Roasting the Beef: Pink Friday vs. Hardcore

The Beef

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.

The Records

Hard Core (1996)

Grade: B+

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.

The Numbers

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)

Grade: C-

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.

The Numbers

Pink Friday was released on November 22, 2010.  Certified Gold and Platinum by the RIAA less than a month later.

The Verdict

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

A Very Brief Album Review: Rumor’s Out… Adele’s Album is Hot

Don’t take my word for it… I can’t tell you if you’ll like it, just that me and everyone else thinks its hot.

Grade: A

Thoughts after first listen:

“This girl can sang!”


Adele has a set of antique vocal cords. The kind that you find by luck in a thrift store. The kind that’s passed down in your family for generations. It’s clear that Adele keeps master musicians and producers around her, nothing less could bring out the rich texture of her voice.

Three Songs on Repeat

  • Rolling in the deep — “There’s a fire, burning in my heart.” An impressive way for a 21 year old to open an album titled “21,” with an old and seasoned bluesy song like this. I love it.
  • Rumor has it — Great song with a fun and catchy hook.  Definitely on the top of my iTunes most played this month.
  • Set Fire to the Rain — The first thing that caught me about this song was the way that Adele’s vocals shine on this track.  I believe it’s the most demonstrable of her talent.

Why the A?

There’s something about good music that touches you on the inside. You need not press skip, because you already know you’re going to be in the mood for the next song.

The Verdict

I kept it brief. There’s not much to say other than you’ll like this if you’re an R&B/Good music connoisseur. This is a wonderful addition to anyone’s music collection. Timeless. One you’ll listen to 20 years from now and still enjoy. Go get that… yesterday.

A Very Brief Review: Eric Benét’s Lost in Time

Grade: B+

Thoughts after First Listen:

“He cries sometimes… but I think he might actually be over Halle.”


I was pleasantly surprised after listening to this album.  Though Benet doesn’t push it, he stays in his lane–this is definitely a pleasant listening experience.  You can pretty much listen cover to cover and really appreciate not only Benet’s rich vocals, but also the music and the lyrical content.

If you like real Rhythm & Blues, you can’t dislike this album.  Benet demonstrates his mastery of the R&B ballad and the duet.  The music is very much grown folks music, but the kind of music that everyone can appreciate.  A very good piece of work, definitely my favorite album from Benet since A Day in the Life.   So if you need an alternative to Christmas music this season, this album should do the trick.

3 Songs on Repeat:

  • Paid – Thank you Benet for bringing Eddie Levert out of retirement!  Benet lets Levert do the heavy lifting in the chorus, while doing what he does best in the ad libs. The two balance their contrasting vocals over this brilliant O’Jays groove giving us a funky blues song with a timeless grit. “M-O-N-E-Y never seem to multiply for me.”  I feel that.
  • Good Life — Ledisi lends her beautiful voice to this track about enjoying life and I enjoy every second of their complementary vocals.
  • Sometimes I Cry – Benet draws you in with his dexterous vocal ability giving a deep down, soul song–the kind that Maxwell gives us on “Pretty Wings”.  Benet brings all those tears in him and lays them down wonderfully on this track.

Why the B +

Eric Benet is no rookie and he knows what he’s good at and he does it over and over again on this album–part of the reason why I can’t give it an A.  I appreciate staying in your lane, but to get an A for me you have to make a whole new lane.

The Verdict

Not much to say about this album other than it’s damn good.  Go get it.  Don’t worry about getting the deluxe version.  The extra 3 songs, are just that… Extra.  Very unnecessary.  So, do something good for the holidays. Help this brother pay for his therapy bills. That sex addiction stuff ain’t no joke… or is it?

A Brief Complicated Review: Kanye West’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Grade: A –


Thoughts after First Listen:

“Dammmmnnn… Kanye has lost his mind.”  This is Edger Allen Poe-impressive. Kanye West is brilliant.


On this Thanksgiving Day (National Day of Mourning), I am thankful for Kanye West’s album. The experience of listening to this brilliant project truly moves me, and I didn’t think I’d feel this way again this year after hearing Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh). And to be honest, I have not felt this way about a RAP album dare I say… ever.

Hear me out:

Why the A(-):

Kanye gives me something to look forward to at the end of each track – the next song. Every detail and every layer is purposeful. He breaks up the monotony of formulaic pop songs, pushing on the envelop of the rap album formula. He continues to demonstrate his ability to raid the most obscure LP collection, mastering the use of the sample, and showing us a musical sophistication that is hard to fathom until you listen to this album on real home entertainment system. You have to listen to this album on some Pioneers, better yet some Bose, in order to really appreciate it.

Kanye offers us something that is experimental and dark, multi-layered and complicated. The kind of album where there have to be radio edits not just because of the lyrics, but also because of Radio One’s inability to play anything other than that which fits a certain structure.  Ultimately, Kanye is successful in giving us a peak into his Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and I was terrified, surprised, and pensive when I got there.

3 Songs on Repeat:

  • All of the Lights – I am amazed at the choral arrangement on “All of the Lights” which features Drake, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Charlie Wilson, and Fergie to name a few. It doesn’t follow a prescribed pattern, you can’t guess what’s about to happen next and you get tangled up in all of the lights. Throughout, I keep asking myself how did he get all these people on this track? I think he sent a mass text message, asking if people would come to the studio and sing for him.
  • Monster – Minaj is a monster. Jay-Z and Rick Ross could’ve not been on here and it would’ve been just fine.
  • Lost in the World – I really like listening to this song.
  • Runaway—Few artists can get away with a 9 minute song, but Kanye does with “Runaway” and I enjoy every minute of it, often forgetting that it’s one song.

The minus (-) in my grading of Kanye’s album is connected to the content. I’d be lying if I said that I only listen to the “beat.” No, I pay close attention to the lyrical work that Kanye does on this album and based on what I have unpacked thus far, I have an initial feminist impression that I have to share.

Feminist Critique:

Kanye West’s self-aggrandizement and misogyny go hand in hand. He loves himself so much that he can’t help but hate women, especially those “ghetto” girls who distract him from “good” girls. You can hear the way that he builds himself up is through the humiliation of women; his antics and his lyrics are evidence of that. Find a verse where’s he talking about how wonderful he is and I’ll point to one where he uses a woman, the concept of the feminine, or a woman’s body part to demonstrate his greatness. I don’t think he could imagine himself so great, if women couldn’t be made to occupy a place that was both base and low; objects to piss on, the target of his rage and the object of his fantasy. My psychoanalytic lens wants to say that he’s projecting his (love) hate for his mother, the fact that she left him, the way that she left him, onto other women.

That’s just one of many areas of possible critique where it relates to the problematic construction of his Black masculinity, but I could go on. What’s clear is that Yeezy needs therapy, but I hope I can get one more album from him before he does seek treatment—selfish I know, but the best art comes out of that tortured place in us.