Pitting female against female is a tried-and-true practice, one even more customary in the entertainment industry when the perception is that women are eyeing the same goals—album sales, movie roles, trophies, accolades and respect from their peers—and thus couldn't possibly act cordial or simply get along for the sake of professionalism.
And in the rap industry where beefs and diss tracks are as commonplace as expensive rides and guest verses? Well let's just say two women as talented and outspoken as Nicki Minaj and Cardi B would never have been able to exist at the same time without fending off at least a few rumors of a rivalry.
And in those initial months after Cardi dominated the summer 2017 charts with her impossibly catchy track "Bodak Yellow" that's what both insisted they were: just the expected, clichéd rumors that attach themselves to accomplished women simply trying to exist in the same field.
"I feel like people wouldn't even be satisfied if me and her was making out on a freaking photo," Cardi noted to Complex last October. "I feel like people just want that drama because it's entertaining."
By then the pair had teamed up to join trap trio Migos' on "Motor Sport," the hip-hop equivalent of saying, we're fine, nothing to see here. And bloody shoes were still for rapping about, not hurling at one's opponents.
But we'll get to that later.
Last fall's collaboration seemed to temporarily stem the rivalry chatter that had begun in earnest back when Minaj guested on Katy Perry's diss track "Swish Swish." The song, of course, was directed at Taylor Swift, Perry's pal turned frenemy, but the 10-time Grammy nominee, 35, added her own bad blood when she threw out the line, "Silly rap beefs just get me more checks," then name-checked Cardi's boyfriend (now-husband) and Migos member Offset: "My life is a movie, I'm never off set / Me and my amigos (no, not Offset)."
By May 2017, Cardi, who parlayed a stripping gig into a part on Love & Hip Hop: New York before launching her music career in earnest, was taking to Instagram Live to riff about the "fake" people she's had to deal with in the industry.
"I hate this s--t, I really, really do. A bitch like me, I was happier when I was macking in the hood," the New York native, 25, vented. "This s--t right here is so fake. When I used to be a regular bitch from the Bronx—a hood bitch—when somebody used to be fake to me it was cool because I could approach a bitch and punch her right in her closure...Now that I'm in the industry, you don't work like that, just have to watch s--t go, watch s--t go. You gotta see people play you and just say nothing like a d--k. That s--t is so wack my n---a like that shit be breaking my heart because the people, your idols, become rivals."
Coupled with her decision to join Minaj's avowed enemy Remy Ma at her Hot 97's Summer Jam festival performance that June, mere days ahead of the "Bodak Yellow" release, hip-hop enthusiasts began to suspect the reality star's ire was directed at Minaj. After all, she had joined a slew of other female MCs to sing "U.N.I.T.Y." ahead of Remy's performance of her Minaj diss track "ShETHER."
So when Minaj appeared on London on da Track's "No Flags" that August going off about "These labels tryna make another me / Everything you getting, lil hoe, is cause of me," the natural assumption was she was taking a dig at Cardi.
But, "It sure ain't," Minaj tweeted. "Wrote this one a cpl months ago too."
Nor was Cardi's verse on G-Eazy's "No Limits" (sample lyric: "Swear these hoes run they mouth, how these hoes out of shape? / Can you stop with all the subs? Bitch, I ain't Jared") a reference to Minaj. During a September visit to Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club, Cardi denied there were issues—"We just conversated man. And that's it,"—an insinuated her lyrics could be directed at one of many people: "People don't understand that I got beef with 10 bitches in the hood, and I still be in the hood."
Further serving her point, Minaj was quick to celebrate when "Bodak Yellow" made Cardi the second female rapper to top the Billboard Hot 100, tweeting, "Congratulations to a fellow NEW YAWKA on a RECORD BREAKING achievement. Bardi, this is the only thing that matters!!! Enjoy it."
Cardi's grateful response: "This means sooo much coming from you!!"
Then they teamed up for October's "Motorsport" proving they were two musicians strong enough to challenge each other for chart positions and trophies, but self-assured enough to come together in the interest of creating something great.
If only that were the end of the story.
Instead, rapper Joe Budden got involved, wondering on an episode of Complex's hip-hop podcast Everyday Struggle how the collaboration came together, speculating that Kanye West, a producer on the upcoming Culture II album, got involved and "suggested to Migos to put Nicki on this song." He continued, "I do not think that Migos or anybody stepped to Nicki and said, 'We have a record featuring Migos and Cardi and we would like you to get on it.' I don't believe that happened."
And, once again, Minaj was put in a position where she had to clear up a misconception. She and Migos' Quavo had always been on the song together, she wrote in a since-deleted string of tweets, "He called & asked if I think we should put Bardi on it, I said, 'ok let's do it.' The end."
Once again, it could have been. But of course it wasn't.
Because then the video came out and it became apparent that the three hadn't all filmed together. And while there are a number of reasons three busy musicians may not have been able to line up their schedules for a shoot, the conclusion everyone reached was that hostilities were so intense between Cardi and Minaj that they couldn't bear to share a set.
Minaj would later explain the problem was that her hairstylist wasn't available for the day in question, but by that time Cardi had already given a somewhat uncomfortable interview discussing the situation on Capital Xtra's The Norte Show.
Sharing they had met up and "spoke about things," she said about the collaboration, "When I heard the track, her verse wasn't finished. It was not the verse that is on right now. Quavo told me to get on the song, and I just felt it was a perfect opportunity for me to be on a track that's big like them. Cause those are two big people and I just started in the game, so I know that if I get on this record, it's gonna be crazy. Who doesn't want it?"
