Sparks flew between rap stars Nicki Minaj and Cardi B this weekend when Cardi reportedly confronted Nicki for some slick commentary at an NYFW event that resulted in flying footwear and murky fight footage of Cardi squaring up with fellow Love & Hip-Hop alum Rashidah Ali. However, long before the Fashion Week fireworks, an intense dislike between Cardi and Nicki had apparently been brewing, simmering below the surface of many of their interactions as Cardi rose to prominence on the wave of popular support spurred by “Bodak Yellow.”
At first, any questions posing the pair as opposites in an impending feud were dismissed as speculation and hearsay. After all, it wasn’t the first time a pair of women were framed as rivals in hip-hop without any other reason other than the fact of their womanhood.
However, as the recent altercation in New York shows, true tensions can only remain buried for so long before exploding to the headlines — after all, where there’s smoke, there is often fire. Whether the hip-hop media and fans spurred a rivalry into existence or Nicki’s gatekeeping ways finally got to Cardi over time, it appears the duo’s relationship has curdled into full-blown animosity.
For nearly two years, it appeared the two were goaded into confrontation. Here’s a timeline of how the two finally came to blows.
June 2017 — “Bodak Yellow” is released
Released on June 16, 2017 ahead of the announcement that Cardi had signed to Atlantic Records, Cardi’s debut single “Bodak Yellow” is likely the root of any conflict between her and Nicki, as its success delivered the young upstart something Nicki never achieved in the course of a decade-long career: A Billboard No. 1. Nicki came close with “Super Bass,” which peaked at No. 3, and “Anaconda,” which peaked at No. 2, but Cardi B became the first female rapper to hit the top of the chart with a solo single since Lauryn Hill in 1998 with “Doo Wop (That Thing).” While Nicki was congratulatory at the time, it no doubt stung to see a rookie do with her first single what Nicki herself had been unable to accomplish despite her ostensible role as the sole representative for women in hip-hop for nearly a decade.
July 2017 — Cardi B calls out the Barbz
Even before “Bodak Yellow” became a favorite of everyone from Ellen Degeneres to Idris Elba, Nicki Minaj’s loyal, overzealous army of self-appointed protectors were already speculating on their idol’s supposed dislike of the newcomer. Much of Nicki’s reign had been marked by a relative lack of challengers to her dominance — Remy Ma, Azealia Banks, and Iggy Azalea notwithstanding — and perhaps they perceived a threat to her crown. Eventually, Nicki’s stans jumped at the first opportunity to try to drag Cardi. Of course, this was also the first indication that Cardi wasn’t going to be a passive bystander, as she aggressively defended herself from their needling, earning her more support as the humble underdog fighting back.
October 2017 — “Motorsport” is released
Tensions between the two may have hit a head when they finally deigned to collaborate on Migos’ Culture II single, “Motorsport,” late in the year. From the beginning, the experiment was plagued with rumors of discord, with fans speculating that Quavo added Cardi to the single, which began life as a Quavo/Nicki joint effort before the remaining Migos jumped on board. Nicki emphatically denied that Cardi’s addition went against her wishes, but not that verses were changed, as Nicki’s verse mentioned Cardi rather than Offset in its original form, but was supposedly switched by request of Atlantic. To make matters worse, Nicki and Cardi’s video appearances were shot on separate days due to a hair and makeup scheduling conflict which put the pair further at odds as Cardi’s new glam team formed from pieces of Nicki’s own.
April 2018 — Nicki Minaj airs it all out on Zane Lowe
Nicki laid low through much of the early part of 2018 as Cardi B racked up accolades for further appearances alongside G-Eazy and Bruno Mars and released her critically-acclaimed, commercially successful debut album, Invasion Of Privacy. When Nicki returned, it was with two new singles, debuted with all the pomp and circumstance of an impromptu national holiday: Nicki Day, during which Nicki held a record-breaking interview with Beats 1 Radio’s Zane Lowe, airing out all of the previous drama regarding “Motorsport.” She tearful related feeling let down and betrayed by Migos and Cardi, who she says never stepped up to defend her from the rumors at the time.
She notes that Cardi never paid proper homage to her the way she did for other frontrunning female rappers, revealed the tidbits about the glam team snafu, and opened up about the accumulated stresses of the last year, wherein she was criticized heavily online and caught in the middle of a roiling feud between two important men in her life. Ultimately, she garnered enough sympathy to her cause that a vocal segment of fans expressed disappointment in Migos for performing “Motorsport” at Coachella without Nicki.
August 2018 — Nicki Minaj releases her new album Queen to a “disappointing” first week
In what was possibly the straw that broke the camel’s back on Nicki’s side, her follow-up album after “Chun-Li” and “Barbie Tingz” received a lukewarm reception over the interceding months. It was also released a week early after being pushed back a month earlier in the year, creating a confusing, muddled timeline. While some fans praised its lyrical return to form, others were less than blown away by lackluster production and a bloated tracklist that failed to justify the release date drama. However, in what was probably the biggest disappointment for Nicki, the album failed to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — the first time Nicki has fallen short of that accomplishment since her debut album in 2010 — after Travis Scott’s Astroworld outsold Queen‘s first week in its second.
This disappointment undoubtedly stung Nicki’s ego as someone who’s staked much of her professional reputation on sales numbers, but it also poured salt in the wound, as Cardi’s debut, Invasion Of Privacy bowed at No. 1 — not only something Nicki’s own debut had failed to do, but now something her long-awaited return to the rap game also fell short of. The disappointment sent Nicki into a weeks-long spiral of scapegoating and name calling on her own Queen Radio Apple Music show as she lashed out against perceived injustices and industry conspiring to tarnish her numbers.
September 2018 — Nicki Minaj apparently disses Cardi’s motherhood skills, leading to Cardi’s explosion at NYFW
As Nicki’s composure slid, perhaps she couldn’t help giving herself a moment of petty retribution against Cardi, surreptitiously liking a less-than-kind tweet about Cardi’s mothering skills. Maybe she forgot that items like that are public to any Twitter viewer who happens to click the appropriate tab, but it seems that the information got back to Cardi one way or another, and the new mom didn’t take it well. Many Latino and Latina comedians have joked about their mothers’ dangerous slipper-throwing skills, and it seems like Cardi definitely wanted to prove that she had at least that one down (it’s actually somewhat of a signature move, as she boomeranged a high heel at a Love & Hip-Hop reunion show rival last year as well). It looks like she wanted it known that she wouldn’t brook any slick talk about her baby girl — even indirectly.
Nicki hasn’t pressed charges, but it appears that table has been set for a sizzling, no-holds-barred beef between the two top female rappers in the game.
Cardi B is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music.