirty Glove Bastard, Crawford said he was “past irritated” with the situation and wasn’t really on speaking terms with Megan’s camp at the time, but chalked it up to typical business in the industry and figured that he’d deal with whatever fell under 1501’s purview.
“When I signed, I didn’t really know what was in my contract,” Megan said in Sunday’s video as she waved a lollipop for emphasis. “I was young—I think I was like 20, and I didn’t know everything that was in that contract. So when I got with Roc Nation, I got real management. I got real lawyers. And they was like, ‘Do you know that this is in your contract?’ And I was like, ‘Oh damn, that’s crazy. No, I didn’t know.’ So, I’m not mad at 1501. I wasn’t upset, ’cause I’m thinking in my head, ‘Oh well, everybody cool. We all family. It’s cool. It’s nice. Lemme just ask them niggas to renegotiate my contract.’ ”
“Soon as I said, ‘I wanna renegotiate my contract,’ everything went left. It just all went bad. It all went left. So now they telling a bitch that she can’t drop no music. It’s really just, like, a greedy game.”
The video didn’t sit well with Crawford, who responded on Instagram with a different photo of himself and Prince, along with the following caption: “At a time when loyalty is at an all time low it’s nice to be link with [J. Prince] who is steady teaching me how to move in this cutthroat industry [100 emoji] And I know that terrifies some especially the ones who double cross me [fist emoji] [horns emoji] #Paybacksabitch #1501 #mobties.” In response, the Hotties—the term for Megan Thee Stallion’s fanbase—have flooded the comments of Prince’s and Crawford’s Instagram accounts with demands to #FREEMEG as well as the horse emoji (you know, like a stallion).
A day later, Megan sued 1501 and Crawford for “at least” $1 million in damages. As TMZ describes, the lawsuit claims the deal gives the rapper 40 percent of her recording income, and that’s before she pays everyone who works on her songs. The suit also claims that the label has been “purposefully and deceptively vague” in paying her out, and that Crawford has used his friendship with Prince—who is not officially a part of 1501—as a cudgel to get what he wants. In a more immediate victory, Megan was granted a temporary restraining order that will allow her to release new music by the end of this week. (A representative for Megan declined to comment on the matter. 1501 said Crawford was open to commenting Tuesday morning but never followed up after multiple replies.)
Some retired athletes get an analyst gig or start a podcast, but the Rays’ all-time stolen bases leader has found himself in a unique career pivot as the bad guy in a toxic industry standoff. Throughout his baseball career, Crawford was on the same side of the table that Megan is on. But after he got his money and gained a bit of power, his posture became markedly different. Crawford used to be the underpaid talent, and now he’s the domineering management.
In an interview Monday with Variety, Crawford said Megan should honor her contract, like he did when he signed with the Rays as a 17-year-old. The difference there is that Crawford received a million-dollar bonus when he signed. In Megan’s lawsuit, she said her advance was $10,000. Megan’s career is just beginning. Crawford ended his playing days after signing a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Red Sox—and then was paid $22 million to not play baseball in 2017. It’s a lot easier to say you did what you had to do after it all works out.