Lil’ Kim vs. Nicki Minaj

1 Dec

Last  Friday, Lil’ Kim released Black Friday, a diss track to counter the release of Nicki Minaj’s debut album Pink Friday.

When I heard the track, I had mixed emotions. Truthfully, my first thought was “Why is Kim hating on Nicki?” Surely, we don’t need that. And given that Kim seems to be washed up and almost entirely out of the game, it most assuredly sounds like some hateration.

But I listened again to the track, and listened as Kim chided Nicki for being a “Lil Kim Clone Clown.” As Kim put it, “I mothered you hoes.” And I thought of all my conversations with young folks who think Nicki Minaj is the next coming. It make sense since most of them were maybe 5 or 6 when Kim debuted, and just a little older when she reached her zenith. It’s a classic case of generational amnesia and of the propensity of young folks to think all the hotness begins with them.

So what I realized is that if nothing else, Kim provided a much-needed history lesson. “You lames tryin’ to clone my style and run wit it. That’s cool, I was the first one wit it.” And in many ways, she was.

Considering all this, I was forced, in the midst of myriad reactions, from Hip Hop heads and feminists to rethink my position. So I began by posting the clip on the CFC FB page. Many of you did not receive that move well, and felt that I was glorifying in-fighting  among women in a way that undercuts sisterhood.

But I beg to differ. As a feminist who loves (some) Hip Hop, I have watched sadly as women have literally been silenced in the mainstream in the last decade. Yes, I know that women have a vibrant presence in the underground, but I also know that the masses of folks aren’t tuned in to the underground. Moreover, the mainstream—the overground—is the primary battleground upon which images of Black women are commodified, reified, and re-entrenched.

So while I believe the critiques of Kim in this instance are to some extent legitimate, particularly when folks talk about the ways in which her timing seems opportunistic, on the whole I think they are somewhat shortsighted.

For instance, I disagree greatly when folks suggest that the diss-pute between these women is unproductive. One of the pillars of Hip Hop artistry is the rivalry between emcees. In fact, one of the Hip Hop sisters whom we all celebrate is Roxanne Shante’ who launched her career on a diss track. Yes, she was critiquing the sexism of UTFO’s Roxanne, Roxanne. But she was also showcasing her ability as a rapper and a lyricist.

So we could knock Lil’ Kim for being opportunistic, but given the Black male take-over of Hip Hop in the last decade, opportunities for women to get it in in the mainstream are few and far between.

Moreover, this notion that women in Hip Hop should either play nice or or take a (10-year) timeout is a kind of paternalistic infantilization that seems especially un-feminist to me. As Joan Morgan said in a recent facebook post, “Hip Hop doesn’t have to be positive to be good.”

And therein lies my point. This is a moment of creativity and generativity. It is a moment where one woman has challenged another woman to defend the validity of her art and her talent. Perhaps, we think that such competitive activities are masculinist by their very nature, and therefore inherently lacking in utility for women. And perhaps the models for women should be different. But every woman that has made her way in  Hip Hop has done so by usurping spaces and practices that are presumed to be male and reimagining them as a space to rearticulate female possibility.

I think what is particularly infuriating is also what is perhaps most radical. Kim claims to have mothered Nicki, but she isn’t a doting mother by far. And because of our narrative of mothering, we expect that Kim should play nice and be excited to have a daughter. But when Lil Wayne styled himself as Tha Carter (emphasis on the definite article there), Sean Carter wasn’t overly enthused. Jay-Z has since embraced Wayne, but it took a moment. And no one cried about how Jay-Z was being rude. Now this was because in many ways Wayne was considered an illegitimate upstart who had no business comparing himself to someone with Jay-Z’s talent.

Talent.

That’s really the issue here.

Most of the men with whom I’ve debated this issue,  and it has been primarily men who’ve made this argument, keep suggesting that both Kim and Nicki have ghostwriters, and that Kim has no talent. In other words, both of these women should just go sit down with their cutesie catfight. Can we say sexism?

So you have women suggesting that women shouldn’t fight each other, even though it is a time honored part of the art form, and men suggesting that the battle is whack off top because neither of these women is a legitimate lyricist to begin with.

