It seems that in the industry, there can only be one queen in hip hop. In the ’90s, one would’ve probably thought that was Lil’ Kim. In the early 2010’s, one would’ve argued Nicki Minaj, while in 2021, women’s rap has exploded. We have several heavy hitters; Meg Thee Stallion, Asian Doll, and Canada’s own Haviah Mighty. But for a slight moment in 2017, this narrative of “there can only be one” was pushed on Cardi B and Nicki Minaj following Bardi’s hit song “Bodak Yellow“. The narrative became, the rookie is coming for the queen’s top spot. But why? How many male rappers do we have, and how many of them sound the same?
In hip-hop, we allow mass male mediocrity, but only allow one exceptional female rapper. In a male-dominated genre, the culture needs women’s empowerment. Experienced artists don’t need to mentor or even support new artists, but in the case of Minaj and B, that would’ve blown female rap and hip-hop in general into an entire new elevation. Just like a Slime and B or What a Time to be Alive, we could’ve had a Nicki and Cardi mixtape.
“No one bitch could be my opp; that shit offends me. It’s corporate giants and machines that went against me,” said Minaj in her comeback track “Seeing Green“ with Lil’ Wayne and Drake. The 2010’s rap queen let the world know that none of today’s female rappers could replace her. But why are corporate giants and machines trying to replace Nicki?
Minaj came onto the scene with her debut mixtape, Playtime’s Over and has been trailblazing ever since. One of her most noticeable verses was on Kanye West’s song “Monster“. In the song, she outshined Jay Z and Mr. West’s likes to the point where West almost took that song off the album. If Nicki can stand next to the rap legend Hov, why is the music industry acting as if she were dispensable?
It’s not a surprise that the entertainment industry doesn’t respect women. This emergence of Tarana Burke’s Me Too movement shows this since gaining a massive platform in Hollywood. One can see that the entertainment industry breeds this negativity and has no problem copying Black women’s aesthetic and art style and pushing them to the side while they develop a new artist. The thing is, there’s no reason for this. There’s not one financial reason to replace Nicki Minaj. Her last album Queen went platinum. Even if rivalling labels wanted to make a Minaj copy for money, there’s no need to disregard her. They wouldn’t do that to Drake; why Nicki?
Nicki solidifies this statement with the line, “These bitches copy my homework, that’s what they hand in.” Minaj continually calls these new female rappers her “sons,” and one cannot deny the validity. Minaj stands on the shoulders of rap legends like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, but her sound is pushing female rap to what it is today. You can’t talk about female rap without talking about Nicki Minaj. If Nicki holds this mantle, why compare her to Cardi? It’s not fair for either woman. Yes, in hip hop MC’s battle to be the greatest, but there’s space for male MC’s to flourish. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole were discussing who’s the greatest for the 2010s and lyricism, but both have always had their own space to create. Cardi is still developing as an artist but is getting thrown into the ring with the 2010s rap queen; that’s not fair.
“These bitches’ time tick-tocking, better stick to dancin’.” Nicki addresses the new 2020’s rappers with this double entendre. “Tick-tockin'” can be perceived as a reference to Tik Tok, the Chinese social media app that has seized the hearts of Gen Z. Meg Thee Stallion has capitalized off of the app due to her songs turning into dance challenges. As we leave one decade of female rap to the next, Nicki has again decided to make these female rappers her opps instead of taking the mantle of Auntie Nicki. Snoop, Drake, Jay-Z and many others have taken the mantle of big brother, but the rap game has allowed them to. Hopefully, the restrictions of female rap loosen to have stronger solidarity in women’s rap.