As Nicki Minaj takes over Hip-Hop, her predecessor Lil’ Kim has been none too thrilled with the news. For the past few years the two rap divas have been trading words in music and the media. However, recently, the war reached its tipping point.
The controversy between the two originated as early as 2007-2008, when Nicki’s debut mixtapes Playtime Is Over (2007) and Sucka Free (2008) had promo pics attached of a squatting Nicki in a pose resembling Lil’ Kim’s album art from her debut, ‘96’s Hard Core. From there the similarities continued, as Nicki began referring to herself as “Harajuku Barbie”. On “The Jump Off” (off 2003’s La Bella Mafia), Lil’ Kim rhymes, “Black Barbie, dressed in Bvlgari / I’m trying to leave in somebody’s Ferrari”. To add insult to injury, Nicki began donning colorful wigs, a trademark of Kim’s as early as the video for her hit single “Crush On You” back in ’96 and crafted sexually charged lyrics, signature of Kim’s rhyming style. You’re probably asking yourself, Is it really that serious? Yes. Yes it is.
Women in Hip-Hop have had a longstanding battle with one another as early as the “Roxanne Wars” of the mid-80s. Rapper Roxanne Shanté at 14 years old responded to all-male rap group UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” (a track demeaning a woman named Roxanne for not “giving it up”) with “Roxanne’s Revenge”, still one of the hardest response records in Hip-Hop history. The result? The girl from UTFO’s video (the “Roxanne” representative) assumed the role of “The Real Roxanne” and so began a Grand Schism with Roxannes surfacing and claiming to be the real one. The irony of it all was that none of these women were actually named Roxanne. For men, the battles interwoven in Hip-Hop are more for lyrical superiority. For women, it’s a matter of survival, since only a handful of prominent female emcees exists within the rap infrastructure.
This theme has continued for decades. As Lil’ Kim puts it, the “only female in my crew” notion spreads throughout the entire culture, thereby negating more than one woman in Hip-Hop in power at once. We watched this happen to Kim in her early days once Foxy Brown emerged. The two were friends, but the battle for the top spot ended the New York City natives’ friendship. In the case of Lil’ Kim vs. Nicki Minaj though, this is clearly an issue of “passing the torch”. Oddly enough, Nicki Minaj has since surpassed the sexually exploitative copycatting she was accused of and has traded it in for a more Pop-friendly image.
Last summer, Lil’ Kim began a series of mini club tour dates, where in the middle of performing her wig-infused “Crush On You”, she rips off her wig and says “that bitch can have it.” An obvious jab at Nicki Minaj. “I’m onto bigger and better things,” she’d say. From there, Nicki began her own subtle jabs circulating throughout her lyrics. On Kanye West’s “Monster”, Nicki says, “So let me get this straight, wait, I’m the rookie? When my features and my shows’ ten times your pay?” On Diddy-Dirty Money’s remix for “Hello Good Morning”, Nicki says, “Did I kill a Queen? Or Alexander McQueen?” (Lil’ Kim is nicknamed the Queen Bee). Then of course the most obvious, “Roman’s Revenge”, where Nicki growls “Look at my show footage, how these girls be spazzin’, so fuck I look like gettin’ back to a has been? Yeah I said it, has-BEEn. Hang it up, flatscreen.”
The situation intensified when Brooklyn native Lil’ Kim went to Club Pure on Nicki’s turf in Queens and said to the crowd “I will erase this bitch’s Social Security number.” She continued, “First of all, I don’t even need a record right now and I’d kill that bitch with my old shit. My records ain’t just enter the charts, they made history. What the fuck is this bullshit? This shit come and go. Are you kidding me?” She continued to refer to Nicki Minaj as “Sicki Garbaj”.
Nicki was very tightlipped about their battle, up until her interview with NYC radio station Hot 97’s Angie Martinez on November 19th of this past year. In the interview, Nicki explained what a fan she was of Lil’ Kim’s, even asking Kim at one time if everything was okay between them. Kim explained everything was and then the battle began.
“I respect you, I love you, I’ve said it in every interview time and time again. And if that’s not good enough with you, mama, then it’s something deep-rooted in you,” she spoke of Kim to Angie Martinez. “Something is bothering you inside. That’s your insecurity bothering you. It’s not Nicki Minaj. It would’ve been any girl that started poppin’.” She raised a valid point about Lil’ Kim historically having trouble with other women. “She picked a fight with Foxy (Brown), then she picked a fight with Eve, then she picked a fight a fight with Remy (Ma), then it was Mrs. Wallace (mother of the late rapper, Notorious B.I.G.), then it was Nicki Minaj. Every time you in the news, it’s ‘cause you gettin’ at somebody! Where’s your music? Put your music out, and when I see your name in Billboard; that’s when I’ll respond to you. Other than that, goodbye. It’s Barbie, bitch.”
Clearly that didn’t sit well with Lil’ Kim…
On Black Friday of this past year, Kim released “Black Friday”. Clearly a pun on Nicki’s debut album Pink Friday, this song uncapped bottles of aggression. “It’ll be a murder scene. I’m turning Pink Friday into Friday the 13th” The Queen Bee buzzed, referring to Nicki as a “Lil’ Kim Clone Clown”. Prior to “Black Friday”, Kim had no formal releases since her 2005 album The Naked Truth.
The battle has entered purgatory. Nicki’s Pink Friday was just certified Platinum, as Lil’ Kim is continuing club dates to perform “Black Friday”. A response record was rumored to be coming from Nicki Minaj, but has been overshadowed by an even bigger rumor that Lil’ Kim will be teaming with longtime friend Mary J. Blige to create a double-battle record against Nicki Minaj and Keyshia Cole, who for years has been touted as the next Mary J. Blige. R&Beef too? What the hell is going on here? We have no clue, but we’re staying tuned.
The facts are there, but is the battle worth it? Clearly this “Next of Kin” is a tough pill to swallow when it comes to female rappers. We didn’t watch Helen Gurley Brown tug on Anna Wintour’s bob, or watch Aretha Franklin pummel Chaka Khan. A more recent example, Madonna and Lady Gaga have both managed to coexist – even making a joke about it on SNL. The issue at hand here is that like many things, Hip-Hop is a male-dominated industry. When a woman inches her way in, she’s lucky. Lil’ Kim may have never planned on releasing another album again, but wanted to know that if she did, the lane was there. It’s an unfortunate, albeit, necessary evil to mark your territory as a woman in Hip-Hop. Nicki’s success is reaching epic proportions that we haven’t witnessed since Lauryn Hill (and even then Lauryn had to sing on half of her album). Nicki could be opening doors or closing the gates behind her. Hopefully Lil’ Kim knows how to pick locks.
-By Kathy Iandoli