And this is precisely why I think this battle is good for women in Hip Hop. It suggests that we don’t have to play nice to participate.  It challenges narratives that attempt to turn Black women of a certain age into mothers against their will. It represents another instance where Kim has done what she always did best for Hip Hop—challenge the narrative scripts of Black womanhood.

Last week, Nicki was declared the Queen of Hip Hop.

I balked. Just like I balked after Ashanti was declared the Princess of R&B.  Even  Halle Berry knew when she won her Oscar, that there were a many, many women who should’ve graced the stage before her, and she acknowledged this in her acceptance speech. In this day and age, where our collective memory tends to be short, it’s a title Nicki should relinquish. Making appearances on umpteen remixes and dropping one album does not a queen make. The Queen Bee challenged her progeny’s right to the title. And I, for one, am glad she did.

 

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26 Responses to “Lil’ Kim vs. Nicki Minaj”

  1. DCDistrictDiva December 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM #

    LOVED it! #thatisall

  2. Sweetilocks December 1, 2010 at 11:28 AM #

    To be honest, she’s the only female rapper gaining notoriety right now and it’s sad because as we saw on the BET documentary, there are a plethora of women who would give her a run for her money if the industry respected rappers (especially WOMEN) with no gimmicks. Women can’t have integrity in this business and be taken seriously, they sacrifice one or the other. Either you strip, get implants and sell a mill, OR you keep them on and earn a few thou. Missy and Lauryn Hill were the exception to this rule, but very few get over that sexualized hump.

    It’s easy to write Nicki off for lookin’ fake but Kim ain’t no different if that’s the argument. In terms of who’s a better MC, Kim has already proven herself, Nicki is still trying to. But you can’t say she not hot! I don’t think she has the stamina to create a classic album yet, but Kim ain’t puttin’ out ANY type of quality shit. So it is what it is. I understand why Kim is mad b/c Nikki did throw shade and then tried to take it back. But she is talented. I don’t think anyone succeeds in the game without a gimmick (Busta, Missy, Ludacris, hello?) whether it be costumed freak, the around-the-way girl/guy (Lauryn Hill/J. Cole), the intellectual/conscious rapper (Jean Grae/Common/Lupe), the thug/hood/street rapper (Foxxy/Kim/DMX/Beanie Siegal) etc. There’s room at the table for everyone to eat and it’s petty that Kim took Nicki’s ego-boosting lyrics as a personal attack. If Kim was on top of her game, she wouldn’t have shit to say except, let’s do a track together and “Get Money!”

    I agree with you that a healthy dose of competition is good for everyone, but rivalry is just plain high school – that’s where you fall into the pathetic catfight mode. It shouldn’t have come to Nicki gaining popularity for Kim to come out. She should’ve been out before that, going hard! Let’s graduate and act like women instead of girls booing from the stands. Let’s lash out at the men who say women don’t have a place in hip hop. Let’s record diss tracks for those fools who constantly sexualize the Roxanne’s and the Nicki’s in exchange for a record deal! Let’s appreciate Nicki for being a loud, unabashed female voice in the game and let’s back her up, KIM, by once again being notorious!

  3. wordLife December 1, 2010 at 11:32 AM #

    bangin post, thanks for the insight, i couldn’t agree more.

  4. Chike December 1, 2010 at 11:51 AM #

    As a man who thinks Kim is utterly in the wrong and that most of the people supporting her are caught up in myopic nostalgia, I want to agree with you that those men who simply start by assuming that either or both of them don’t write their own rhymes are sexist and wack.

  5. Fuchsia December 1, 2010 at 2:06 PM #

    I’m glad Kim challenged her too. I like Nicki but I recognize her goals go far beyond the realm of hip hop. She has said time and time again that she considers herself an actor first. She is a performing artist. She has all the makings of a pop star. But I pose this question, if this is Nicki’s debut role as an actor playing a rapper who dons colorful wigs, and poses like the Queen B herself who is Onika Miraj playing? She is out to show the world that women can be bosses too. I love that about her, but I feel where Kim is coming from. Kim is who she is, but we have yet to see who the real Nicki is outside of her starring role. I applaud both women for their hard work. I don’t expect Kim to bow out gracefully it simply isn’t who she is, and to stick her in anyone’s box is wrong in my opinion.

