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Explaining the war of words between Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Two of hip-hop's biggest stars are now going after each other. Overnight, Nicki Minaj released a rapid-fire response track. Her target was Megan Thee Stallion and the new single she dropped on Friday. So what prompted this falling out? Well, NPR Music's Sidney Madden is here to explain. Hey, Sidney.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: Hey, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: So Megan and Nicki have worked together in the past. And at one time they seemed to support each other but not so much lately, I gather. What's happening here?

MADDEN: Yeah, they were one-time co-collaborators and co-signers of each other. But in order to get into what's happening this weekend, we got to back up a little bit. We got to talk about everything that's coming out of Megan's single, "HISS." So Megan as an artist, her rise in the public eye and the rap game - it's happened very simultaneously as she's endured a lot of tribulations these last few years. She was shot in the foot in 2020 by Tory Lanez. She was ridiculed, slut shamed and doubted for being assaulted that way. And she went through a very public trial. And she dealt with a lot of fallout even as a victim of that incident. And so the single "HISS" that she dropped on Friday was basically a response to everything she's been through in the last couple years. And she's airing out everybody, including Nicki. So on the track, she throws a subliminal diss at Nicki's husband.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HISS")

MEGAN THEE STALLION: (Rapping) These [expletive] don't be mad at Megan. These [expletive] mad at Megan's Law.

MADDEN: And you can hear there she says they're mad at Megan's Law.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. What's that mean?

MADDEN: Yeah. Megan knew everyone would go do their Googles to find out what that means. And it's a federal law requiring law enforcement to make info about registered sex offenders available to the public.

MCCAMMON: Oh, yeah.

MADDEN: And it was clear that this was a shot at Nicki's husband, Kenneth Petty, because he is a registered sex offender, and he was actually on house arrest last year for failing to register as one. So even though she didn't say Nicki's name in the track, it was clear that she was talking about Nicki and her family.

MCCAMMON: So how did Nicki Minaj respond to all this?

MADDEN: From there, it clearly got personal for Nicki. Nicki spent the entire weekend responding on social media and dropping hints that she'd be releasing a response record to this. And then at midnight - I mean, technically, Monday morning - this song "Bigfoot" drops. And the whole track is about Meg. The biggest diss on the song is that Nicki made fun of the fact that Meg was shot in 2020, not believing that Megan was shot in the first place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIGFOOT")

NICKI MINAJ: (Rapping) Kylie kicked you out and made you stumble to the car. Barbz, I need a good alcohol bar. Roman, wait. That was the bar. Like a bodybuilder, I keep raising the bar. [Expletive] you. Get shot with no scar.

MCCAMMON: So sort of casting doubt on her whole story.

MADDEN: Exactly, bringing us back to 2020, 2021, when a lot of people publicly ridiculed and disbelieved Megan in the public eye.

MCCAMMON: So, Sidney, how has this fight between Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion - how is it different from other rap beefs that you've seen?

MADDEN: There's a couple different variables at play here. First, we should say that this is a very active beef, and there's still more songs and more disses and more jabs to come from this. But hip-hop is a competition. It's one of the cornerstones of rap. And Nicki, as a fierce competitor - we can just say right now that "Bigfoot" is not her best work. But more importantly, in the age of social media toxicity, a lot of rap beefs are purported and sometimes false but that they kind of spiral out of control based on how the fanbase is mobilize around this information or misinformation.

Nicki's fans - they're called Barbz in the past. And actively right now they are doxing people, which means their personal information is being leaked online in a way that can put them in danger. It's just something that's happening online that is now way too casual of an occurrence. In the past, people have leaked where people's kids go to school, photos of their children, and it's all in the name of a feud between two celebrities that they don't actually know. So rap beef can definitely be exciting. It can move the culture but not when they move to putting real-life people, the celebrities and the fans included, in danger.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR Music's Sidney Madden. Thanks for your time, Sidney.

MADDEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEGAN THEE STALLION SONG, "HISS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.

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