Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe” is supposed to be a diss track aimed at Lil Kim, but in the tradition of diss tracks, it’s pretty weak. Something like Jay-Z’s “Takeover” uses specific, personal information about the people involved, going so far as to propose a mathematical equation at one point. Even Lil Kim’s diss of Nicki, “Black Friday,” gathers together evidence about Nicki (she is weird, she has a large butt) and Kim (she is real, she has been around for a long time) to make its case. The diss track is a lawyerly form, accumulating exhibits and summarizing with a killer closing statement to produce a unanimous jury decision.
Nicki can do that (“Lemme get this straight, wait, I’m the rookie?”), but on “Stupid Hoe,” she mostly doesn’t. She takes a few shots, calling Kim “Bubbles,” but none of these hit much harder than her “Tragedy” verse, which itself felt perfunctory. As a track, it’s a good one, minimal, loud, and aggressive. But as a diss, it’s incomplete without the video, which came out Monday.
Nicki Minaj, “Stupid Hoe”
Here, Nicki’s real genius shines through. Take the sequence where she’s in a cage. Some people weren’t thrilled about it, but it’s meant to be mocking Kim, not displaying Nicki. Notice the leopard-print, and the leopard itself, all a reference to Kim’s legendarily (hetero) man-baiting Hard Core poster; after prancing around in there for a while, we get the line “Top of that I’m in the Phantom lookin’ hella chunky.” The message is clear. Kim, who’s sacrificed her dignity to be a plaything of men, is caged. Nicki, who retains ownership of her own image, is in the driver’s seat—and looking good while she’s doing it.
Aside from this, Nicki generally declines to make any specific case for why Kim sucks. But that’s because Nicki is not trying to convince us rationally that she’s right. Instead, she just yells “stupid hoe” over and over, for three and a half minutes, in different voices, with different beats, in different outfits. And it works. The point she’s making isn’t (just) that Kim sucks; it’s that Nicki Minaj is so much better it’s irrelevant. That Nicki was able to make her case without any actual concrete evidence is so much more convincing than a strained-brow expression of “Batman could beat Superman in a fight”-type superiority would be. As good a lyricist as Nicki is, she’s also frighteningly good at communicating through tone, through timbre, through visuals, and through style. Like a great Jimmy Page guitar solo, even if there aren’t words, you get the point.
As the double-dutch you see being played at the beginning of the video makes clear, “Stupid Hoe” is very much supposed to be bratty and adolescent, the equivalent of coming into a Lincoln-Douglas debate and, when it’s your turn to respond, pelting everyone with eggs and running out of the room in search of something more fun to do. But within this mode, it’s not angry. Instead, it’s cuttingly comedic without ever breaking character. I’m 99% sure Nicki lovingly imitates Joan Rivers at one point (compare her expression and hair at 0:50 to Joan non-lovingly imitating a starlet) but you never think “oh, that’s Nicki Minaj telling us she’s imitating Joan Rivers.” Her style is so overwhelming (represented here by the seizure-inducing jump cuts that match the energy of the music perfectly) that it conquers the senses and opens you up to these different modes of expression.
Which is to say that Nicki Minaj is not interested in putting out your diss track. She could do it if she wanted to, but she doesn’t want to. Nicki’s not interested in playing our game. What Nicki wants is to start a new game entirely. The “Stupid Hoe” video, in its nearly untrackable explosion of styles, influences, and images, reminds us that she’s got a lot more in store for us than just more of the same.