“ShETHER” sent the Internet into a frenzy, yet the beef is far from new. Here is a war that is a decade deep, punctuated with small incidents (a tweet here, a bar there) that have snowballed into this. For rap, this is one of the most significant beefs in hip-hop history.
To loosely quote Lauryn Hill, two female MCs can’t occupy the same space at the time. That’s far from new news, which in and of itself reflects the graduated value of this war. Stand on any point on an American map, and the most prominent rapper in that region will more than likely be A) a male and B) crowned “king.” When beef occurs, it’s usually over turf wars. Cut to Jay Z and Nas fighting over the "King of New York" title. Or, perhaps, it’s a novice attempting to swing overhead at a legend -- Canibus and LL Cool J and Nelly and KRS One to name a few.
At this point, the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) label is a dubious one and for the most part, the competitors will simply bow their heads and still mumble "Biggie." For women, it’s different. A beef usually means only one can actually exist in this moment. It’s what broke up the Thelma and Louise narrative for Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown 20 years ago, and it still exists to this day. Now, however, the stakes are raised and hip-hop mainly has Nicki Minaj to thank for it.
Nicki Minaj was the first female rapper to penetrate the mainstream since Lauryn Hill, and she’s arguably surpassed her. In six years, she’s released three solo albums, and is a multi-platinum recording artist beyond the rap landscape. Nicki Minaj is a greater mainstream success than most of her male rap contemporaries.
What Remy is arguing on "ShETHER," however, is that if she hadn't served a near-decade prison bid, she would be in Nicki Minaj’s place. That’s up for debate, but her return -- despite the lackluster sales of her Plata O Plomo -- was still a warm welcome. Her collaboration with Fat Joe and French Montana "All The Way Up" hit No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and that’s nothing to scoff at when hip-hop's attention span doesn’t always permit an extended hiatus.
This beef is proof that hip-hop has grown. Remy Ma is no stranger to feuds, having had wars with Lady Luck and even Lil’ Kim, but they were lyrically-driven and on a much smaller scale. When Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim began their spat in 2009, it was unbalanced by the following year as Nicki Minaj’s celebrity skyrocketed. While Lil' Kim fired off shots on a project completely dedicated to dismantling Nicki titled Black Friday (a pun on Nicki’s 2010 debut Pink Friday), Nicki simply made Kim a retracted target on the song "Roman’s Revenge." Since that point, she’s distributed shards of crass across various songs (Kanye West’s “Monster” being the most prominent) and that’s been her M.O. with any competitor -- Remy included.
As on Jay Z's Nas diss "Takeover," Hova always suggests he’s too busy making money and being successful to dedicate a song to anyone. For the most part, Nicki has done the same. Her response to Remy thus far has included now-deleted screenshots of Plato o Plomo album sales and a voice note posted on her Instagram where Beyoncé sings a cappella that Nicki is the "rap queen." There’s talk of a diss track-slash-video, which is still up in the air. Receipts are being presented in a rap feud where both female opponents are successful. Men are being used as the disposable bedroom bodies and ammo to insult the other. Hip-hop heads are waiting for more music and not for a mud-wrestling match like female rap feuds of decades past. This time, it’s about lyricism and lucrativeness. What a time.
This beef won’t kill anyone’s career. If anything, it will keep both going strongly. This is not a feud that should be deconstructed as girl-on-girl crime or dismissed by a claim that this battle is anti-feminist. To do so would reduce this war to gender, something women in rap have been fighting against since day one. This is hip-hop, and it’s a sport -- one where women had to wait on the sidelines for far too long. Now, they’re active players and everyone is tuned in -- finally.