Two rappers on everyone’s mind this summer are Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Although Invasion of Privacy was released back in April, the rapper announced on Instagram, that “it extended its record last week as the longest running female rap album with consecutive weeks in the top 10 Billboard 200 (20 weeks).” The album was also certified platinum by the RIAA and broke streaming records. Nicki Minaj’s fourth studio album ‘Queen’ took the world by a storm. The 19-track record reached #1 in 81 countries, making Nicki the first and only female rapper to have achieved this. The album remained at the top worldwide days after its release, just as her single with Six9ine “Fefe” was certified platinum. These two artists have broken records throughout their careers, but it wasn’t without years of hard work and fighting for recognition within the male-dominated genre.
One of the big things that a lot of people focused on when Cardi B first came about, was her past as a stripper. An obstacle she had to face was people’s perception of that career, especially in light of a common theme among popular male rap songs. She was very much a dark horse after the release of her debut single, but she quickly destroyed all speculations about her being a ‘one-hit wonder.’ The female rapper was made to be the third artist ever in the history of Billboard, to have her first three chart songs in the top 10. “Bodak Yellow” was the second solo hip-hop song by a female rapper in history to have reached No. 1 on US Billboard 100 and was certified sextuple platinum by the RIAA. Spotify then recently revealed that two of the songs that were most streamed this summer were “Girl Like You” featuring Cardi B (2nd Place) and “I Like It” featuring J Balvin and Bad Bunny (3rd Place).
Nicki Minaj received her fair share of criticism, the main one being that her success was due to her physical appearance and not her skill as an MC. Nicki has always had to prove herself whether it be in the bars she delivers or on social media. Back in 2015, the female rapper tweeted in response to criticism on her features with popular male rappers: (@NICKIMINAJ) “If a male rapper was on tracks w/Wayne, Jay, Eminem, Kanye, etc going ROUND 4 ROUND he’d b hailed as a GREAT as well.” This criticism has seemed to come more from the public, as one of Nicki’s other arguments was that all these rappers recognised her for her talent. Besides being released a week earlier than expected, Nicki’s album seemed to shock a lot of people with the third track: ‘Barbie Dreams.’ The song was the most popular and seemed to appear on everyone’s tweeter feed, as Minaj fired shots at some very big names. Some of those included are Drake, Meek Mill, Drake, Young Thug and DJ Khalid. In the chorus, Nicki raps “I’m just playing, but I’m saying” and confirmed on Beats 1 Radio, that the song was only fun and wasn’t aimed as an attack. The song’s undertone though, was a clear message not to mess with the Queen.
The Nicki vs Cardi Debate
Since Cardi B’s release of “Bodak Yellow,” the media has seemed to want to pit the two rappers against each other. A particularity about “Barbie Dreams” however, is that Nicki only really dishes it out to male artists. For years now, a lot of focus has been on conflicts between Nicki and other female rappers such as Lil Kim and more recently Cardi B. Only days after the release of Queen, Twitter was filled with debates over which of the two had the better album with posts such as: Like for ‘Queen’ or Comment for ‘Invasion of Privacy.’ A persistent problem that surrounds the genre is that female rappers are always compared with each other and rarely with their male counterparts. If you had a look online, at rankings based on public opinion, you’ll always find a separate one for female rappers. When it comes to rappers as a whole, the women don’t often make it to the top of the list.
Women within the genre are continuously having to prove themselves and there is still a certain lack of recognition for their success. Take a look back at some of the first big female rappers like MC Lyte and Missy Elliott. Their clothing and appearance is aimed to resemble male rappers and completely hide their femininity. This seemed to be a requirement for women in order to break into the genre. This is a similar process that women went through in the 70’s and 80’s. A higher percentage of women could be seen within the workforce with a shift from dresses to pantsuits, clothing that has a certain masculine resemblance. Lil Kim was, in fact, one of the first female rappers to create a feminine image of herself and portrayed this in her 1996 album, “Hard Core.” This is probably one of the reasons why a lot of people accused Nicki Minaj of copying Lil’ Kim when in fact, it was just a case of Nicki also embracing her femininity and rapping freely about female lust.
By Sam Dawson
Images provided by Nicki Minaj/Twitter