Nicki Minaj, Cardi B have found themselves embroiled in a clash of queens, but why?
There’s a quote in HBO’s Game Of Thrones, in which one of the series’ most OG characters drops knowledge on a young fool with a powerful piece of advice: “any man who says ‘I am the king’ is no true king.” And while Thrones is a work of fiction, one of the show’s central themes is the exploration of power. In that regard, it shares a common thread with the rap game; competition is ingrained within hip-hop’s lifeblood. For the most part, that competition is fuelled by respect and good sportsmanship, serving as a tool to keep lyricists sharp.
Yet sometimes, a rapper might succumb to their own ambitious desires, and find themselves obsessed with chasing a proverbial crown. In those cases, it becomes harder to see the competitors as “friendly,” and thus, everything begins to feel like a personal slight. Those who are familiar with Nicki Minaj are well aware that the iconic rapper has fought long and hard to be crowned “Queen.” The talented Pink Friday artist wears the label with pride, using it as a guillotine of sorts, a swift and decisive argument-ender. “I’m the generous queen,” raps Nicki, on “No Frauds,” reminding us that there can only be one. But by reiterating her own royal position, there are some who might argue that she is, in fact, undermining it.
If we’re to understand that there’s a “queen” of the rap game, then there aren’t many options for potential competitors. Simply put, they can bow down, stand and fight, or ignore the game altogether. Remy Ma chose to fight Nicki, boldly delivering the scathing “SHEther,” and while the assault may have dented the armor, Nicki ultimately emerged from the scuffle unfazed. Artists like Dreezy and Rapsody seem to be altogether removed from any royal ambitions, and both rappers continue to drop excellent music without concern of public perception. Wild cards like Azealia Banks are akin to Berserkers in a fray - deadly with a sword, indiscriminately targeting anybody in their path, friendly fire be damned.
I don’t ascribe to the idea that female rappers should be held to a different standard than men. A dope song is a dope song, regardless of gender. Yet for whatever reason, female rappers continue to be analyzed through a different lens than their male compatriots. “Best rapper of all time” all too often becomes “best female rapper of all time,” even when the ladies behind the mic are putting out quality content. Dreezy, Rapsody, Azealia Banks, Remy Ma, Cardi, and of course, Nicki Minaj are all great artists, yet all too often, they find themselves saddled with an unwarranted disadvantage. Even when an artist like Nicki Minaj actually managed to elevate herself to genuine, transcendental super-stardom, it doesn’t take long for audiences began rooting for her demise.
It’s not an exclusively female phenomenon. You can see the same thing happening to Eminem right now; an artist many once dubbed “GOAT” is now being “frowned and clowned on” by those who once championed for him. Perhaps it’s a simple “heavy lies the crown” philosophy, in which those on the bottom simply get fed up of seeing those on the top. Perhaps the disdain comes from well-meaning, albeit twisted place, in which fans genuinely want to push an artist to do better. Or perhaps the sheer hubris of dubbing oneself royalty is enough to plant a target firmly on one’s back. Either way, hip-hop fans love themselves a bit of gladiatorial bloodshed, a fact confirmed by Cardi B’s arrival to the game.
Since she skyrocketed into fame with through a winning combination of charisma, skill, and an undeniable smash hit, Cardi has been all but thrust into a beef with Nicki Minaj...for some reason. All you have to do is google “Cardi B Nicki Minaj” to see that their relationship has been fraught from the jump, despite the fact that they’ve probably never even interacted on a personal level outside of formalities. Reports of subliminals have been flying about for months, and while there has yet to be a “SHEther” on either end, drama-seeking fans have all but convinced themselves that a mutual disdain exists between Minaj and Bardi. But why are people so hellbent on pitting them against each other? This isn’t like other beefs, where personal lines have been crossed. It almost seems like fans simply wished it into existence.
Even when they actually ended up collaborating, people couldn’t help but read between the lines, speculating on any and all possible subs with the attention to detail of a Genius-scouring Elon Musk. “Motor Sport” became a genuine water-cooler moment, but though the public discourse once again pitted Nicki and Cardi against one another. Even recently, when Cardi dropped videos for “La Modelo” with Ozuna and “No Limit” with G-Eazy, people immediately drew comparisons to Nicki Minaj. The comments got so prevalent that even Nicki Minaj seemed to subtly acknowledge them as facts. Now, mere hours removed from Cardi’s new single “Bartier Cardi,” the discussion has once again kicked off. Remember, there can only be one.
It doesn’t matter that Nicki Minaj recently delivered pure fire on A$AP Ferg’s “Plain Jane Remix,” delivering the best “eatin’ ass” punchline since Kanye on “I’m In It.” It seems like people aren’t ready for two female superstars to exist within the same kingdom. To be fair, you see the same type of discussion between Kendrick Lamar fans and Drake fans, who can’t help but debate who is better at literally every opportunity. Perhaps it’s simply a symptom of super-stardom, but it raises an interesting question. Why does hip-hop have to be a monarchy in the first place?
Cardi B is dope, and seems poised for a successful career. Nicki Minaj is dope, and has proven herself to be one of the game’s most long-standing artists. Just because Cardi is on the rise doesn’t take anything away from Nicki’s accomplishments, and Nicki’s ascent doesn’t take anything away from Lil Kim, or Lauryn Hill, or Eve, or Foxy Brown before her. The moment people start to realize that the kingdom might actually work better as a coalition, perhaps we’ll once again see a return of that “friendly competition.” And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be seeing footage of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B linking up in the studio to deliver some fire. I know I’d be there for that.