Despite the line of praise, Minaj was left unimpressed with the interview as a whole, tweeting the next day, "The corniest thing you can be is ungrateful. Give thanks."
Months later, while promoting the new singles off her fourth disc Queen, she explained her annoyance on Zane Lowe's Beats 1show Apr. 12. "The only thing that Cardi did that really hurt my feelings was the first interview after 'Motorsport' came out," she noted. "It just really hurt me because the only thing she kept saying was, 'I didn't hear that verse. She changed her verse.'"
Her words left Minaj feeling "ambushed" she said adding, "Quavo...wanted her to be on a record, for keeps. She begged to be on 'MotorSport.'" And since no one was corroborating her version of things, she said, "All of them allowed me to look like I lied and even with the scheduling conflict, she's using my hairdresser now, so even he can attest to the fact that there was a scheduling conflict."
What's worse, she continued, save for a soundbite Cardi had given just days earlier on Beats 1 saying the feud is "really internet made-up," she felt as if the up-and-comer had never shown the proper respect.
"I really fully supported her and up until this recent interview I had never seen her show me genuine love in an interview," she said. "I can just imagine how many girls wish they could of been on a song with Nicki Minaj. I'm not saying it in a cocky way."
So lines were drawn and a showdown was set for May 7's Met Gala and everything was...fine.
Call it divine intervention in keeping with the premiere fashion event's Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination theme, but the pair appeared to hash things out as Moschino designer Jeremy Scott (Cardi's date and Minaj's close friend) looked on.
"I never was feuding with anybody," Cardi would later insist to Howard Stern of the confrontation. "There was a misunderstanding. She felt a certain type of way about something and I definitely felt a certain type of way about something. Didn't want to ever talk about it in public because I felt like we gonna see each other again and we will talk about it."
Dressed in their Met Gala finest, she said, they were able to work out their problems with nary a shoe removed. "It's always little issues but the thing is, fans are always gonna make it a big thing," she told Stern. "I spoke to her about it. It's just like, see? It was just something that it had to be talked about."
Of course, that was then.
Last Friday, at another elite fashion bash—the fifth annual Harper's Bazaar ICONS party—the disputes where much larger and Cardi wasn't about to let a few layers of tulle or some platform heels slow her down. Having caught wind, as she would later say on Instagram, that Minaj was "liking" comments about her being a bad parent, the mom to 2-month-old Kulture Kiari took action.
Minutes after she worked her Dolce & Gabbana ballgown on the runway, talking to E! News about her newborn daughter and the return of her flat stomach, Cardi stormed into New York's iconic Plaza Hotel in search of her target. She found her, surrounded by security and other entourage members, atop the second floor balcony and, as Christina Aguilera kicked off her performance, went on the attack. In one video she can be heard screaming "Bitch, come here," in another, she's threatening, "I will f--k you up!"
Some cameras caught her bending down to remove, and then launch, her heel—a repeat of a move she made on the 2017 Love & Hip Hop reunion—but much of the scuffle itself was blocked by the sheer volume of the opposing squads. Most of the celebs gathered missed the melee ("I ain't spilled no tea. Tiffany don't got nothing to do with this," Tiffany Haddish joked to E! News, adding, "I hope that nobody get bit though,") but pretty much the whole of the Internet caught the final result. Mere minutes after the fracas began, Cardi was escorted out her dress torn, her shoes and chunks of her hair extensions missing and a sizable welt, presumably caused by an errant elbow, growing on her forehead.
"It was so fast!" an onlooker told E! News. "Once I heard someone screaming—everyone recognized Cardi's voice—people either got out of the way or took out their phones and started filming. Nicki was surrounded by a bunch of guards and barely even looked at her. Next thing you know, shoes were flying and Cardi was on her way out."
All that was left was the inevitable aftermath.
Though no police reports have been filed, receipts are being shown. Mere hours hours after the incident, Cardi posted a lengthy Instagram explanation she captioned, "Period."
Without directly mentioning Minaj she maded it fully transparent that she's of course mentioning Minaj, writing, "I've let a lot of s--t slide! I let you sneak diss me, I let you lie on me, I let you attempt to stop my bags, f--k up the way I eat! You've threaten other artists in the industry, told them if they work with me you'll stop f--kin with them!! I let you talk big s--t about me!"
Referencing their face-to-face chats, she continued, "I addressed you once in person, I addressed you a second time in person, and every time you copped the plea!! But when you mention my child, you choose to like comments about me as a mother, make comments about my abilities to take care of my daughter is when all bets are f--ing off!!"
Then, chiding her for not fighting back—by all accounts Minaj stood calmly as Cardi screamed, kicked and punched in her direction, she concluded, "This s--t really is for entertainment."
And it's true, because at this point, with emotions ratcheted to their highest level, followers are constantly refreshing their social media feeds to catch the saga's next installment. Minaj's every move from posting pictures of herself at the high-class event to dancing to her song "Hard White," thought to be a Cardi diss track, are being dissected as the rapper's potential answer to Cardi's post. And of course this afternoon's Queen Radio show became a must-listen event as Minaj went off, calling the entire encounter "so mortifying and so humiliating to go through."
Defending herself against the accusations, she continued, "I want to say that I would never discuss anyone's child. And it's so sad for someone to pin that on me, because I'm the bad guy and they know people would believe them. So, let me just go on record having said I would never talk about anyone's child or parenting. I don't care about anyone's parenting. I don't give a s--t. And it's so crazy to me that people always need to make Onika the bad guy. If you're right in whatever you're doing, you don't ever have to make someone the bad guy. Just speak your truth."
At this point we'd expect nothing less from both sides than speaking their truth—often and loudly and sometimes in verse. Stay tuned.