For some reason, people really want to see Cardi B and Nicki Minaj go at it. For the past month, so many of their Instagram posts, tweets, and in-concert comments have been dissected and interpreted as subliminal disses toward the other by fans and media outlets alike. Both have come out publicly to say it’s all good between them, but what they say doesn’t seem to matter. Considering a beef hasn’t been pushed this hard for any pair of rappers in a long, long time, it’s safe to assume that the pressure may be due to the fact that they’re women rappers — oh, I mean “femcees” — in a male-dominated industry. And the sexist assumption that two women who are both fantastic at what they do should hate each other needs to stop.
Last month, Nicki Minaj posted a clip from Cardi B’s snapchat of the “Bodak Yellow” rapper vibing to Minaj and Yo Gotti’s “Rake It Up” in North Carolina. Cardi B called out Nicki Minaj’s “thirsty” stans who commented on the clip and wanted to see them beef. The other day, after footage of Cardi talking about an anonymous “b—-” she didn’t like at a show went viral, the tension was ratcheted up on social media. This week though, Cardi B seemingly quelled talk that she was dissing Nicki by tweeting out lyrics to Nicki’s “Win Again.” Nicki then retweeted them, telling people to “stop reaching.” Imagine if Drake and Kendrick Lamar did any of this for each other. There probably wouldn’t be any “I don’t believe it, they’re being calculated” type of commentary like the recent debate on Everyday Struggle, there would just be celebration that two talented people have decided to co-exist, because there’s no reason not to.
I’ve said this often in my recent posts, but that’s because it’s true: Hip-hop is the biggest genre in the world. The world. The idea that there can only be one prominent woman rapper at a time in a billion dollar genre says a lot about how our society views women. (It’s so absurd that I’m almost tempted to come back and finish this piece only after a good ten minutes of laughter-turned-disgust at people’s ignorance.) Nevertheless, that’s the prevailing idea behind every Cardi B vs. Nicki Youtube analysis, article, or tweet storm. Even after yesterday’s tweets, people are still analyzing their interactions with a critical eye. During Complex‘s (reductionist) “Can Cardi B become the next Nicki Minaj?” segment, Joe Budden is convinced Nicki is being calculated, implying that she’ll eventually take an opportunity to pounce on Cardi on record. A popular Youtube channel titled their video about the tweet, “Nicki Minaj Warns Cardi B Stop Reaching With The Rap Beef Before She Pulls Up–” which is not what she said.
Ravenous fans and irresponsible media outlets are putting the two women on a collision course. Either they’re going to do a collaboration and shut down the nonsense, or, if Cardi B continues her success after “Bodak Yellow,” media outlets and fans will continue to tug at reasons to pit the two against each other until one or the other lashes out and starts addressing the tension via record. It has historical precedence in hip-hop, most recently on display with Nicki and Remy Ma.
Though Nicki may have thrown a shot at “the b—h with the crown” Remy as a hungry up-and-comer in 2007, it never turned into anything, and they had nothing but positive things to say about each other personally, even after Remy came home from her six-year prison stint. Nevertheless a Google search of “Nicki Minaj Vs. Remy Ma” showcases “timeline of the beef” articles made by outlets probably oblivious to their complicity in engineering the conflict.
One outlet said what happened this spring was “a decade in the making,” when what really happened is no one left well enough alone when they both said there was no beef, and congratulated each other’s success countless times, including as late as last year when they shouted each other out for their respective 2016 success.
But when Remy caught success with “All The Way Up” and once again became a factor on the charts, people started tugging at possible subliminal shots in their lyrics until the tension bubbled into what happened this spring with their volley of disses, including the vicious “Shether.”
It’s the same thing that happened with Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, who were high school friends and planned to drop a Thelma and Louise album before ’90s hip-hop outlets started pitting them against each other from the moment their studio debuts were scheduled a week apart. On-wax disses followed, and a 2001 shooting even spurred from Foxy Brown’s “Bang Bang” diss to Lil Kim. Kim ended up having to do a year in jail behind the shooting. Now 20 years later, the two legends don’t even speak to each other.
It’s the same thing that happened with Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj, who never had an issue that couldn’t have been squashed by a simple adult discussion, but instead the media/fanbase-engineered tension and interference of Drake — and somehow, Ray J — turned into subliminals which erupted their differences into all out conflict.
This cycle is threatening to continue because the hip-hop universe — fans, media, label execs, even the rappers — knowingly or unknowingly work together to sustain this limiting, marginalizing perception of women rappers, down to annexing them as women rappers or “femcees” in the first place. By placing a qualifier in front of “rapper,” we compartmentalize women in rap as a separate, lesser group within the genre, and even within that smaller world, there seems to only be one woman allowed to reign at a time. Cardi B, as a social-media-personality-turned-chart-topper, is quite clearly the first Cardi B, but there still seem to be relentless comparisons to Nicki.
Imagine if journalists hit up Rick Ross and T.I. to ask if they felt their spot was safe when Gucci Mane came home. Imagine fans continuously forcing a competition between Drake, a pop chart mainstay and Kyle, who has one hit. It sounds idiotic, but that’s what people have been doing with Cardi and Nicki, mainly because we’re conditioned to believe there can only be one woman on top at a time, and if there’s more than one that they need to be at each other’s throat. Nicki’s fans apparently haven’t realized there is no penalty for liking other artists — and that Cardi B is too busy enjoying her come up to focus on negativity.
Hip-hop has a bad propensity to pit two people in the same figurative proximity against each other, but it’s most evident with women rappers, who have a hard enough time in a sexist music industry full of rappers who may not sign them for fear they’d want to f— them.
When we debate the king of rap, very few sane people are arguing that Kendrick or J. Cole or Drake’s success is hurting the other, we just applaud the good music that the competition breeds and have debates about their past, current and future success. But whenever hip-hop talks about queen of rap, it seems to be about getting one person or the other out the paint completely. That’s wack. Queen of rap is a musical term, it’s not game of thrones. Cardi B and Nicki Minaj can both shine, completely independent of each other.