In August 2020, Megan Thee Stallion addressed a story that had been circulating for the last month. Tabloids and gossip sites were stringing together details of an alleged shooting that took place after a party at Kylie Jenner’s Los Angeles home. The rapper Tory Lanez was arrested on a concealed-weapons charge, and Page Six reported the most explosive account: that Lanez had shot Megan in the foot amid an altercation that took place around an SUV. On Instagram, Megan claimed that the substance of it was true, and in the coming months, prosecutors brought assault and gun charges against Lanez.
The legal matter dragged on for the next two years after Lanez pleaded not guilty to all the charges, but Megan’s ascent to Grammy awards and Billboard hits amplified the aftermath, and the case continued to attract periodic waves of public attention. Each rapper released music making reference to it, as social media pages and YouTube channels debated the available evidence. Megan offered further details in an interview with Gayle King, and wrote an essay for The New York Times focusing on how her experience fit into the broader context of violence against Black women.
On Monday morning, the alleged shooting arrived in front of a Los Angeles jury. As Rolling Stone reported, the prosecution began its case by establishing in opening arguments that Kelsey Harris, a former best friend and assistant of Megan who was at the scene of the alleged shooting, would offer testimony that confirms Megan’s account. “Kelsey will tell you that she just saw her close friend get shot by the defendant,” assistant district attorney Alexander Bott reportedly told jurors. Bott went on to say that Megan will testify that Lanez shouted “Dance, bitch!” before shooting at her.
Lanez’s legal battles deepened in September after the R&B singer August Alsina claimed on Instagram that the rapper assaulted him in Chicago. No charges over the allegation have been filed, but prosecutors argued in a pretrial hearing that Lanez violated his bail conditions, as TMZ reported, and Judge David Herriford placed him on house arrest before releasing him last week in anticipation of the trial proceedings.
In his opening remarks on Monday, Lanez’s attorney George Mgdesyan said that Megan was the only person at the scene who heard Lanez say “Dance, bitch,” according to Rolling Stone. The lawyer reportedly said that on the night of the alleged shooting, Megan resented the time Lanez was spending with Jenner, and that Corey Gamble, the boyfriend of Jenner’s mother Kris, would testify about seeing an argument begin at Jenner’s home. Continuing his statement, Mgdesyan claimed that Harris had been the one to discharge the gun after Lanez revealed in the car that he had a sexual relationship with Megan in addition to the one he had with Harris. (According to Mgdesyan, Harris claimed that this meant Megan had crossed her for the third time in this way, after parallel romantic conflicts broke out over the rapper DaBaby and the NBA player Ben Simmons.)
While Lanez has never assembled the kind of mainstream profile that Megan has occupied over the past few years, he’s built a steady following, and to some degree retained it amid the aftermath of the alleged shooting. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, his Quarantine Radio series on Instagram Live turned him into a breakout star of the social-media-centered entertainment ecosystem that sprung out of the moment. Lanez no longer has a major label deal—he and Interscope Records parted ways in February 2020—and in his post alleging that Lanez beat him up, Alsina wrote, “Dude has no real friends, and is on a crash out mission.” But he continues to release music independently, and appeared on The Breakfast Club in September to discuss a new album. In his public comments about the alleged shooting, Lanez has described Megan as a jealous ex who framed him. (Megan told Gayle King that she and Lanez haven’t had a sexual relationship.) In February, amid a spate of reports and legal developments in the case, Megan posted a screenshot of a death threat she had received on social media.
“I want him to go to jail. I want him to go under the jail,” Megan told Rolling Stone in June. “I feel like you’ve already tried to break me enough. You’ve already shot me. So, why are you dragging it out like this? Like, what else? Have you hated me this much the whole time and I didn’t see it?”
If convicted on all counts, Lanez faces up to 22 years and eight months in prison. The trial is expected to last between five and seven days.