There had been dozens of rule-breaking and provocative feminine rappers making waves in 2018 — so why did all of the mainstream consideration go to Cardi B and Nicki Minaj?
If you check out Billboard's Year-End Hot 100 chart, it’s abundantly clear that hip-hop was the dominant style in 2018. But dig somewhat deeper. Beyond the ever-present Drakes and Post Malones of the world, there have been solely two feminine rappers who claimed their stake on the coveted chart, with a mixed 12 appearances between them. Yet in a yr that noticed a powerful number of new and up-and-coming girls rising within the hip-hop house, why is that Cardi B and Nicki Minaj proceed to realize all of the mainstream consideration?
From the neon-colored kookiness of Rico Nasty and the dutty wine-and-Red Stripe chattings of Stefflon Don, to the visible creativity of Tierra Whack and Noname’s soothing near-spoken-word tunes — even Bhad Bhabie’s teen-driven cockiness and the raunchy lyrics of City Girls and Megan Thee Stallion — these artists made among the most vibrant, energetic and adventurous music this yr. This new class is bending the stereotypes of what it means to be a free-thinking lady in hip-hop, injecting a dose of progressive lyrics, non-binary sexuality and autonomous imagery right into a style that has been traditionally dominated by males. But hip-hop tradition will endure if solely a small handful of those artists are showered with the majority of the eye — typically for causes that don’t have anything to do with their music — and 2018 confirmed there hasn’t been sufficient room made for a lot of queens to rule the courtroom.
Mainstream hip-hop continues to be limiting the house for feminine rappers, a taking part in discipline that's been uneven because the style’s delivery within the ‘70s. Over the many years, we noticed extra girls enter the realm, together with Salt-N-Pepa, MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante, Yo-Yo, Queen Latifah, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown. But there was all the time a catch: they’d both should depend on a male co-sign to get the publicity they deserved, or they’d find yourself getting pitted in opposition to one another in tril feuds.
“Historically talking, for those who suppose again to how we first began listening to about these girls — they had been all the time hooked up to a bunch," Hot 97’s on-air host and DJ Megan Ryte tells Billboard. "Lauryn Hill is hooked up to The Fugees, Lil Kim with Junior Mafia, Remy Ma with Terror Squad — even Nicki Minaj with Young Money.” Cardi B’s rise earlier this yr — following to the skyrocketing of “Bodak Yellow” to No. 1 within the latter half of 2017 — appeared to halt this pattern. "When Cardi B got here out — and to not say she was the primary to do that — she was very instrumental in breaking that off as a result of she got here out solo-dolo," Ryte explains. "The focus was on her. She didn’t have a longtime crew round her, so she was capable of stand alone on her personal two ft — and we’re speaking pink bottoms!"
Cardi B’s record-setting trajectory — “Bodak Yellow” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks in a row and made historical past as being solely the second feminine rapper to perform that feat with a solo single — helped open doorways for different feminine rappers to let their music be heard. "[“Bodak Yellow”] is a really lady report, and I really feel prefer it opened a variety of doorways for lots of those feminine artists to return out and do the identical factor,” Ryte continues.
But it additionally brought on a rift between her and rap’s long-governing queen, Nicki Minaj. The two beforehand claimed they didn’t have a difficulty with one another, but the rumors about their beef continued to construct as followers speculated they had been throwing subliminal photographs in varied songs. Minaj later addressed her issues with Cardi throughout a Zane Lowe interview in April, the place she said she didn’t obtain correct praises from the Bronx star: "I bear in mind once I first got here within the sport, if a feminine of that stature had completed a characteristic with me on it, I’d solely be singing their praises and saying thanks.”
From that time on, the “Cardi B vs. Nicki Minaj” argument escalated right into a rap cleaning soap opera. The stress between the 2 girls hit its gnarly peak throughout September’s New York Fashion Week, the place they bought into an altercation at a Harper’s Bazaar occasion. Needless to say, the drama between the artists briefly dimmed the highlight on their precise music as each launched new albums inside months of one another — April’s Invasion of Privacy and August’s Queen. This but once more enforced the concept that there can solely be one feminine rapper who can have management of the mainstream’s apex. Instead of utilizing all this vitality to gasoline different girls on the rise, the feud between the 2 stars — and the numerous spectators reveling within the drama — inadvertently appeared to suck up all of the oxygen that would’ve been used to spice up fellow feminine MCs additional into the ears of the general public.