  6. MB December 1, 2010 at 4:00 PM #

    I love Nicki, love what she stands for. I think the character that is Nicki… is just a facet of Nicki herself. We should quit trying to objectify her and stuff her into a hole of “black” or “woman” or “emcee.” She is who she is, enjoy the ride.

    I like the gimmicks, theyre fun. Good emcees come a dime a dozen, real talk! Just like there are thousands of very good singers, better than Beyonce, but for whatever reason, Beyonce made it to the top.

    U gotta be different to be recognized, and its BS to say otherwise or that other people are “better.” Nicki is relatable, cute, classy, sweet, and goes hard, Kim is putting forward a totally different image. The only reason u compare them is bc they are both women!

  7. TJ December 1, 2010 at 7:50 PM #

    Maybe I am getting old…but I didn’t know now that we were embracing the images of a Nikki Minaj. I think she has created an even more oversexualized caricature of black women. It’s funny we decry the stifling white beauty standards, but I feel we don’t challenge black beauty standards enough either. It’s like now your butt has to be so big to be considered sexy. We used to have to look like white barbie dolls now we have to be these black blow up barbie dolls. Sorry, personally I wish Nikki Minaji would go away (plus she’s not even a good rapper!)

  8. LaToya December 1, 2010 at 8:46 PM #

    I really enjoyed your analysis, although I don’t agree with some of it. I don’t think that it’s sexism to say that one female emcee didn’t write her rhymes if it’s a proposition that we all recognize. It would be sexism to say that no female emcees have the ability to write their rhymes, or no female emcee could hold a candle to the best male emcee. I don’t think that’s at issue here. I also don’t think that “beef” between emcees is a “time honored part of the art form” anymore, not after Biggie and Tupac showed how it can go to far, especially with much media hype.

    I do agree that female emcees should not be held to different standards to be able to participate in hip-hop, and so far, I don’t think that either Kim or Nicki has been. Their oversexualized and vulgar lyrics are right there next to the men. Neither have ever been “nice” or played nicely, at least not in their rhymes. Talent is an issue, but again, I don’t think it’s sexist to raise that issue in this case. There are female emcees – Bahamadia, Rah Digga, Lauryn Hill – who no one questions their talent. To question Kim’s talent b/c she didn’t write her rhymes or Nicki’s talent b/c she appears to lack it, IMO, is not sexist, it’s just real. And so to then have beef between two emcees who I don’t think deserve to be beefing on talent alone…as a feminist, as a hip-hop enthusiast, as a musician, as an artist, it’s frustrating.

    • crunktastic December 1, 2010 at 9:21 PM #

      Thanks for your comments. I was arguing that it is sexism when the only arguments men make is that neither of these women could possibly be writing their rhymes. Biggie acknowledged Kim’s talent, when he didn’t have to, and didn’t necessarily gain anything by doing so. Neither one of these women is my favorite by any stretch of the imagination, but I did see a difference in the way sisters engaged the issue versus brothers. In other words, sisters granted their legitimacy as artists but questioned the productivity of the battle. Brothers were dismissive, in a way that I think bespeaks the general male attitude towards female emcees in the mainstream.

      And I do beg to differ on whether battle rapping is still a part of the art form. The Jay-Z/Nas rivalry happened after Tupac and Biggie and was huge for years in the early 2000s. And battle-rapping is still part of freestyling as well. So I do think diss records have their place, and my larger point is that this isn’t primarily question of whether what Kim did was in good taste. It probably wasn’t. But that has never been Kim’s persona anyway. Moreover, my point is that she probably felt that this was her only opportunity to make a move back into the game given the general disinterest these days in female emcees. The only reason everyone loves Nicki Minaj is because she’s virtually the only sister with any traction in the mainstream (unless you count Trina). And so of course, she seems to be this pioneer for the next generation, and I think Lil Kim is absolutely right to say, “Look, this ish is not new.” Frankly, it’s a sad day in Hip Hop when the game plan seems to be, trounce women out, let one back in, and then allow her to do some ish that was done 15 years ago and call it new. That’s whack and Kim forces an acknowledgement of how whack it is.

