Nicki Minaj vs. Lil' Kim Beef: A Critique of History, Originality, and Respect in Hip-Hop

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From observing comments on social media, it's safe to say that lot of people don’t understand the beef because they don’t understand hip hop or the history of the culture. Yes, Lil' Kim did start pointing out how Nicki Minaj is copying her which is obvious and Stevie Wonder can see that, but who came out with the first diss joint? In hip hop culture, when one artist makes a diss record about another, they are supposed to make a response track. Nicki Minaj has made subliminal shots at Lil' Kim and other female rappers. To fully grasp this, you would have to listen to her older joints from when she was underground:

I’m comin for the crown Kim, that’s the word- "Hoodstarz" (2007)

How you in the game 15 years still ain't writin' ya own damn songs (2008 Freestyle)

I came up in it a lil' but self-centered, but did I kill a queen? "Hello Goodmorning" (Remix) (2010) 

It's obvious those were jabs at Lil' Kim. For instance everybody who know hip-hop know how people always allege that Lil' Kim did not write her rhymes. Let's also be reminded that Nicki Minaj claims she and Foxy Brown are good judies and Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim have an ancient beef. I wouldn't be surprised if Foxy Brown was behind the scenes amping Nicki Minaj up to be quite honest.

The gist of the beef is that Lil' Kim's "Barbie" fashion style was stolen by Minaj and she was never given credit for it which is 100% correct. I challenge readers to find an interview, written or on video, where Nicki Minaj is giving Lil' Kim credit for being the originator of the hip-hop Barbie style. Shouting someone out and then adding "But I'm here now" as Nicki did in the above video is not paying homage especially if you turn around and constantly sneak diss them and jack their style without paying respect. Nicki could have easily spoke on getting her Barbie idea from Lil' Kim. Everything sis has done towards Kim is a backhanded compliment.

Many people have stated that Lil' Kim is not the creator of the Barbie swag. Some even noted that Jamaican dancehall queens have been rocking the colorful wigs while Lil' Kim was a young girl in Brooklyn. Those critiques are correct as well, but my friends, who was the first mainstream female rapper/emcee in hip-hop to bring the Barbie style to life? That's the gist of the beef. The critique of Kim not being the "first" can be equivalent to stating something like the late Alexander McQueen not being the first haute couture fashion designer. Correct statement, but let's be honest: McQueen had very unique and over to top pieces throughout his career. If someone was to come and copy his pieces by detail and not give him credit, it would be wrong.

During the early days of the creation of hip hop, it was important to be an original artist. This did not mean you had to be as over the top as a Lady Gaga is today, but it meant that stealing the flow, style, bars, and fashion of another artist was a sin in the culture. Because of this push for originality, female emcees like Missy Elliott, Yoyo, MC Lyte, Da Brat, Foxy Brown, Queen Latifah, and plenty others stepped into hip hop royalty. Unlike much of the mainstream "hip hop" and rap music of today, 1980's and 1990's hip hop and hip hop artists created music with different sounds based on their region and sub genres. The differences is what made these female emcees important to hip hop and is what gave them a long lasting imprint on the culture.
The larger issue at hand is the generational gap that younger artists do not recognize as well as the pure ignorance and refusal of knowledge. Whether you like her or not, and aside from her plastic surgery, Lil' Kim is a pioneer and fashion icon in hip hop. The fact that even the older generation of radio personalities, djs, and fellow emcees who grew up in the same era as Lil' Kim fail to empathize with her, shows the lack of unity, the desperation and desire to gain approval from younger fans who are the core listeners of hip hop and rap music today. Many younger fans are also ignorant of the overall history and social and cultural impact of hip hop which leads to their blatant lack of respect for pioneers in the game.

So what do we do if new and old hip hop and rap artists fail to publicize the importance of respect and history in hip hop? I think it is the responsibility of the underground and grassroots hip hop cultural movements to continue to push the agenda of the importance of hip hop history so more young people can receive the information. Hip hop is more than dope beats and spitting over them, it is a culture that is long rooted in promoting unity, self expression, and creativity. If we do not keep this legacy and code alive, the art form will forever be doomed to deteriorate.

UPDATE November 2011: Watch the "Playtime is Over" documentary created by Team Lil' Kim. This goes into depth of how Nicki Minaj dissed and stole Kim's style. This documentary opened a whole can of whoop ass. I knew Nicki was stealing, but DAMN this is insane!

What's your take on the Lil' Kim vs Nicki Minaj beef? Share below!

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