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Bad Meaning Bad: Nicki Minaj, Lil' Kim and Keri Hilson

"Hot damn, ho, here we go again."
—Lil' Kim, "Quiet Storm (Remix)," 1999

With new seasons of Bad Girls Club and Basketball Wives on the horizon, the nonorganic beef between black Barbies Lil' Kim and Nicki Minaj, plus singer Keri Hilson's B-rated porno, er, video, the HBIC isn't what it used to be. If it was ever anything at all. With so many challengers clamoring for the title spot — with dis tracks and yanking-out tracks — being the baddest might actually mean just that.

Way back in June, rapper Lil' Kim explained why she wasn't a fan of female MC Nicki Minaj, whose first album, Pink Friday, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard music charts on Nov. 26. According to Kim, the young Ms. Minaj wasn't paying enough "homage" to the Queen Bee.

Apparently there are customs in the hip-hop court that we commoners aren't familiar with. "For the last year, she has been subliminally taking shots at me," Kim told "Anybody that's in the hip-hop industry, we know how this game goes … we know it's a competitive sport and little people are going to try to claim their spot."


The main track in question is Minaj's "Roman's Revenge." In one of her many voices, Minaj raps, "Nicki, she's just mad 'cause you took the spot," followed by the requisite allusion to toilets and the old saying, "Sh— or get off the pot." Guesting on Kanye West's "Monster," Minaj spits, "So let me get this straight, wait, I'm the rookie? But my features and my shows 10 times your pay."

In most interviews, however, the Young Money rapper has refrained from mentioning Kim directly. Minaj told Hot 97 recently that Kim "really jumped out the window," implying that the other rapper's reaction was over the top and knee-jerk. The whole thing was very Paris and Nicole circa 2005: "She knows what she did."


Fast-forward six months and Kim, who hasn't dropped any new material in nearly two years, decided to send the younger "femcee" an early Christmas present in the form of a dis record that's more coal than gold. In "Black Friday," Kim calls Minaj a "little Kim clone clown" and goes on to reference pop-cultural tipping points from decades ago: Bobby Fischer, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson and Peg Bundy.

All the while, Brooklyn's Queen Bee uses a flow and delivery that is extremely reminiscent of Minaj's own and that of most of the other graduates of the Lil' Wayne School for Rappers. If imitation is flattery, then each woman should be gassed by the other. But the beef still smells fishy. When everybody's flinging drinks (something that happens in almost every episode of Basketball Wives), doesn't everybody just end up wet?


Mans told that her poem, also called "The Mis-Education of a Barbie Doll," was more dare than dis. She wants to challenge women in the entertainment industry to stop self-objectifying and embrace womanhood (as opposed to simply sexuality) in their art as the continuation of a canon that includes Toni Morrison, Lauryn Hill and Assata Shakur.

Mans' mission-statement poem clearly didn't make the rounds in Keri Hilson's camp. While the Barbies had at each other last week, "Ms. Keri, baby," the self-proclaimed "pretty girl," was putting her lady parts on display. In the video for her single "The Way You Love Me," Hilson redefines the abbreviation "NSFW" (not safe for work) with a crotch shot way below her pay grade.


Perhaps some women's studies class is trying to dissect her performance as a venue for female empowerment, but they'd be wasting their time. In 2009 Hilson told Complex magazine, "I don't want to be oversexed! I don't want to sell sex;I want to sell music. I want to inspire others; I don't want to be one of those people who's always throwing their body at the masses. What good does that do?" What a difference a year makes.

The cliché "sex sells" is an old one. From the original Foxy Brown to this millennium's self-proclaimed black Barbie dolls, mainstream examples of African-American women shaking the dollar tree by shaking it are tenfold and, honestly, nothing new. But when women of color and of obvious talent use their Minx nails to claw their way to the top of the topless pyramid, everybody loses for winning.


Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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