From Jay-Z and Nas' years-long iciness to 50 Cent's sharp-edged comments about well, everybody, verbal jabs off and on wax are arguably as much of an element of hip-hop as DJing or breaking. While nearly every high-profile MC has been embroiled in some kind of drama with another rapper, the situation can be more complicated when it involves female hip-hop artists, who have to contend with the relative lack of female colleagues in the game and the pressures of an image-driven industry in addition to delivering lyrical heat. Some of hip-hop's ladies insist that when it comes to Kim and Nicki's recent flap, solidarity should trump ego for women on the mic.
"That's crazy. I really don't get it. I don't see where all this is coming from," Miami's Trina told MTV News via e-mail this week about Kim's comments. "[We're] all ladies. Can't we just make music and get our paper and keep it moving?! We all respect Kim. She opened the doors for us females. It's all good — everybody's eating, what's the issue?" Trina also pointed to the dearth of high-profile women in hip-hop as a reason for Kim to fall back with the criticism. "This makes us all look bad. There's barely any female artists as is — we don't need this!"
Veteran MC Rah Digga also maintained that for women in hip-hop, trading jabs isn't in anyone's best interests. "My advice to Kim is just make her music," Digga told MTV News. "My advice to everybody is just do you: Make your music, don't pay attention to what's going on around you, just do what you do best and let the fans blog it out."
Like Trina and Digga, multiplatinum rapper and producer Missy Elliott has been in the game for years, and she believes there's room for both Nicki's and Kim's outsize talents. "I like Nicki Minaj's music. I think she's hot!!" Missy relayed to MTV News via e-mail, adding, "I've been a fan of Lil Kim from the beginning and always will be. Kim is a rap icon!"
Of course, respect is key, and Southern star Diamond, who burst on the scene with Crime Mob before going solo, maintains that it's important to acknowledge the old guard when first starting out.
"I just feel like people that have paved the way for you, you have to show them some type of homage or some type of respect, to a certain extent," Diamond told MTV News. "That doesn't mean that you have to go around and carry [their] bags. At some certain point you just have to kinda acknowledge the people that paved the way for making things possible for you. I favor Eve more than everybody, but that doesn't mean I'm not gonna shout out Kim in an interview or Foxy [Brown] — I might like something that she did — or Da Brat or Missy. Those women paved the way for us, so it would be kinda weird not to show them some type of attention or expression, just to let them know, 'Hey, I appreciate what you've done for me.' " The small number of female MCs in the game makes unity even more important, several femcees stressed. Trina said she experienced difficulties when she was first breaking in.
"It's a male-dominated game, so the bulk of attention is focused on them," she said. "As a female you are constantly fighting to prove yourself and stay fighting to hold your spot amongst these dudes."
Diamond takes the situation a step further by comparing it to sexual politics in any work environment. "It's [the same as] anything in society: You can be having a 9-to-5 and you can have a boss that's over you that's a male, and you can be doing better than what he's supposed to do and you could get recognition from his boss and he might feel intimidated a certain kind of way," she said. "Men are just so caught up in being dominating, being a man, wearing the pants and just being in control. For a woman to come in and do the same thing that a man has done or that a man is doing, that's when it becomes little problems here and there."
In fact, many female MCs such as Trina, Rah Digga, Kim and Minaj have aligned with male stars like Trick Daddy, Busta Rhymes, Notorious B.I.G. and Lil Wayne when they first hit the scene (Elliott's long association with Timbaland was more of a partnership; Lauryn Hill broke in with the Fugees). Yet not all female MCs have found their gender to be a problem when proving themselves in the game. Digga found that her talent eased her experience when she was first making her mark in hip-hop.
"I traveled the Lyricist Lounge circuit real heavy [before she received mainstream success], so I always was critically acclaimed for being an MC. So I think once I got with Busta Rhymes it was like, 'OK, now we get to hear her live and direct on an album.' I already had the rapport of being a strong MC from the beginning. Once I got with the crew I was just basically able to stand out and shine. It was a real good experience for me."
And while there has been a dearth of female MCs in recent years, Diamond — who was part of Ludacris' de facto ladies anthem "My Chick Bad (Remix)" with Trina and Eve — is excited about a resurgence.
"The fact that females in hip-hop are coming back is good, because a lot of the times men speak for women and men can't really cover every subject and topic that a woman would speak on. I feel like, for some reason, people feel like [there] only has to be one female. Everybody has their own lane. Just like there's different dudes for us to choose between and different genres of music it should be the same for female MCs."
Kim and Nicki's flap isn't the first time two talented stars have taken the spotlight for reasons other than their music, and it certainly won't be the last. Yet while female MCs have always had different pressures than their male counterparts, Digga thinks there is a straightforward way to equalize the playing field.
"I think the best way to command respect is to make music."
What do you think of the Lil' Kim/Nicki Minaj flap? Let us know in the comments below!