  9. realreppinhiphop December 2, 2010 at 8:52 AM #

    Greaqt piece, unbiased and well researched, I aplaud crunktastic for this insightful read, I agree with most of ur points, Hiphop was built on battles, and one proving themselves, i always say true talent needs no co-sign as it would seems the industry itself has co-signed and delivered us something we all haven’t approved ourselves

    Great point contrast between the Wayne and Jay-z episodes, it took Jay awhile t embrace his clone, but kim is a women and so she is disrespected, but this is why this woman amazes me, she shines and overcomes, who would have thought this so called talentless lil gurl from Bk would have made it so far, she actually inspires me,everyone isn’t meant to play the role of a Role model, but kim brings a different message, never give up, never settle, and never count yourself out, wven when everyone else has!! Powerful woman with the strengh of a team, i will always love her audacity, and admire her courage:)

  10. realreppinhiphop December 2, 2010 at 8:58 AM #

    typo’s^^^ but its sad when people can’t see through the gimmick, i sheded a lil light on female Rap to my younger siblings and the difference between why alot of the youth prefer Minaj over kim is that they can’t understand what kims metaphors are giving, i do!! so this explains why nicki say’s “I dumb down my rhymes for my audience” Wooooooooooow thats powerful, and doesnt take a Rocket scientest to figure out that we r in big trouble………..

  11. moyazb December 2, 2010 at 9:45 AM #

    Thanks for this Crunktastic!!! So right on time!!!

    “Making appearances on umpteen remixes and dropping one album does not a queen make. The Queen Bee challenged her progeny’s right to the title. And I, for one, am glad she did.” This!!! ALL DAY!!

    Something my good friend Yolo said which I think is so true is that Nicki is a bit of all that came before her; she’s not doing anything new she’s just got it packaged really well. She’s a little bit Missy, Kim, Jean Grae, etc.

  12. KjenNu December 2, 2010 at 10:52 AM #

    i think this is interesting to look at aging in hip hop.
    can hip hop which is seen as the music for youth still make a place for its aging statesmen/women.

    Yeah, that’s an interesting question in theory, but in this situation….

    Diss tracks are seen as an appropriate and valid form of expression when you’re an up and comer needing to get exposure.
    Now as passe as Kim might seem right now she still has a whole lot of cache left over. So it seems demeaning to her….

    Fifty cents use to love doing a diss track starting beef with others, but now it seems tacky and like ‘dude you’re still doing that stunt?’.

    Beefs are interesting when they seem as if there is a real emotional core -that JayZ/Naz was fascinating because of all the personal drama that was behind it.

    I don’t insist that older rappers, especially women, play nice, but I do insist that they place smart. Lil Kim wants to revive or renew interest in herslef as a rapper meaning she wants to make that her main source of income than she should pay attention to what the fans and the public wants. [The Kanye West/50 Cent "feud" was barely memorable, but their teaming together to spread beef supposedly helped their album sales.] And looking at Kim’s boobs and her appearances on shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’, you can’t tell me Lil Kim isn’t interested in wide spread/mainstream success.

    • realreppinhiphop December 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM #

      yes but you have slightly missed the point, go back in her career, and see what hendered the progress, she was hendered numerous times, by herself, then things out of her control hendered her. so i think she deserves her time the right way, and no tethered, no pigeon-hole, she deserves her proper dues and respect in the game because she did knock down doors in a major way, no shock value as far as what female entertainer wears to award shows is a thing of the past thanks to the likes of Lil’ kim!!! of course Madonna pushed the envelope but in a sexually provocative way, Kim rhymes wear actually empowering the minority woman, in which crossed over into mainstream through Lady Marm. along with (Christina, Mya, Pink) That Collaboration was Groundbreaking on so many levels……..kim rhymes are not about sex, but a worthy counter to the likes of 2short, and all the other guys that used women objectively….. She went blow for blow with these goons, and that deserves RESPECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. realreppinhiphop December 2, 2010 at 11:19 AM #

    Looking back i can even give Foxy Brown her credit for her accomplishments, she was kims louise, somewhere the along the way these women were put against 1another, and that wasn’t a good thing for female rap~ Maybe we all can learn from our mistakes, and join creative forces to rebel against this gimmicky industry, and maybe once again i can tune in to the radio and not feel like i’m being force feed trash constantly~

  14. Southside Supervillain December 2, 2010 at 2:49 PM #

    Great piece. Couldn’t agree more. Lil Kim vs. Nicki is very hip hop and cool to see on an artistic/cultural level. Dope.

