(March 1, 2024). Cardi B dropped a brand-new single today (Friday, March 1) — her first solo song in three years — titled “Like What (Freestyle),” a tune that samples Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Missy Elliott’s 1999 hit “She’s a Bitch.”

But it’s the shade she throws at other female rappers in the song’s lyrics that’s likely to draw more attention in this era where MCs are only as good as their most recent diss track about other MCs.

Cardi knows this all too well, as “Like What” joins her long list of tracks that have taken aim at her opposition, most notably her biggest opp, Nicki Minaj.

Cardi B’s “Like What (Freestyle)” is just over two minutes long and was directed by estranged husband Offset.

And while rappers rarely drop names of their beef targets in song lyrics, there’s no mistaking who Cardi is coming for in “Like What,” as she takes thinly veiled jabs at the Rap Barbie, including a gut-punch line that this blogger finds hilarious, especially considering how much attention Minaj pays to the Billboard charts that Cardi is clearly referring to in the following line:

“You dumb, you slow, you wildin’/ Got your first pair of Ricks, now you stylin’?” She follows that with, “Everything you got, I had five years before/ I put it on the ‘Gram (haha, haha) ‘fore it even hit the store, look.”

The “Ricks,” of course, are Rick Owens shoes, but the “five years before” refers to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” the song she took to No. 1 on the Hot 100 as a solo artist in 2017, five years before Minaj hit No. 1 for the first time solo with “Super Freaky Girl” in 2022.

And it’s the “Pink Friday” rapper’s response to Cardi’s latest attack that could determine its fate on next week’s charts. The question is: will Minaj once again (over)react and generate even more buzz for the only female rapper with more No. 1 songs than she has?

Or has the Barbz’ leader learned her lesson from the “L” she took a month ago when Cardi’s former duet partner Megan Thee Stallion dropped what became her third No. 1 single (and first in over three years)?

The backdrop:

Both Cardi and Nicki have had other No. 1 tunes on the Billboard Hot 100, mostly in collaborations with others, including when Cardi and Megan Thee Stallion teamed up on the now-iconic “WAP” in 2020. But in recent years, with the exception of “Super Freaky Girl” and Cardi’s 2021 solo hit, “Up,” the two have had modest results when it comes to the chart performance of their own singles.

Still, there’s nothing like a rap beef to stoke interest. And it’s that interest that drives chart performance these days… not necessarily whether the song is actually good or not, a determination that is always subjective anyway.

Take the most recent No. 1 song by a female rapper, Megan Thee Stallion’s “HISS,” released just over a month ago (but that now seems like ages given its plummet into obscurity). Upon its release in late January, the song garnered plenty of interest, initially on its own merits as people dissected Megan’s very heated lyrics directed at other rappers, but mostly for the reaction of its purported main target, Minaj.

Upon learning of Megan’s somewhat clever reference in the song to “Megan’s Law,” the legislation that requires convicted sex offenders to register as such in their state of residence, Nicki, whose husband Kenneth Petty has been entered into the Megan’s Law database of California, went into complete retaliation mode, responding in multiple radio station interviews and social media posts (including jabs about Thee Stallion’s deceased mother). Nicki even released a new song within days of “HISS,” entitled “Big Foot,” a clear reference to Stallion’s famous shooting (in the foot) by now-convicted rapper Tory Lanez in 2020.

Megan Thee Stallion’s “HISS” has 19 million views on YouTube since its release Jan. 26, 2024. The song debuted at No. 1 in February.

It was Nicki’s viral reaction that stoked further interest in “HISS,” as people wondered aloud what could have caused the self-anointed Queen of Rap to descend into the kind of meltdown she apparently did after Megan’s song streeted. Streams of “HISS” actually increased throughout its release week and when it became apparent the song had a shot at overtaking Jack Harlow’s “Lovin On You” at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Megan’s label released remixes and other versions of the song to capitalize on the buzz.

The result became official on the chart dated February 10 when “HISS” debuted at No. 1, making Megan one of only three solo female rappers to do that, along with Minaj (“Super Freaky Girl”) and Lauryn Hill (1998’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)).

Maybe Megan’s “HISS” would have made No. 1 without the buzz created by Minaj, but it’s doubtful.

None of the “Hot Girl Summer” rapper’s singles as a lead artist had made the top ten since 2020’s “Savage” featuring Beyonce (No. 1 that year). And her last major release, “Bongos” with Cardi B, was considered a flop by most standards when the song drummed out at No. 14 in 2023.

“HISS” was likely doomed for a similar fate before Minaj unwittingly stumped for it. The song fell from its No. 1 debut to No. 13 on the following week’s chart, then to No. 48 last week, and now No. 68 on the latest Hot 100. Few No. 1 songs in the chart’s 65-year history have made as precipitous a drop from the penthouse as “HISS” has in just three short weeks.

Cardi B in “Like What (Freestyle)” (2024)

Now it’s Cardi B’s turn in the rap ring, with “Like What (Freestyle).”

But Cardi kept her beefing lyrics old school, with boasts of chart prowess and accusations of phony friendships — the line “First, that bitch hate me, then this bitch hate me, and somehow they link up and they become friends, like, how?” is purportedly aimed at City Girl rapper JT and her allegiance to Minaj — substituting for below-the-belt jabs about her rivals’ family members.

And it’s that safe lane that will likely prevent her biggest rival from having the kind of reaction that would stir up even more buzz and send the song into streaming heaven (and to the top of the Hot 100).

Perhaps Minaj has learned her lesson and will steer away from creating any social media content that would drive fans to click on the original trigger. Or, given how savvy rappers are these days about how the Billboard charts work, she’ll at least refrain from causing any viral moments during the first week of release when interest in the song is at its highest.

So far it’s been crickets from Minaj, but her loyal Barbz fan base has definitely responded to the release of Cardi’s “Like What.” The song currently sits at No. 2 on the iTunes chart after just 15 hours of release behind one song: Minaj’s own “Pink Friday Girls,” from her three-month old Pink Friday 2 album.

Given the fact that iTunes performance feeds the Billboard charts and that “Girls” was nowhere near the top of iTunes just a day earlier, it appears there’s an all-out effort by Minaj’s fan base to prevent “Like What” from topping the charts.

That’s a fate that depends on a number of factors beyond a rabid fan base’s coordinated efforts to drive downloads and streams. The song’s own merits and Cardi’s popularity are also key factors.

But so is Minaj’s reaction and how far she’ll go in “promoting” the song with her own reaction.

We’ll find out as the week progresses. In the meantime, welcome to the new age of how songs get to the top of Billboard’s charts.


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

DJRob (@djrobblog) on Threads

You can also register for free (select the menu bars above) to receive notifications of future articles.

By DJ Rob

Your thoughts?