In its purest form, beef refers to various cuts of meat from a cow. In the hands of members of what H. Samy Alim (2006) refers to as the “Hip Hop Nation,” it is a word used to describe the tension between two artists or hip-hop factions which makes its way onto wax, or into cyberspace.
The real life and Twitter beef that has ensued between Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim seemed only to intensify around the release date of Minaj’s first album, Pink Friday back in November; culminating in the release of Black Friday, Lil’ Kim’s “Nicki Minaj diss record” which got a lot of play on the radio and in the bloggispher. Then Lil’ Kim released the Black Friday music video which featured a Nicki Minaj impersonator. Even more recently, the Twitter beef which seemed to dissipate started up again: #NickiStillWins being tweeted by Nicki Minaj fanatics and retweeted by Nicki herself.
But, for those who appreciate making informed decisions, aren’t on Twitter, and want to know what’s really going on–I thought I’d take on this discussion by simply analyzing the data. This is a reading of Lil’ Kim’s first album, Hardcore (1996) and Nicki Minaj’s debut album, Pink Friday (2010). I’ll end with a discussion about what I think is really happening when two women in hip-hop aren’t allowed to stand side by side.
Hard Core (1996)
Thoughts After First Listen:
Wait… what did she just say? Oh wait now, are there children around?
Lil’ Kim certainly delivered a “hard core” album. Kim is unapologetically explicit on the album taking up conversations about drugs, grand theft, and female sexual pleasure. Three things that generally women either aren’t allowed to talk about in public, or are looked at funny for doing so. There is no doubt that Kim sought attention from this album and perhaps through some intentional hyperbole, like hard core pornography, tried to carve out a space where no other female rapper was doing work just yet. She does it well, and whether she writes half the stuff on this album or not, you can’t deny that the Queen’s delivery is on point. The B is because for at least 3 of the songs her Junior MAFIA crew (Lil’ Cease) is rapping instead of her. The album version of Crush on You for example, Kim is only saying “True.” You have to dig for the video version where she’s actually rapping.
Hard Core was released on November 12, 1996. Certified Gold by the RIAA less than 2 months later and Platinum 6 months later. Kim’s second album The NOTORIOUS K.I.M. (2000) went Platinum in 2000 after being released for only a month and a few days. Those same people must have bought Hard Core because it was certified Double Platinum in 2001.
Pink Friday (2010)
Thoughts After First Listen:
Was that a rap album or a pop album?
The minus is because she wasn’t rapping for half the album, she was singing. The C is because I just didn’t like it. I don’t think it’s a fail because at least some of the songs are catchy, but overall I had a hard time getting into it. I tried really hard, but after every song I was supremely disappointed. She spent more time talking about how she was in utter disbelief that she “made it” and talking about her haters than she did talking about any subject besides love (in its most cliched of forms). As I muse here, I can’t help but draw on the comparison between her and Kim. Each of Kim’s songs actually has content. She’s talking about how love has nothing to do with sex, talking about drugs, talking about sex with good looking R&B singers. There’s content beyond dissing haters. I was waiting on Minaj to start talking about something… anything, but I got nothing. I would much rather listen to her Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape than this album.
Pink Friday was released on November 22, 2010. Certified Gold and Platinum by the RIAA less than a month later.
After 12 rounds, the result, by unanimous decision… is that the Hip Hop Nation, 14 year olds on Twitter who #LoveQueenB or think #NickiMinajistheBestest, and the pop music industry need to go on a vegetarian diet. What could have been seen as hip-hop lineage–artists inspiring other artists–has been turned into a greasy pork chop with Kim and Minaj throwing water on a grease fire. There is plenty of room for both Minaj and Kim, and Kim has done this before… She’s existed side by side with other female artists. What’s the problem?
Hip Hop and its misogynist and heteromasculine patriarchy creates the conditions necessary for the beef between women to arise. There are a lot of women rapping but commercial entities elevate a thin slice above all others (Rose 2008) creating a crown that only one female rapper can have at any on time: THE “Commercially Viable” FEMALE RAPPER.
To really compare each of these albums, one has to take into consideration all of the context surrounding each album. For example, from 1996 until 2000, the time between her first and second album Kim was not the only female rapper in the game and was in competition with Rah Digga, Foxy Brown, Missy, Da Brat, Angie Martinez, Amel, Sole, Left Eye and others and instead of a diss record she put half of them on the same track with “Ladies Night (Not Tonight remix)” which also earned Platinum status.
I heard an interesting critique of the beef that I’ll share. It goes like this: the beef between Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim amounts to nothing more than older-younger sibling rivalry. The older sibling having taken the worst from the parents, has only to look at their younger sibling who can “do no wrong” in the eyes of their parents, to feel saltiness rise in their gut toward their sibling. When the younger sibling acts ungrateful for what the older sibling went through–staying home to babysit them, cleaning up after them, taking their punishments–that beef becomes so tender you can cut it with a butter knife. It’s upsetting to not be acknowledged and to be counted as irrelevant. It seemed like from the start that Kim only wanted Minaj to acknowledge that her existence was recognizable because Kim had followed a similar path before her. Biggie/Lil’ Wayne, Junior Mafia/Young Money, Hardcore/Pink Friday…
I’d suggest, like others who’ve come before me in this Minaj vs Kim blogisphere conversation that you locate more female rappers who you might enjoy besides Nicki Minaj, and if you need help getting started, click the image below:
Works Cited aka Good Books about Hip Hop