In the days of “mumble rap” and “Twitter fingers,” hip-hop shares the likeness of an amateur at the balance beam– unstable and unsure of its next step. This past week, however, hip-hop purists and others alike were treated to not one, not two, but three of the arguably most iconic moments in the history of the sport.
From Jay Z’s historic induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and super producers Swizz Beatz and Just Blaze battling it out hit-for-hit to Remy Ma annihilating head Barb Nicki Minaj, hip-hop seems to have found its footing again. The latter being the cherry on top of a lyrically-filled sundae that even Biggie would enjoy.
Over the past 48 hours, the Internet has been ablaze since Remy Ma maligned Young Money’s first lady for seven minutes on the Nas inspired track “ShETHER.” From barbershops to bars, the words on everyone’s lips were “Nicki” and “Remy” as battle lines were drawn and predictions of who would take the final blow were made. The scathing diss record comes after Nicki seemed to take thinly veiled shots at the Bronx-born artist on her latest effort “Make Love” featuring Gucci Mane: “To be the queen of rap, you gotta sell records / You gotta get plaques.”
While they’ve been friendly in the past, in spite of long-shimmering rumors of a feud, things have definitely taken a turn. The femcees, however, are not the first women to beef or battle and they surely won’t be the last.
In fact, it was a woman who was behind one of hip-hop’s most infamous battles. In 1984, Queens-bred lyricist Roxanne Shante released “Roxanne’s Revenge” in response to UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” at the tender age of 14. Shante’s onslaught bars would go on to inspire a myriad of music from UTFO and others, which is often referred to as the “Roxanne Wars.”
And, while women have been at the center of rap beef’s moral fiber they are oftentimes discouraged or excluded from partaking in it. Following the release of “ShETHER,” many Twitter users flocked to their keyboards to discourage the femcees from hashing it out on wax. While others questioned the morality of the beef in the name of false feminism.
This Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma beef is a direct result of cishet male propaganda attempting to plot two successful women to go at each other!
— break (@thisisBREAK_) February 26, 2017
But, the real question we must ask ourselves is: Why shouldn’t we allow two rappers in their prime to go toe-to-toe? There’s an over-zealousness to frame beef among female artists as “catty” or a catalyst that “pits women against each other.” We shouldn’t rush to criticize women who participate in lyrical sparring in the same vein that we praise the likes of Jay vs. Nas, Notorious BIG vs. 2Pac, Canibus vs. LL Cool J, Ice Cube vs. NWA, Drake vs. Meek Mill, or any other rap feud for that matter.
Battling has been a part of the culture since hip-hop’s inception and will continue to be as long as lyricism is valued. Long before social media’s penchant for adding fuel to a fire or diss tracks were recorded in the studio, emcees would take their grievances to the park – where they would showcase their lyrical capability in a cypher. This is the cornerstone by which hip-hop was built on.
By discouraging women from partaking in such a rich tradition, we are reducing them to “look but don’t touch” while their male counterparts ruthlessly take jabs at one another without being lectured to “play nice.” When we deter women from being competitive, we are ultimately reducing them to stay in their place, as trinkets that complement men, which is already a huge part of the problem in the hip-hop.
Remy vs. Nicki could easily be one of the most exciting rap beefs in hip-hop’s history, considering their striking contrasts. Nicki, a rap vixen turned pop star, and Remy, a gritty street siren with enough bars to go rounds with the boys, are all the makings of an epic feud. At its core, however, are two talented women leading charge and that’s a win for hip-hop fans everywhere.