What a difference two weeks make.
In the world of hip-hop, rap beefs and diss songs are nearly as old as the genre itself, and there are usually always winners and losers – at least in the minds of hip-hop heads who follow these things.
A few weeks ago Cardi B was winning.
In the mostly media-fueled beef with Nicki Minaj, she had rap’s self-named Barbie backed against the ropes. Both of their 2018 albums had dropped with Cardi’s outselling Nicki’s and generating not one but two No. 1 singles, a feat Nicki still has yet to achieve.
In fact, Nicki’s caustic reaction to her dismal sales numbers – and to her No. 2 Billboard chart placement (behind Travis Scott) in August – all but proved she was losing, and sorely. Sure, her resultant tweets and radio show rants may have been directed at Scott for his alleged chart manipulation antics (something they all do by the way), but make no mistake, it was clearly the fact that she was being outdone by Cardi that drew her ire (if you don’t believe that, rewind the tape to Nicki’s last album, which also peaked at No. 2, minus the Cardi element and minus the angry reaction from Nicki).
Then the other shoe dropped…literally.
Following that infamous New York Fashion Week event a couple of weeks ago, Nicki’s Barbz awoke to the (good, for them at least) news that Cardi B had taken a hard left turn from the high road and crashed miserably. Video footage emerged of the former reality TV star being restrained as she lunged to attack Minaj at the high-profile event. She was shown being escorted away by security while shouting threats and hurling her red shoes in the older rapper’s direction.
Cardi later tweeted about the incident, defending herself and – without naming Nicki – calling the rap Barbie out for sneak-dissing her and slandering her parenting of new baby, Kulture. But the damage was done.
And just like that, sentiment began to shift in Minaj’s favor.
Now reports are surfacing that people in the industry are not as supportive of Cardi as they were just weeks ago. Her label, Atlantic Records, is reportedly not happy with her latest antics and fellow artists are unfollowing her on social media. Several YouTube clips have surfaced by people who apparently know her, describing allegedly similar ratchet behavior directed towards them and others as Cardi ascended the hip-hop ladder.
All of this must make Nicki Minaj and her Barbz feel pretty smug now. It’s all the ammunition the “Barbie Dreams” rapper needed to boast a point she’s long maintained, which is – between her and Cardi – only Nicki is worthy of wearing the female hip-hop crown, whether the recent chart numbers reflect it or not.
As of now, they still don’t.
Cardi’s huge No. 1 hit single “I Like It” has been lodged in Billboard’s top three since June. Two weeks ago, Nicki dropped the video for “Barbie Dreams” and that still wasn’t enough to propel the song into the Billboard Top 10. So musically, Cardi maintains the upper hand, which means radio and her diehard fans are still behind her, even if recent public sentiment isn’t.
And that leads us to the other high-profile rap beef generating hip-hop headlines the past few weeks: the Eminem vs. Machine Gun Kelly squabble.
It may be hard to believe, but this one actually seems more petty than the ladies’ feud, although – just like the Cardi-vs.-Nicki saga – it was apparently set off by one rapper’s parenting instincts and a perceived slight by the other rapper involving the first rapper’s offspring.
In Eminem’s case, the current flare-up started with the release of Kamikaze, his latest album which topped the chart earlier this month and contained the MGK diss track “Not Alike.” Many believe the diss was Em’s reaction to Kelly’s six-year-old tweet about how “fucking hot” the legendary rapper’s daughter Hailey was (she was only 16 at the time, MGK was 22).
The beef escalated a week later when MGK released the diss response, “Rap Devil,” a play on Em’s “Rap God.” “Devil” topped the iTunes download chart upon its release and debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 13 this past week, MGK’s highest solo ranking yet.
Then, like a sleeping bear who’s been poked one too many times, Eminem unleashed one of his most venomous diss tracks yet, “Killshot,” which not only took direct aim at MGK, but showed that the younger rapper is most likely out of his league when it comes to going toe-to-toe with one of the wittiest lyricists to ever grab a mic. (All props to MGK for being bold enough to try, though… few have been brave enough to punch Em in the mouth over the years.)
Machine Gun’s next move, however, is where the sucker part comes into this feud.
At a live show at the Amway Center last week, the rapper allegedly tricks the audience into taking sides by taking a selfie with his back to the crowd after requesting they all hold up middle fingers, which they did. He then turns around to reveal he’s wearing a t-shirt with the cover art for “Killshot,” before launching into “Rap Devil” – to a backfiring chorus of boos from the crowd.
When the pic was posted on MGK’s Instagram account, some angry fans responded by exposing the rapper’s antic and letting the world – including Em – know they were duped into dissing him.
That alone would be a victory for Eminem, except, as icing on his proverbial cake, “Killshot” goes on to secure the highest one-day YouTube streaming total with 38 million views last Friday/Saturday. Those kinds of numbers, when combined with song streaming and downloads, could set Eminem up to get his first No. 1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100 in almost five years, something that clearly wouldn’t have happened if MGK hadn’t provoked him.
Now MGK has gone on record with a response to “Killshot,” dismissively calling it a “leg shot” and claiming the more veteran rapper “missed” – but we know Em didn’t – all on the eve of releasing his new album, Binge, early Friday morning. The buzz from all of this could be enough to give the 28-year-old rapper his own first No. 1 when the numbers are tallied next week (despite the album being immediately panned by critics).
In fact, the mere fact we’re even talking about MGK this long has to be somewhat of a victory for the rapper out of Cleveland who now even has a secondary beef brewing with rapper G-Eazy, another lesser known artist who likely wouldn’t mind cashing in on all this drama.
So the biggest beef ever between two white male rappers continues, and quite frankly Eminem probably needed this injection of excitement to get himself back on top. MGK just happened to be an easy target who fell into the trap and continues to take the bait.
Or, as has been speculated by many, perhaps all of this was a ploy by Interscope Records, to which both Eminem and MGK are signed. The label’s bottom line certainly benefits from both artists’ increased profiles this year.
When all is said and done, neither Cardi B nor MGK are dead in the rap game. In fact, MGK is more relevant in September 2018 than he’s ever been, thanks to this beef with Eminem, who accurately predicted the younger rapper would likely benefit from Em’s “generosity” with this exposure.
And Cardi can certainly rebound from her NYFW misstep. Besides, it’s not as if her fans didn’t already know she had some ratchetness in her.
Rap beefs are sometimes as essential to hip-hip as dope beats are, and it’s the buzz from them that can make the rappers’ street cred go up (or down). Which rapper wins the battle is usually determined by fans and depends on where their allegiance lies. Time will tell where these current high-profile, and still-escalating beefs will end up.
But one thing’s certain: Eminem and Nicki Minaj have clearly benefited from their younger challengers’ recent lowball moves in these current feuds, and both will gladly take it.