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Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj: Who’s Mad at Whom?

In terms of social media oxygen consumed, not even Taylor Swift’s making it into the Super Bowl could compete with the weekend’s real main event: the very public drawing of battle lines between two titans of contemporary hip-hop.

Within 72 hours, Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion debuted dis tracks aimed at each other with varying degrees of directness. Here’s what you need to know about “Hiss,” “Big Foot” and what led up to hip-hop’s beef du jour.

At midnight on Friday, Megan Thee Stallion released “Hiss,” a three-minute dis track that comes in hot and gets hotter. The song, the second single from her coming third studio album, showcases the rapper in a defiant mode, unleashing bar after bar about her general peerlessness and how the news media uses her name “for likes and views.” “Every time I get mentioned,” she says in a fiery, no-holds-barred introduction, her detractors “get 24 hours of attention.”

But it was a line just under a minute into the song that touched off four days’ (and counting) worth of hostilities. Her adversaries “don’t be mad at Megan,” she raps, instead they’re “mad at Megan’s Law” — invoking a 1996 law requiring the registration and public identification of convicted sex offenders.

Many interpreted the reference as a dig at Nicki Minaj’s husband, Kenneth Petty, who was arrested in 2020 for failing to register as a sex offender in California. (Mr. Petty pleaded guilty to attempted rape as a teenager in Queens.)

While Ms. Minaj was not mentioned by name, she seemed to take the lines personally. On Monday, she released her own song in response, “Big Foot,” in which she makes repeated direct references to Megan Thee Stallion, including, notably, her 2020 assault by the rapper Tory Lanez, who shot her in the foot and is now serving a 10-year prison sentence. Ahead of its release, Ms. Minaj teased the single on X using an image of a visibly upset Megan Thee Stallion.

While Megan Thee Stallion’s track may appear to have incited the blowup, tensions have been simmering between the rappers for years. In 2019, Megan Thee Stallion was featured on Cardi B’s “WAP,” an immediate No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. Given Ms. Minaj’s longstanding, well-documented issues with Cardi B — at a New York Fashion Week party in 2018, things got physical — that may have spelled the end of the era of good feelings between Ms. Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion.

Ah, were we ever so young? Megan Thee Stallion and Ms. Minaj indeed collaborated on Megan Thee Stallion’s semantically fertile 2019 song “Hot Girl Summer,” which also featured the rapper Ty Dolla Sign. The music video earned an MTV Video Music Award and a BET Award.

It’s safe to say that the most ardently committed Barbz, as Ms. Minaj’s fans are known, remain squarely in her camp. But even some longtime supporters of Ms. Minaj may have been put off by an extended riff in “Big Foot” about a “dead momma,” given the death of Megan Thee Stallion’s mother in 2019.

Since the song’s release, many have taken to social media to express, if not surprise, then perhaps disappointment in the rapper. Ms. Minaj has had a reputation for public feuds with other artists including Taylor Swift, Remy Ma and Miley Cyrus.

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