There’s a particular track on Nicki Minaj‘s sprawling, long-anticipated new album, ‘Queen’, that has ruffled the internet’s feathers more than others. It’s called ‘Barbie Dreams’ and sees the rapper run through a series of laugh-out-loud, thrillingly rude rhymes about male rappers that she has – and there’s no other to say this, I’m afraid – bonked. Reader, she was not satisfied by these dalliances. Of course, it’s all tongue-in-cheek (easy now), a joke, not a diss or necessarily based in fact.
Nevertheless, headlines over the weekend howled that “Nicki Minaj TRASHES Drake & DJ Khaled in new diss track” and promised to catalogue “Every rapper Nicki Minaj dissed on ‘Barbie Dreams'”. And it’s easy to understand why, in this age of outrage and online hysteria, listeners would take the track at face value. A sample of the jaw-dropping lines on ‘Barbie Dreams’:
“I tried to fuck 50 for a powerful hour / But all that n—a wanna do is talk Power for hours” (50 Cent’s in a TV show called Power)
“Used to fuck with Young Thug, I ain’t addressin’ this shit / Caught him in my dressing room, stealin’ dresses and shit” (Young Thug famously wears women’s clothes from time to time)
And, best of all, she takes the piss out of sadlad Drake’s tendency towards emotional, heartfelt rap: “Drake worth a hundred milli, he always buyin’ me shit/ But I don’t know if the pussy wet or if he cryin’ and shit.”
Along the way, she also lacerates DJ Khaled (“Had to cancel DJ Khaled, boy, we ain’t speakin’ / Ain’t no fat n—-a tellin’ me what he ain’t eatin'”), Fetty Wap and ex-boyfriend Meek Mill. Given the heat the track received, Nicki was moved to explain ‘Barbie Dreams’ on her Beats 1 radio show. “You guys know ‘Barbie Dreams’ is not a diss, right?,” she said. “It’s just some funny shit. I love them. I said things about people who I know can take a joke and won’t be emotional about it. Reading the reactions to ‘Barbie Dreams’ is fucking hilarious. Everyone is saying how disrespectful ‘Barbie Dreams’ is, and that’s why I fucking love it.”
I love the controversial track because of the place it assumes in hip-hop history, and the classy way it finally lays Nicki’s beef with Lil Kim to rest. At the start of ‘Barbie Dreams’, Nicki purrs, ‘RIP to B.I.G; classic shit,” referring to the 1994 Notorious B.I.G track ‘Just Playing (Dreams)’, which uses the same guitar refrain and those same lyrics, “Just playin’, but I’m sayin'”. On his version, Biggie documents all the female R&B singers he’d like to, erm, romance. Two years after the release of ‘Just Playing (Dreams)’, Lil Kim put out her debut album ‘Hardcore’, which was executive produced by Notorious B.I.G, with whom she was in a relationship. The album contains ‘Dreams’, a track that uses a similar riff to Biggie’s and sees Kim catalogue all the R&B musicians and rappers she’d like to have her way with (“What the deal on that Prince cat? / He be lookin’ kind of fruity / But he can still eat the booty”).
Kim and Nicki have been feuding since 2007, when it was alleged that the cover for Nicki’s mixtape ‘Playtime Is Over’ lifted from the artwork from ‘Hardcore’. When the pair met shortly afterwards, Nicki claimed Kim threatened “to snatch her larynx out”. On and on it went, until recently they cooled the argument. Speaking on the American radio station Real 92.3, Kim said: “God bless [Nicki], I wish her the best… If we gonna mention one female, we need to mention them all. We need to bring everybody in and we need to show everybody love.”
For her part, it seems Nicki has waved the white flag with ‘Barbie Dreams’. Yes, she shouts out Biggie, not Kim, but he co-authored ‘Hardcore’ (which is surely in top five hip-hop albums ever) and, given the subject matter, Nicki’s track more closely resembles Kim’s ‘Dreams’ than his version.
‘Hardcore’ is so brilliant because it sees Kim, sick of male rappers drooling over women in their lyrics, decide to out-filth them at every turn. It’s a mission statement that Nicki has picked up admirably – and, as such, she is arguably the Lil Kim of 2018. Despite the excitable headlines about the ‘disses’ Nicki Minaj laid down with ‘Barbie Dreams’, the song’s more about her and Kim than it is about the men she takes the piss out of.