Nicki Minaj and Cardi B have been openly going at it for quite some time, and with the smoke clearing from all the timeline fireworks last night, now is the perfect time to take a look our scorecard to determine which of the two is ahead on points.
Of course, it helps to look at some background first to determine just why these two women are fighting to begin with. Early on in Cardi’s meteoric rise, it appeared that any friction between the two was entirely imaginary, generated solely by overeager media personalities and fans who felt they had to get a juicy quote or choose sides. However, it appears things really became an issue for them personally when they finally connected for the first time to work on Migos’ “Motorsport.” After it was revealed that Nicki had changed her verse — apparently, at the behest of Cardi due to a sticky line referencing legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi — and the two were filmed separately for the video, any festering uncertainly was unlocked, mutating into full-on paranoia.
From there, Nicki Minaj used various platforms to air her grievances with her media treatment, from radio interviews to subliminal shots in songs, but refusing to avail herself to the one that Cardi B seemed to genuinely prefer: The phone. After several months of sniping, Cardi was fed up with hearing Nicki paint herself as the victim even as she tried to play bully and snapped, physically attacking Nicki at the Harper’s Bazaar New York Fashion Week party. She left with only one shoe and a bump on her head, as she’d tossed the other at Nicki during the altercation and been jostled by a bodyguard, receiving the head injury. Video from the event showed Cardi being confronted by fellow Love & Hip-Hop alumnus Rasheeda Ali, who was hanging out with Nicki at the time.
Then, in a dramatic turn of events, yesterday, Cardi’s sister Hennessy Carolina revealed that Cardi’s phone number had been leaked after the fight, resulting in trollish spam from presumed Minaj fans, who wrote semi-threatening messages about Cardi’s daughter Kulture. On yesterday’s episode of Queen Radio on Apple Music, Nicki denied sicking her fans on Cardi’s phone, but offered up $100,000 to anyone with video evidence that Rah Ali was the one who beat up Cardi B, running counter to Cardi’s version of events. She also continued to attribute Cardi’s success to “payola,” claiming that Cardi’s label paid off radio stations to play her songs as much as they did (she didn’t explain how that would work for the several billion accumulated streams Cardi’s racked up on Spotify and 7 million subscribers on Youtube). All of this served to send Cardi back to the habit that made her famous in the first place: Airing out her beef on her Instagram.
Cardi detailed her many grievances against Nicki in an extended soliloquy that covered multiple posts, addressing the fight, the phone leak, and Nicki’s assertion that Cardi was the one trying to sabotage Nicki’s career by blocking certain business and music connections, including the music video for London On The Track’s “No Flag” featuring Nicki, Offset, and 21 Savage, and 21’s appearance on a proposed remix to Farruko and Bad Bunny’s Latin Trap hit “Krippy Kush,” among other things. Cardi, well-versed in the post-millennial art of always keeping the receipts, produced visual evidence from Rvssian, the producer of “Krippy Kush,” that the remix featured Travis Scott instead of 21 because Savage just couldn’t make the video shoot. “No Flag,” simply put, got no burn on any streaming charts, so the video was canceled.
Cardi’s shrewd responses to Nicki’s accusations prompted a well-versed commenter to point out that “Cardi understands the business better than Nicki. The language she uses about her singles and choices lets me know she sits with her label team DIRECTLY. Not just Kyser, Julie and Craig. The heads of retail, radio, digital, etc. Nicki just using words… she hasn’t kept up. The music business has changed by leaps and bounds in the last three years alone. Her answer for everything is payola and Cardi is talking actual data and timelines. She’s def getting weekly charts & reports.” This observation highlights how much better Cardi is doing, not just in the year she’s been a household name with unstoppable cultural capital since the success of “Bodak Yellow,” but also in terms of this latest round of beef.
Combined with Cardi’s aggressive suggestion that Nicki Minaj can’t continue to play victim and gangster at the same time, it looks at lot like Cardi B is winning this round. As another astute observer put it, “Nicki Minaj’s verse on that Tyga song they released today is excellent [“Dip,” which dropped around the same time as Nicki was on-air]. But you won’t know that, because she podcasted her good will away and then got dragged for destroying her legacy to become a hater on Instagram by a righteous heroine in a pumpkin colored wig.” When Cardi punctuated the first video of her extended rant by pointing out that the existing footage that’s already on the internet “shows you standing on the wall, talking ’bout, ‘I’m standing right here,'” she cut through much of the “Barbie Dreams” rapper’s bluster. But when Cardi dismissively called her “Ms. ‘Chun-Li,’ the Street Fighter,” she swept away whatever was left.
When Nicki tried to make it a popularity contest, Cardi proved she’s more popular. When she tried to make a “street credibility” competition, Cardi triumphed there, too. The only thing Nicki might be able to do is rap her way out of this rap beef. She’s used the loaded question “write a rap” as a sort of workaround, but she’s moved the goalposts one too many times to be taken seriously at this point. Given the way she’s relying on Queen Radio and her Barbz for protection, you have to wonder if she really believes she can hold onto her throne. She may consider herself the queen of hip-hop, but the crown is beginning to look like it fits Cardi a little better now.
Cardi B is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music.