What Hot 97’s Beef with Nicki Minaj Says About Ladies in Hip Hop


So, you should check out Carrie Battan’s snappy and smart Slate piece on the kerfuffle between Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj and the Hot 97 DJ.

In a nutshell: Nicki was about to play a big concert, when the sponsor radio station’s DJ started talking some smack about her song “Starships” before she performed, (“I know there are some chicks here waiting to sing ‘Starships’ later…. I’m not talking to y’all right now. F*ck that bullshit. I’m here to talk about real hip-hop,”). Nicki’s guru/label head Lil’ Wayne called Minaj and advised her not to perform at a festival where the sponsoring body was being crappy about her music. She didn’t play. Lots of people blamed her for chickening out/backing down/etc. Nic tried to smooth it over by having a radio chat with the DJ and he was kind of a dick about it, but she ended up sounding like a savvy business gal.


Battan makes an interesting observation that

…[h]ad Minaj performed, she would have likely appeared on stage with special guests Lauryn Hill and Foxy Brown, marking a generation-bridging milestone for women in rap music that could have proved far more entertaining than the feud that unfolded in the days after Summer Jam.

But the bigger question she tackles is whether/to what degree there was a gendered dimension to the DJ’s trash talk, Lil’ Wayne’s directives, Nicki’s response, and everyone’s expectations of everything in between. Did the DJ blast “Starships” because it was made, and seems to be enjoyed largely, by ladies? Did Lil’ Wayne step in as the authoritative male with orders/advice for poor lil’ Nicki? Did Minaj cower to these and other dudes in the whole situation?

Battan argues that even if there wasn’t any issues of lady bizniss in the initial slam about “Starships,” there certainly was in the phone interview between the DJ, Flex, and Minaj:

Flex, who was insufferably shrill and barky throughout the hour (“Flex, flex. Breathe,” she said at one heated moment), only bolstered Minaj’s eventual argument that this flap was all about gender. He fought Minaj on every point and interrupted her aggressively, particularly when she tried to bring the conversation around to the topic of gender. “I’m holding it down for women—” she’d begin. “I know where you’re going with this,” he’d butt in with an exasperated sigh. “You know Nicki, come on man, it wasn’t about you being a woman.”

The outcome, says Battan, is an implication that this kind of condescending shite would never happen to a dude version of Nicki.

…it’s hard to imagine Flex manically interrupting Lil Wayne several times a minute on the phone over a live radio broadcast. Or to imagine Lil Wayne letting him. Or to imagine Lil Wayne calling in and dealing with the situation himself, for that matter.

Maybe so. But just because Wayne probably wouldn’t put up with Flex’s attitude, doesn’t mean lady Hip Hoppers should roll that way:

Minaj has emerged as the grown-up, maneuvering the public discussion with Flex and Hot 97 where she wanted it to go. She’s made the testosterone-fueled DJs looks small and shown the PR skills that have propelled her to megastardom.

My thoughts on the matter are that Nicki and team Young Money know what they’re doing. Nicki couldn’t have gotten this far without respect from the YM crew. (Like, have you HEARD HOW TERRIFYINGLY AWESOME SHE CAN BE? ) She’s not a little girl waiting to be told what to do.

And in terms of Flex, it sounds to me like he’s more pissed off with the pop/mainstream feel of “Starships” than that it’s got mass lady appeal. But that mainstream-i-ness is, of course, what makes it more glossy and pretty certainly more “feminine” than Nicki’s more straightforward rap stuff off mixtapes, etc.

So does he have a problem with the ladies? I think it sounds more like he has a problem with what we expect of ladies— that they be simple, pretty, and cute, like the nature of “Starships.” And that kind of critique could actually be put in the pro-feminist bucket, if you ask me.

But I don’t know the dude and I wasn’t there and I also can’t read the minds of any of these people involved. So for now I’m gonna quit the jibba jabba and blast some Nicki while I bump to the beat. Holla, Carrie Battan, you gave me something cool to think through today.

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