Is Lil' Kim Dissing Nicki Minaj Just to Stay Relevant?
Those familiar with 'All About Eve' will recognize the story, with newcomer Nicki Minaj playing Eve Harrington to Kim's Margo Channing. Now, Kim's ratcheted up the stakes, decapitating Minaj on the cover of her latest mixtape 'Black Friday' (pictured here) and recently releasing the nearly seven-minute long title track attacking Minaj.
The feud started in spring 2010, when Kim publicly excoriated Minaj and claimed the latter's style -- specifically Minaj's love of wigs popularized by Kim in the mid-1990s -- ripped off her own pioneering look. Days later, Kim told a radio station:
The beef escalated from there, with the two rappers exchanging words in interviews and selected tracks.
"When [female rappers] come in the game and they realize that I'm not going away and my fans are still here and they can't just step on me, they get upset and then they don't want to be my friend anymore. I think that's really childish and stupid. Because all I ask for is respect, and I show the same respect back. Pay homage, at the end of the day a lot of things go on behind the scenes that people don't know about. It will be aired out, because you can't hide the truth."
Feuds in hip-hop, of course, are as old as the genre itself. Yet many of the classic lyrical battles -- Common vs. Ice Cube, Kool Moe Dee vs. LL Cool J -- seemed less focused on commerce and more about actual respect and lyrical superiority. In this post-Biggie/Tupac era, rap beefs feel like just another line item on a record label's publicity plan. You can argue that in terms of sales, Kanye West won the 50 Cent/Kanye West "beef" in 2007, when 50's 'Curtis' was released the same day as Kanye's 'Graduation.' The real winner: the shareholders of Universal Music Group, parent company of both artists.
Paradoxically, though, this latest act of desperation that is the Minaj beef may be exactly what Kim needs to regain her reputation in hip-hop (though the queen title is probably gone for good). Her debut album, 1996's 'Hard Core,' went double platinum and established her as the Queen of Hip-Hop. But since then, the rapper has released three albums to varying degrees of success, with 2005's 'The Naked Truth' barely making a dent in the genre. (A year in jail on perjury charges in 2005 didn't help.)
On 'Black Friday,' the rapper sounds rejuvenated, delivering a four-minute, near-continuous riposte filled with renewed energy and clever one-liners ("You and Diddy, sorry bunch of swagger jackers/I mothered you hoes, I should claim you on my income tax"). In the video, Kim is seen stomping on a brightly colored wig favored by Minaj. The video ends with a quote from Michael Jackson (via Herman Melville), saying, "It's better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation ... period."
Hip-hop is not 'Highlander.' There can be more than one female emcee rhyming at the same time. But Lil Kim vs. Nicki Minaj is far from the Jay-Z/Nas 'King of New York' battle of 2001, in which the two hip-hop titans both solidified their already dominant positions in the genre. The more shots that get fired Nicki's way, the more desperate and sad Lil' Kim looks to get back to her position circa 1996.
As the once-beloved actress Margo Channing spirals down into obsolescence in 'All About Eve,' she tells her friend, "And what is [Margo], besides something called a temperament, which consists mostly of swooping about on a broomstick and screaming at the top of my voice? Infants behave the way I do, you know. They carry on and misbehave ... when they can't have what they want, when they feel unwanted or insecure or unloved."
You're welcome, Kim.
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