There’s a FEUD going on and it’s popular in the headlines these days.
No, I’m not talking about the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford mini-series on FX. I’m actually talking about the Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma feud for the title of “Queen Of Hip Hop”. The funny things is that like Bette and Joan, Nicki and Remy are continuing the history of pitting one woman against another. But the way I see it….it’s actually a deeper story about internal racism.
Nicki Minaj is one smart cookie. She studied the game and figured out what was missing from the “female rap scene”. From the early days of Sequence with “Funk You Up” on Sugarhill Records to the rise of Salt-N-Pepa into the Pop charts with “Push It”, the path for estrogen in this male driven world of bravado was laid perfectly. And then came the women like Queen Latifah, YoYo, MC Lyte, DaBrat, Bahamadia and Choice who would show the boys that skills didn’t require you to have a penis.
Now…there have been many female rappers to grab a mic, but I honestly feel like when Lil’ Kim came on the scene she changed the game in the same way when Beyonce became a songwriter, she changed how R&B songs were written. The style…the flow all changed. Lil’ Kim like Madonna gave women permission to talk openly and honestly about the power of having a vagina. And you have to give credit where credit is due: Kim came into the game as the “Mistress of Rap” by being Biggie’s side-chick, but she definitely made a name for herself. She was always fascinating to me because she talked like a little kid and sounded so hard on the mic. Almost the rap version of Michel’le….talked like a cartoon character but sang her ass off like a grown woman. Kim laid the blue-print for what was to come.
I love all types of music but Hip Hop holds a special place for me because I watched it grow and expand from the 70s to today. But one of the things that I can’t help but recognize is that the more authentic it is, the rawer it is in its origins. And you’re probably wondering what I mean by that. Well…true and real Hip Hop is based out of experience. It’s like listening to Jazz and Blues singers like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Etta James….you know these women lived those lyrics. The rawness of Mary J Blige tells you that she knows what she is sayin’ with her words. So, it’s hard to not look at calculated formulas like Nicki Minaj and not see how we got to her rise in Pop Music.
For those who have followed Nicki’s drama, you already know how she came for Kim and Kim didn’t get back up to where she could have. Probably because of her stint in jail and also having a kid. Both things could have an effect on image and stamina in this business. So, the idea that Nicki is using the same formula to attack Remy Ma is really interesting. That “pick-a-fight” mentality didn’t work for Azealia Banks and I don’t think that it has worked for Nicki this time. I mean…with the Azealia vs. Iggy beef Ms. Banks has a point about cultural appropriation but she spent too much time fighting instead of producing hits. You can be in the game but you gotta decide what’s important to ya.
Honestly…there was a time when the female rappers held each other up (cue “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah and Monie Love). And rap beefs like Biggie and 2Pac showed us that a psychopath like Suge Knight would do anything to sell records and attempt to take over the business (without any real talent other than thug muscle). Most won’t say it, but he is responsible for a lot of damage done in the Hip Hop world (google his name with Vanilla Ice and Left Eye). Thank goodness for those who had the sense to get away from him. And I guess the lessons of the East Coast/West Coast feud squashed the Jay-Z and Nas fight. Plus, I’m sure Beyonce and Kelis both said, “I ain’t getting involved with no thug rap battle….no body bags in my future!”
So, let’s look at Nicki’s entrance into the charts. Not discounting her rep for spittin’ like the boys, she definitely held her own but what made her so popular? How did she crossover? The answer is image! Why do you think she wore those bright pink wigs? Why did she take the Lil’ Kim branding and flip it inside out by speaking hard but rapping like a little girl? Probably because she was building a brand of a female rapper that most male rappers wanted in bed. Think about it. She looked like a video vixen from a Hip Hop video. She had plenty of clever references and she was fun. She didn’t go too far with the surgeries like Kim did at one point. I mean…those body measurements are extreme for her frame, but it works with what she is selling.
I’m sure you are wondering what I meant by “internal racism” earlier. Some are gonna be offended by what I am about to say but I’m gonna say it anyway. This whole thing of who’s queen and who’s not is a marketing tool that dates back to slavery….”House Nigger vs. Field Nigger”. There are those who work in the house and those who work in the field. Those who work in the house are usually a little lighter and probably products of “masser’s late night desires”. And those who work in the field are not clean or light enough to be indoors. Nicki and Drake are marketable. They don’t really pose a threat to White Suburbia, kinda like Michael Jackson before the molestation allegations. Nicki is the safe stereotype of what reality TV has shown as entertainment….ghetto and sex driven. Drake raps like a thug and says real hard lines but is really Jewish and half white. See…not threatening at all. Definitely not threatening to Ellen or SNL.
Someone like Remy Ma is the real article. She just got out of jail after 7 years and already a mother. Like Kim she did time behind some “keeping’ it real” shit, but she is definitely Hip Hop. She’s not scripted or produced. She speaks her mind and from her experience and that’s what makes her authentic. Remy released a diss track called “Shether” (which uses Nas’ instrumental to his Jay Z diss track, “Ether”) that runs about 7 minutes. She took 48 hours to write and record one of the most scathing raps I have ever heard. Meanwhile….9 days later Nicki finally claps back with three responses (“Changed It” with Lil Wayne, “No Fraud” with Drake and song called “Regret In Your Tears“), but in my opinion a little too late and not worth the bother. Nicki’s info was nothing new nor revealed any dirt on Remy.
And please don’t think that Remy is innocent and an angel in all this. In 2004 she had a vicious feud with Foxy Brown. And who could forget the battles between Foxy & Kim! So, you see…this isn’t new. It’s just now there’s the internet to help fuel it. Instead of fans reading about it in a Hip Hop magazine, now they can chime in online.
But who wins in these feuds? The men who own the artists? I find it interesting that rappers like Lil Wayne and T.I. have figured out how to market and sell Hip Hop artists that can crossover. When Iggy Azalea started blowing up T.I. had struck gold. She was the new Elvis. Funny how a comment about Iggy’s “blaccent” by Jill Scott and Eve ushered in her backlash and not all the twitter posts by Azealia Banks. Wayne went from being the best field worker to promoting the latest house workers. What was the last hit that Lil Wayne had?
I think it’s time we all take a good look at the systematic internal racism that still plagues the African-American experience. Learning to appreciate our own diversity and talents instead of clawing at each other to get to the top might be that impossible dream that Dr. King couldn’t have imagined.