Female rappers have been killing it this year. 2018 kicked off with newcomer Cardi B’s entry as she dropped her epic debut album, Invasion of Privacy. Filled with hits, the record proved that Cardi’s a strong contender who could knock Nicki Minaj—the self-crowned queen of rap—off her throne. But Minaj is back. And she’s planning to reclaim her spot with the release of her aptly titled fourth LP, Queen.
Is there enough space at the top for two? We put them through five rounds of match-ups to find out which boss babe deserves to rule over the hip hop world.
ROUND ONE: Collaborations
It’s no denying that both Nicki Minaj and Cardi B are two of the hardest-working rappers in the industry today (the latter even continued making music while pregnant). Since their debut, they’ve each been involved in a string of collaborations.
Cardi B, despite being newer to the scene, has got herself a fair share of features and guest spots. She’s made appearances on several of Migos’ songs and connected with the likes of SZA, Kehlani and Chance the Rapper. But nothing beats Onika Maraj’s track record of joint efforts.
From Drake to Lil Wayne to Kanye West, Minaj’s worked alongside many of the top artists in the hip hop scene. “Her work ethics speaks volumes and has yielded these results,” Weezy praised Minaj in his 2016 love letter to the Pink Friday rapper. To date, the femme fatale has worked on almost a hundred collaborations and features. Phew.
Winner: Nicki Minaj
ROUND TWO: Genre-crossing moments
We’ll admit: Minaj’s got some high-profile genre-crossing moments throughout her decade-long career, having teamed up with Madonna, David Guetta and Justin Bieber. But she’s no match for Cardi in this round.
And it’s thanks to “I Like it.” The colorful, summery single was destined to be a hit, cleverly blending trap and salsa over a sample of Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 track, “I Like it Like That.” It earned Cardi the title of the first female rapper with two number-one songs on the Billboard Hot 100.
Winner: Cardi B
ROUND THREE: Music videos
Colorful wigs? Check. Flamboyant, bedazzled costumes? Double check. Oh, and make sure to throw in a couple of Lambos and lots of bling to top things off—because these divas don’t play when it comes to churning out lavish music videos. Seriously, who else in the rap game puts in that much effort into their visuals? So, it’s only fair the ladies tie this lap.
Some memorable MV moments from both sides include Cardi B’s retro-inspired “Bartier Cardi” clip and Minaj’s explicit video for “Anaconda.” Of course, who could ever forget “Superbass,” the bubblegum pink clip that practically launched Minaj’s OTT alter-ego, Harajuku Barbie.
ROUND FOUR: Freestyle
Fact: Nicki Minaj and Cardi B can rap. But when it comes to commanding steady flow and spitting fire punchlines—Minaj’s got all the goods. Her rhymes ooze with sass, swagger and wit, and earned the Queens native her street cred among her peers. It’s safe to say that her killer mic skills (and series of diss tracks) essentially paved her way to success.
In 2007, Minaj released her freestyle “Dirty Money,” taken from her mixtape, Playtime is Over. The track even (allegedly) kickstarted her infamous feud with fellow rapper Remy Ma. “Tell that b*tch with the crown to run it like Chris Brown / She won three rounds, I’mma need a hundred thou,” she fiercely rapped over Remy Martin’s “Yeah Yeah Yeah.”
Winner: Nicki Minaj
ROUND FIVE: Vocal chops
Outside rapping, the ladies have proved that they possess serious vocal chops, too. On Cardi B’s mellow hip hop track “Be Careful,” off her debut full-length, the rapper’s soothing pipes are on full display as she drips with charisma, threatening her beau to watch his back.
But for this final round, we’re gonna have to hand it to Nicki Minaj. If you’ve listened to 2014’s The Pinkprint, you’d know why.
Although the platinum record features rap hits like “Anaconda” and the Beyoncé-assisted anthem, “Feeling Myself,” the album also has an impressive collection of R&B jams tucked between her hip hop-heavy beats. Just lend a ear to ballads like “Pills & Potions” and “Grand Piano,” and the New Yorker will show you she’s more than capable of carrying a note or two.
Winner: Nicki Minaj
OVERALL WINNER: Nicki Minaj
There you have it, the ultimate Queen B. Bow down, b*tches.
Nicki Minaj’s Queen is set to drop on August 17.