  15. teresz December 2, 2010 at 5:55 PM #

    For Lil Kim to say or anyone to say “this ish is not new”, well according to the New Generation, it IS new. I’m pretty sure our parents were shaking their heads when they heard OUR music, thinking “wow, that aint nothing but a chaka khan/anita baker/supremes/what have you, knockoff.” But to us the ish was NEW. I havent even reached my thirties and everything is being repeated, music, cloths, language, ten times over. Basically that’s what happens. Embrace that times are changing (but not really), and either bow out gracefully or keep going on strong. If this was lil kims attempt for a comeback, she failed. Yeah everybody’s talking about it now, but that will eventually die out, unless she dedcides to comeback with a badass cd. She would have been better off simply doing a collaboration.

  16. Rockmon December 7, 2010 at 5:05 PM #

    Lil Kim is just promoting Nicki Minaj. They just did a track together called “Everywhere we Go”. If Lil Kim had such strong feelings against her, she wouldn’t have done the track. This is just a joke.

    Besides I’d rather listen to Nikki Lynette than either of them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rIPM76wCjw

  17. dominantintelligence December 8, 2010 at 4:40 PM #

    All I have to say is here are some emcees that will rap circles around both of the “sex kittens.” Eternia, Invincible, Tiye Phoenix, Rah Digga, Queen Godis, Charisma, Lah Tere(Rebel Diaz), Nitty Scott, Brittany Street. Do some homework and use google. DAMN!

    • crunktastic December 8, 2010 at 6:07 PM #

      I agree. And you’ll notice that at least a couple of the artists you mention and many other talented female emcees are listed on the artist links section of our page. Thanks for reading.

  18. mrs realistic December 14, 2010 at 2:15 AM #

    Look i agree but the truth is beef in the industry is a gold mine so both nicki minaj snd kim get that money!!!

  19. OleMister December 23, 2010 at 6:31 PM #

    Why does Nicki Minaj have to show homage to lil Kim, especially before she herself is established. Lil Kim just like most falling stars is trying to hitch her wagon to a newcomer’s star. Its not that she just wants Nicki Minaj to show homage to her, but also a collaboration to try to revamp her career. And before anyone says that Nicki should or must respect Lil Kim, where was lil Kim when Nicki was trying to break into the industry. The fact remains that Lil Kim has never helped any other female rapper instead she beefs with them for publicity.
    Secondly, Nicki Minaj sexuality is similar to Lil Kim but what female artist sexuality isn’t compared to the sexuality of a previous artists? The fact is, homage is usually paid at award ceremonies, Nicki just released her album, so why are people trying to rush her to pay respects!?!? Then to Lil Kim of all people, not Lauren Hill and not MC Lyte; female rap artists who’s contribution to the music industry is more than her breast hanging out with a purple pasty on it. In the words of Nicki, “I’m the baddest Bitch doing it, I’m the best”. Correction Nicki you are the only Bitch doing it, so why Should she denounce the title. It’s just flattery and if she is truly the queen of Hip Hop only time will tell. So people should stop prophesizing and hating on the Newcomer and let’s see what she can do! #thatisall

  20. B February 8, 2011 at 3:50 PM #

    Sorry to say it but Lil Kim is the true Queen she is a legend she made it possible for niki, and the rest of the mc’s she let dudes know women can do it too. It seems like if you asked me niki is fake I think she wants to be kim so bad but at the same time wanted to make it look like she wasnt when people start noticing her but we all know what it is she just a young money 304 they right all her stuff and she put it out damn all the fashion, wigs, mini skirt all that doesnt make an artist its your lyrics first by far and at the end of the day LIL KIM has the real deal lyrics and been through things for real it’s not FAKE or a Stunt I think nikki knows deep inside she dont want it with the KIM she just makes it seem that way because of who she run wit and being that everybody puttin her on a pedestal she know she gotta say somethin but 1 on 1 rap battle or even a cat fat KIM will drag her she know it too cant wait for the BLACK FRIDAY mixtape kim puttin out on Valentines day 2-14-2011 o and the album following that im sure it’ll b what dat is!!!!!!!! GO KIM!!!!!!!!!

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