‘I Guess’ is Kathy Iandoli’s battle cry of #shruglife. It’s everything that impresses us and unimpresses us—which could be one in the same given the day.

I love Lil’ Kim.

I love Nicki Minaj.

I love Lauryn Hill.

I love Remy Ma.

I love Rapsody.

I love Cardi B, City Girls, Kamaiyah. My list goes on and on and spans generations because, contrary to popular belief, there can and has been more than one woman at a time in hip-hop.

Last week (August 10), Nicki Minaj dropped Queen a week early and, yeah, there are jabs a’plenty. We can pick apart the lyrics, say things like “OMG, LOOK WHAT SHE SAID HERE!” and determine for ourselves who she was referencing, but really the only people she called out by name were the men on “Barbie Dreams.” However, there was an added layer of unnecessary that arrived when the album did.

First, there’s the unbridled confidence of Nicki Minaj, something most write off as pure ego which—let’s be real here—could theoretically be added to the elements of hip-hop. But in her case, it’s constantly checked off as narcissism, and it’s enough to have people listen to her album with a built-in disposition. Then, of course, there’s the subject of Lil’ Kim and how Nicki’s place in the world has somehow made Kim a sacrificial lamb. It’s as if to suggest Kim’s too fragile to handle anything that comes her way, despite history proving otherwise.

When Lil’ Kim was interviewed a short while back by Real 92.3, once again she was asked about Nicki. Forget her new jam “Nasty One,” forget her legacy in rap. No, let’s ask about Nicki Minaj for the umpteenth time. And Kimberly Denise Jones handled it with aplomb. She wished Nicki the best and sent her love. End of story. It’s grown women things up in here.

That doesn’t mean Kim won’t drop a track next week saying she’s shitting on her competition and, yes, that competition includes Nicki. That’s the spirit of rap. That’s the #sport. Nicki is an active participant, as is Kim. Men are allowed to play, yet when women do it’s a proverbial cat fight, and in this instance Nicki is seen as the bully and Kim is seen as the frail victim. You obviously don’t know Lil’ Kim’s history if you believe the latter. And as for Nicki, when she spoke during her CRWN interview yesterday (August 14), she emphasized how she “can’t not have the top position” based upon her longevity. After going strong for a decade, is she wrong? No. Does that mean someone can’t creep up and suggest the same about themselves (good, bad, or indifferent)? No.

How many men walk around and declare themselves the G.O.A.T.? How many? Count them. You can’t. There are too many. It’s a fucking G.O.A.T. farm. Yet when a living legend like Lil’ Kim says she is, and a building legend like Minaj claim they both are, it becomes the Hunger Games and social media becomes a free-for-all of playing the blame game when the end result should be just making more music. The music might make jabs, the music might make threats, but that’s the been the art of the game for 45 years now.

A few years ago, I went to the late Prodigy of Mobb Deep’s apartment wearing a Tupac Shakur T-shirt by complete accident. Now if you remember, Tupac’s venomous track “Hit ‘Em Up” took shots at everyone, including Mobb Deep. At the end of the song, ‘Pac makes a jab at P’s sickle cell anemia, the disease that ultimately took his life in June of last year. So imagine me walking up to Prodigy’s home and realizing what the fuck I was wearing. Prodigy opens the door, looks at my shirt, and says “Nice shirt” with a laugh. I’m mortified, yet when I walked in, what was on his wall? A Tupac poster. Seriously. ‘Pac was one of his favorite rappers and that line on “Hit ‘Em Up” didn’t stop that. In fact, P laughed at the line, and said to me a bunch of times how he wished he and ‘Pac could’ve mended fences since they had so much in common. I hope they did that in heaven. I still get hate mail from Prodigy fans who comment that I wore a Tupac T-shirt on Instagram, not knowing that P didn’t give a single fuck and still doesn’t in the afterlife.

I also used the phrase “Summer Jam screen” around Prodigy. Remember in 2001 when JAY-Z performed at Hot 97’s Summer Jam and showed childhood pics of P dancing on the large screen? Well, the “Summer Jam screen” phrase has become a euphemism for publicly disgracing someone and, yeah, I used that around Prodigy, too. He laughed at that as well.

There’s a point to all of this. In the art of rap, people talk shit. Constantly. For years. Some have died over it, but most live for the competition. And in the limited number of successful women in the rap space, it’s easy to see why the consensus is that we as women can’t handle the insults. But it’s really a game of numbers. I mean, Cardi doesn’t care. Remy doesn’t care. Kim damn sure doesn’t care. Nicki probably doesn’t care either, but as part of the game she still feeds the ether. Everyone does in their own way. Men do it all the time, so why can’t Nicki? And why the hell would anyone think words could break Kim?

So back to Lil’ Kim, the epitome of a ride-or-die chick. She endured the heartache of losing Biggie, went to prison for perjury, and has watched on as the world attempted to dethrone her when she’s one of the biggest reasons why women are still thriving today. Do you really think any of this Nicki stuff fazes her? Like, really? Let’s stop acting like Lil’ Kim isn’t tough as nails. So is Nicki. Let’s not forget Nicki watched her house burn down from her father’s hands when she was younger. Platinum plaques and success don’t wipe away the scars that either of them possess. There are strong women here, and they don’t get along. Who cares? Two movie quotes come to mind here: One is from Dangerous Minds when Michelle Pfieffer yells, “There are no victims in this classroom!” The other is from A League of Their Own when Tom Hanks yells, “There’s no crying in baseball!”

Queen is still a great Nicki Minaj album, and Queen Bee is still a great rapper.

And for those who think Lil’ Kim is scarred by any of this, here’s another hard truth: Kim is from the emotionally Teflon era. She’s not seeped in millennial feels. She’ll be fine. Kim understands the sport more than anyone, and deep down Nicki knows that. When every man in hip-hop gets along, then we can suggest every woman does too. In the meantime, get over it.


A Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj fan (don’t @ me)

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