“I don't prefer it, however then once more [Cardi B and Minaj] confirmed that is what hip hop was about,” Brooklyn-born DJ Miss Milan says in regards to the feud. “If you had an issue with any individual, you'd pull as much as that individual like, ‘What's good?’ And I really feel prefer it's simply extra pinned in opposition to girls as a result of we're recognized to be ‘catty.’ But particularly how instances are altering now, we're simply exhibiting that we're about the identical bullshit that you just males are speaking about [in your music] — besides we're actually about that motion now.”
According to Ryte, the trade performed a job additional igniting the messy saga. “It’s attention-grabbing: [the media] will make an entire story a few lady, and so they’re not gonna do this with a man! [A label] can have a [male] artist, and so they’re not attempting to determine what they had been doing earlier than they began rapping, how lengthy they’ve been rapping — they don’t suppose that method. But when a girl comes alongside, hastily it’s like ‘Oh the place did she come from?’ You can’t do this. Of course you need to know in regards to the individual, however it ought to all the time be in regards to the report.”
Marisa Mendez — host of Dash Radio’s Marisa Explains It All — agrees, telling Billboard: “Some of those web sites do polls, like, ‘Who is your favourite, Nicki or Cardi?’ Things like that don't have to be. Let's spotlight extra girls. I feel the media enjoys the Cardi vs. Nicki narrative and in that, there isn't actually room for different individuals. But I would like it to alter.”
In the midst of the Cardi B-Nicki Minaj chronicles, there have been nonetheless some feminine rappers who managed to seize the trade’s consideration. Mendez calls Oakland-based rapper Saweetie, the three dolls (the Rihanna-cosigned Kash Doll, Cuban Doll from Dallas and Dream Doll from the Bronx) and Tierra Whack as a few of her favourite femcees this yr. Miss Milan can be rooting for Saweetie, together with Crystal Caines, LightSkinKeisha and Bronx’s personal Maliibu Miitch. But regardless of their love for all the brand new faces, these trade leaders additionally face challenges of their office when attempting to offer a highlight to those that are deserving of it.
“Of course there’s been situations the place I’ve mentioned, ‘This report is tough, let’s help her’ — and generally there’s backlash,” Ryte explains. “With girls — not simply on this trade — now we have to show ourselves a lot greater than males. And that transfers within the music aspect of issues, the place that lady who’s attempting to interrupt via, has to work two, three, 4, 5 instances as onerous for individuals to simply accept her and say ‘I’m shopping for into this.’ And I feel that’s the place the problem lies. People don’t need to take a lot of an opportunity, which is unlucky, however we’re positively attending to a greater house generally the place girls are capable of shine.”
As we head into 2019, it's time to interrupt the cycle of inserting feminine rappers within the shadows of the rap sport. But it’s not as much as the ladies alone to make this variation — males additionally must step up and help the expertise as effectively. “That's what DJs have the ability to do,” says Mendez. “There could also be a lesser-known lady who's not essentially the preferred, but when she bought a report that’s good for a membership, simply throw it on. It's simply little issues like that that'll simply begin making a distinction and celebrating extra girls.”
From including a couple of feminine MC onto songs — with out the pairing being impressed by any drama between them — to label A&Rs looking for out undiscovered feminine expertise and even us shoppers acknowledging that there are a number of lanes in hip-hop, there are numerous methods this yr’s feminine rappers and those to observe can all stay related for many years to return. Miss Milan places it greatest: “We don't need to wait till they blow as much as superstardom for us to be like, ‘Oh sure, I used to be supporting her!’ Literally, we simply bought to proceed to push one another, have [the female artists] open up on excursions, put them on information. Let's give them a shot the identical method they’d give a male a shot. We simply want the identical respect and vitality.”