Now that the backlash to Nicki Minaj’s anti-Travis Scott tirade has subsided, it’s time to pick up some of the threads of her issues with the modern music industry and try to make sense of how they tie together. It’s too easy to get caught up in the hype of addressing the bold accusations and climactic reckonings and miss the quieter, more salient points that can get overshadowed by drama and beef. For instance, Nicki was right about a lot of things: Artists arguably deserve a bigger slice of the revenue they generate for labels and distributors, there are plenty of double standards for how women are treated in hip-hop and music as whole, Billboard does need to hash out its metrics for tallying success, and the overwhelming emphasis on first week numbers is absolutely detrimental to the overall business model of the recording industry.
However, one of the few points where Nicki is wrong — at least in part — is in her claims that she’s been a force for women in the hip-hop and music industries. Nicki’s primary argument for her value for women in the business stems from the Jay-Z line reasoning of “My presence is a present,” but she has yet to do the one thing that would truly help women in hip-hop: Share her platform with up-and-coming women through collaboration.
While it’s true that the value of representation is incalculable for many young women who see her as role model and rap as a legit career path because of her, merely representing a single female presence isn’t as inherently helpful as Nicki claims. Nicki herself often cites seeing Lil Kim and Foxy Brown as major inspirations for her as a rapper, but this overlooks the fact that there were many, many other prominent women in rap during Nicki’s formative years to provide a more holistic concept of femininity in the male-dominated arena of hip-hop. Missy Elliott, Eve, MC Lyte, and Lauryn Hill all helped to flesh out a wider range of potential personas that a young woman could aspire to and each was well known for lending a helping hand in sisterhood to other female rappers.
The “Ladies Night” remix to Lil Kim’s “Not Tonight” featured four other women, including Elliott, Da Brat, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and radio personality Angie Martinez, with a video featuring cameos from a number of other female celebrities from hip-hop and R&B. To this day, the video stands for many as the peak of feminine solidarity in hip-hop (a lower profile version of the concept, “Six Pack,” provided a “girls only” posse cut for hip-hop’s underground, with Nikki D, Paula Perry, Bahamadia, Rah Digga, Precious P, and Heather B). Fans often ruminate on a potential remake, wondering which of today’s rappers could hold down a modern version, but one name is rarely ever mentioned among the potential participants: Nicki Minaj.
That’s because Nicki hasn’t collaborated with another female rapper on any of her albums, preferring to instead work with established pop hitmakers like Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and Beyonce. While Rihanna and Beyonce could easily be considered strong rappers in their own rights from their recent output, their utility for Nicki is as hook singers and added star power. Nicki, for whatever reason, has eschewed any opportunity to feature a female rapper on one of her songs, or to contribute a feature to another female rapper’s songs.