Rap Goddess: Moving past a binary mentality for female emcees

Dariel Filomeno | Daily Trojan

When rapper Cardi B emerged from the Harper’s Bazaar Fashion Week ICONS event with a torn dress and a welt on her forehead, the internet lost its collective mind. The beef that had existed only in rumor between her and fellow rapper Nicki Minaj finally came to a head. Both sides spoke out on what they felt caused Cardi B’s outburst and within the week, most people who cared to have an opinion picked a side.

Rivalry is an integral part of rap. Biggie vs. Tupac. Jay-Z vs. Nas, Drake vs. Meek Mill. Rap beefs continue to push the genre forward by fostering competition and captivating audiences.

But, this feud is different. This isn’t two rappers going toe-to-toe with impressive flows and lyrical dexterity. Rather, it’s Cardi B and Nicki Minaj insisting their right to be angry was based on hearsay and the rabidness of their fan bases. The think pieces on the feud are well-intentioned, but are hardly worth the unnecessary drama and exhaustion of the ordeal.

At one point during the fallout, a Twitter user asked if there were any unproblematic female rappers at all. They were quote-tweeted a couple thousand times, and by the time it reached my feed, the most popular response was “Blue Ivy.”

Needless to say, I was disheartened. In fact, this exchange made me more upset than the vitriol between the two female rappers. It wasn’t what it said about them, but what it revealed about us — the consumers — and our role in the Nicki-Cardi fight.

The think pieces would tell you that this drama was avoidable. The problem is that we as a society habitually pit women against each other and encourage them to hate until it erupts with Cardi B throwing a shoe. It’s a good sentiment, but it’s been said before and kind of feels tired at this point.

Yes, we need to improve the music industry by supporting women instead of encouraging them to tear each other down. Girls are trained to judge each other at a young age. Women supporting each other is a radical notion that could really do some good.

The issue I have is that simply teaching women to respect each other won’t work if there aren’t any prominent women in the first place. Just look at the reviews for Minaj’s latest album “Queen.” I dare you to find one that doesn’t point out that for the longest time she remained uncontested as the preeminant female rapper.

Then came Cardi B, and some began to question Minaj’s place in the rap world. “Queen” is her clapback, a declaration that she is still relevant and worth taking seriously in a post-Cardi B world. Music critics and fans alike simplify the female rap scene to a binary, where your choices in are made out to be only Nicki Minaj or Cardi B.

Why is that? There’s clearly no shortage of rappers. The best rap album of 2018 so far was put out by a woman, and it was neither Cardi B nor Nicki Minaj. To prepare for her album “Chime,” Minnesota rapper Dessa participated in a brain imaging study to see if she could understand on a neurological level why she couldn’t get over an ex-boyfriend.

The resulting album deals with loss, heartbreak and the lived experiences of women in an authentic and mesmerizing way. There isn’t a bad song or wasted line, as Dessa asserts her dominance and lays out her shortcomings, backed with ambient synths and thundering strings. The self-proclaimed “vixen of the wolfpack” lays everything bare and takes no prisoners.

We’re not talking about “Chime” though. Instead, we’d rather get sucked into a vortex of pointless drama, while what could be the album of the year goes vastly unlistened.

That’s a shame. Dessa deserves better. Women deserve better. Why should we have to settle for either Nicki Minaj or Cardi B when there’s a whole world of female rappers out there waiting for the public to expand their horizons to?

We have the depth and talent to tip the male-dominated genre in our favor if we just cared to look out for it.

Instead of accepting whatever Spotify-curated playlists as the only viable musical option, we should be challenging ourselves by listening to the women rocking the boat and taking the world by storm with prowess and dignity. We must work on creating a scene that doesn’t encourage women to fight each other by first supporting the already established women who just need a bigger audience.

We can all have Nicki, Cardi, Dessa, CupcakKe, Jean Grae and every other talented female rapper so long as we open our ears. Maybe then we can move on from pointless internet feuds and get to a truly vibrant and gender inclusive rap game.

Baylee Shlichtman is junior majoring in journalism. Her column, “F Sharp,” runs every other Monday.