This year has undoubtedly been a stellar moment for women in hip-hop.
Remy Ma made her triumphant Grammy-nominated, BET award-winning comeback. Nicki Minaj breaks the record for most entries charted for a female artist on the Billboard Hot 100. And newcomer Cardi B could make history with her monster hit “Bodak Yellow” as it is predicted to become the first record by a female rapper in nearly 20 years to hit no. 1 without a feature.
But as glass-ceilings across the genre are being shattered, there’s been chatter of a potential beef between Cardi and Nicki Minaj. Both of them have been speculated to have thrown subtle jabs at one another via social media and rap lyrics. From Nicki’s “Offset” sneak-diss on her feature in Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” to Cardi B’s recent “Can you stop with all the subs…I ain’t Jared” verse in G-Eazy’s “No Limit,” it’s clear something is in the air despite both of them denying the rumors.
Critics argue that either both of their antics are downright petty or a negative depiction of women in music. Some fans on both sides have have chastised the women online for taking their beef to the mic and amplifying the catty division of female MCs. However, those striving to not allow these women to engage in healthy competition is displaying sexism at best. Nobody was saying that when Drake and Meek Mill were butting heads last summer.
Competitive rap beefs are as pivotal to the culture of the genre as it is necessary. Part of the reason why hip-hop has remained relevant as ever is through the coming-of-age battles of new vs. old. In a nutshell: If you have what it takes, you can stand the test of time. If you are fading, it’s time to pack it up.
For those who deem female rappers immature for competing, notice that the same wasn’t hardly ever said when men battled in hip-hop. When 50 Cent was the newcomer that dethroned Ja Rule, hip-hop fanatics lived for the shade…and then turned on him years later when Kanye West outsold him in their epic 2007 album sales face-off between West’s blockbuster Graduation and Fifty’s lackluster Curtis. There was no bad blood in the end as both of them have been able to make their cultural impact throughout various ventures.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for female MCs who often compete within the genre.
When Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj first came to lyrical blows in 2010, critics were quick to trivialize their dispute and undermined the underlying competitive nature of it. Memes of Kim’s surgery became the distraction to what should have been a fair mixtape challenge to Minaj. This year when Minaj went head-to-head with Remy Ma, much of the conversation was centered on who looked better and/or had more money — further dismissing the essential nature of a real hip-hop competitive beef.
Fortunately, Remy had the last laugh by disrupting Minaj’s long-held consecutive BET Best Female Hip-Hop Artist wins record. But gone are the days of allowing women the same opportunity to have their rhymes go pound-for-pound as male artists such as Jay Z and Nas were given. Female MC beefs are being reduced to reality television show feuds while men are still given a packed boxing arena, main event.
If we are serious about dismantling sexism in the industry, female rappers deserve the right to embrace all aspects of the genre without the paternalism of fans looking down on them. That includes having a legitimate shot at lyrically beefing with other artists to stake their claim within the genre. When we tell women in music that they are “too pretty to be fighting” while telling men “you better not let him get away with that diss” — we are upholding double standards that subliminally tell women their issues aren’t valid. If we truly value women, we must take their career moves, artistry, and decision-making as serious as anyone else.
If it so happens that Nicki Minaj and Cardi B are fiercely beefing for that number 1 spot, I say go for it. Competition often brings out the best in musicians and fans benefit from it in return. This impeccable year for female MCs wouldn’t have been the same without it, so keep the diss-tracks coming.
Ernest Owens is the Editor of Philadelphia magazine’s G Philly. He has written for USA Today, NBC News, BET, HuffPost and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.