Nicki Minaj and Cardi B: How White America Thrives on the Exploitation of Black Female Rivalry

By Maggie Kurnyta

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Contemporary representations of Black female musicians almost necessitate some kind of professional or personal rivalry, and both Nicki Minaj and Cardi B fall victim to this type of white luxury. As we too frequently witness, America is accustomed to exploiting Black bodies and culture, pitting successful artists against each other in an effort to control Black social success. The conflicting, often intersecting aftereffects of this racist misogyny significantly target Black women who cannot exist together in any realm of professional prosperity without threatening white fragility.

We expect this to happen, and we pride ourselves on continuing this racist tradition. It comes as no surprise to anyone in white America that all public figures, predominantly those of color, must overcome many hurdles, yet women of color endure much more aggressive remarks, too often linked to their femininity (or lack thereof) and their race. If past First Lady Michelle Obama had to endure vicious public criticism about her own physical presentation, then it seems hopeless to assume that the media will ever subscribe to any ethical code of conduct that removes personal critiques from unbiased reporting.

However, Nicki Minaj still rose up the ranks to become rap’s most notable self-proclaimed “Black Barbie,” solidifying her success as both a talented rapper and a skilled businesswoman. White America was comfortable with one female rapper…that is until Cardi B arrived to claim her own spot on top of the charts. The reaction was quick and dangerous, and within weeks, an alleged feud between the two artists was the dominant narrative sold to audiences.

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Despite both women vehemently shutting down these rumors, the feud was only further exacerbated by media outlets and interviewers. White America capitalized on and exploited a nonexistent competition until it eventually led to the obvious conclusion: America is only comfortable with one Black female rapper at a time. Neither Black economic success nor female solidarity has ever been America’s strongest pillar, so it shocks very few to see another feud between equally talented women of color sparked mostly by white fragility.

White luxury can only handle Black women as pieces of entertainment that compete against each other for America’s attention. This is not the first time that female rappers went to war for the esteem and overall acceptance of the American public, and it definitely will not be the last. For examples, see Lil Kim vs. Remy Ma, Nicki Minaj vs. Remy Ma, and Azealia Banks vs. Cardi B. Surely, feuds are common within the music industry, and these rivalries are not isolated incidents. Yet, the distinction between female feuds and male competitions is rooted in a deep-seated American belief that only a certain amount of people of color can be successful at any given time.

Despite claiming to be a post-racial nation, America can stomach Black success in very small doses. It is for these reasons that affirmative action is seen as an African American quota system and why the term ‘reverse racism’ has been coined by fragile white Americans. Economic success, especially at the hands of Black Americans, has been a constant fear; when the means of economic production include raps critiquing a hegemonic status quo, like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B do, it further targets an unsteady balance of white patriarchal power.

As women of color, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B already face significant obstacles within the professional industry and their unique lived experiences. They remain some of a few recognizable women of color in a rap industry so permeated with racism and misogyny that their success should be used to pave the way for newcomers and aspiring artists. Instead of eagerly awaiting a definite winner from this falsified feud, we should hope for solidarity and collaboration. If Nicki Minaj and Cardi B ever decide to rap together, they could take over the world and dismantle the patriarchy, but I never want to spoil a good ending.