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Nicki Minaj feels the pressure

It should not be like that. There should be more than one woman on the A list of rap at the same time, and women on the A list of rap should be able to coexist peacefully. They should be able to record among themselves, walk together, be friends with each other. But it has never been like this. Roxanne Shanté, the first rapper who ascended to something akin to solo stardom, was last after many of the women who came after her. Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, who rose to stardom almost at the same time and along with some of the same people, fought each other for years, which ultimately led to a shooting and a prison sentence for Kim. Trina and Florida rapper Jackie-O hated each other.

There have been exceptions. Missy Elliott, for example, recorded songs with other women whenever possible, and I do not remember that she had any problems with anyone. But, historically, women in rap, often relegated to the background, rarely having the kind of applause their male colleagues have encountered, have had to fight each other for their part of the spotlight. The same used to be true of white rappers, too. Things should never have been like this for women in rap, and they certainly should not be like that now. But apparently they are. Which leads to this current situation between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, the two biggest rap stars of many years.

Cardi B and Nicki Minaj do not quarrel with each other, not openly, anyway. They are not saying the names of others in the registry. They are careful to praise each other in interviews. Apparently they share a hairdresser. A few months ago, they appeared together on the Migos track "MotorSport", a song that seemed destined to crush any meaty conversation between the two. (It did not seem designed to do much more.) Nicki and Cardi are good at "MotorSport", but it's not a great song.)

Instead, "MotorSport" finally made things worse. Cardi and Nicki said different things about who recorded their verse first, and they did not appear together on the screen in the video. In an interview with Zane Lowe last week, Nicki, who seemed really hurt, talked about how sad she was when Cardi did not give her any respect after the release of "MotorSport": "I remember, when I first came into the game, if a woman of that stature had made a show with me, I would just be singing her praises and saying thank you.The first interview she did after "MotorSport" came out, it really hurt a lot. "

Nicki is, of course, playing with us. She was on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show to unveil the release of two new singles, "Barbie Tingz" and "Chun-Li." Both songs show Nicki in his role of first war as rapper, and both approach anonymous enemies with a haughty kind of mockery. Nicki released those two tracks less than a week after Cardi's debut album Invasion Of Privacy appeared in the midst of the promotional bombardment of Cardi's charm. This was not an accident. Nicki knows what she is doing. Even if she and Cardi are totally great with each other, Nicki is playing with the new Internet narratives, based on the idea of ​​an inexpressive dispute, between her and Cardi. (There are also many lines on the Cardi album that, theoretically, at least, could be aimed at Nicki). This is what extremely successful rappers (and pop stars) do now . They nod with their heads towards their own characters and towards the imagination of the fans. They tackle the rumors without addressing those rumors. Everything is part of the great game.

And Nicki knows this game. In that interview with Zane Lowe, he specifically mentions Trina. In 2009, Nicki and Trina appeared together in Yo Gotti's "5 Star Bitch" remix, and the two rappers have said nothing more than good things about each other since then. But Nicki and Trina were never really in competition. Trina is a great rapper with a long career and a lot of successes to her name, but she never took the alpha role that Nicki was looking for. Lil Kim is a different story. Nicki never mentioned Kim in that interview, but she launched her career, at least in part, with a feast with Kim's bones. (For example, Nicki's reference verse on "The Monster" by Kanye West is generally understood by Kim)

In the decade or so since Nicki's rise, he has never faced a threat like Cardi. Cardi could never have existed without Nicki, in the same way that Nicki would never have existed without Kim. Cardi, like Nicki, is a strong personality, colorful and extremely New York, with facilities for rap in the south. And the arrival of Cardi felt like the arrival of a completely new era. It's something that Nicki needed to address, implicitly or not.

With this in mind, Nicki's new tracks do what they have to do. Nicki needed a victory, and here she has one. The Pinkprint their last album, appeared in 2014, and the three singles released the same day last year all landed with a thud. She is still regularly contributing impressive guest songs to the songs of other artists, but those songs generally do not take advantage of her huge personality. (When, for example, Nicki helped Katy Perry perform "Swish Swish" at the VMAs last year, she looked deeply bored with the whole rigamarole.) "Barbie Tingz" and "Chun-Li" do not sound like infallible hits, and they are not really designed to be infallible successes. They're designed to let Nicki try hard, to remind everyone that she's still an absolute rapper monster. They do it

But "Barbi Tingz" and "Chun-Li" also feel pointy and memory and strangely joyless. Historically, Nicki's best songs have been those that combine his technical skills of rappelling from another world with his explosive and absurd pop sensibilities: "Super Bass", for example, or "Stupid Hoe" or "Feeling Myself". "Barbi Tingz" and "Chun-Li" does not have that fun for them. They sound like what they are, which are songs from an established star that feels a new sense of pressure. Nicki plans to release an album this year. And with luck, now that you have restored your confidence in the fire, you can rediscover that side of yourself. Because Cardi B is making ridiculously funny music right now. And if we're going to enter a new reality where more than one woman can be a high-level rap star at the same time, Nicki will have to go back to making ridiculously funny music too. God knows that she has it in her.


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