Nicki Minaj doesn’t need frauds or snakes. She doesn’t need Meek Mill, and she certainly doesn’t need narrative continuity. In her new, much-hyped music video for “No Frauds,” Minaj sets her sights on one particularly egregious hater. Hint: her name rhymes with Shmemy Shma.
As a chart-topping crossover queen recently freed from her bum boyfriend/financial co-dependent, Minaj ought to be savoring her success. Unfortunately, Love & Hip Hop’s resident rap icon Remy Ma took Minaj’s queen bee status as an opportunity to air out a decade’s worth of old receipts. Remy’s subsequent diss track, “shETHER,” took aim at Nicki’s sexual history, her brother’s legal troubles, and her Achilles’ ass implants.
It’s going to take a little more than some Meek Mill gossip and a Barbie butchering to dethrone Nicki Minaj. Of course, if Minaj has one weakness, it’s the fact that she simply can’t rap like Remy Ma can. She’ll always be a hip-hop star, but Minaj is more or less a pop performer at this point. While being mainstream has its advantages—money, fame, and a lot more money—it also opens a rapper up to criticism from old-school artists and hip-hop traditionalists.
Still, in the Remy vs. Nicki beef, Remy’s edge was no match for Nicki’s star power. When Nicki failed to immediately clap back with a diss track, she was criticized and mocked for not being up to Remy’s challenge. Then Minaj reunited with Drake and Lil Wayne to release three insta-hits in quick succession. The message was clear, but since Minaj isn’t one for subtlety, she also spelled it out for us: “Here @ Young Money, we don’t do diss records, we drop HIT RECORDS & diss u ON them.”
Nicki Minaj doesn’t need to deal in savage diss tracks, because her selling power and commercial appeal is undeniable. Like Drake before her, this rap beef will only make her more of a star, guaranteeing lots of headlines and even more hits. Of course, for an artist who’s trying to come off as unparalleled and unperturbable, Minaj sure is taking some cheap digs at Remy Ma.
To understand how much of a middle finger “No Frauds” is, one must first understand that Drake is always trying to get into everybody’s pants. One must also understand that Drake buried Nicki Minaj’s ex-boyfriend, Meek Mill, under a pile of savage memes back in the summer of 2015. The fact that Minaj got her boys back together for this collaboration means two things: one, that she was startled enough by “shETHER” that she wanted back-up from two huge names, and two, that Meek Mill could probably use a hug right about now.
Directed by Benny Boom and co-starring Lil Wayne, Drake, and Big Ben, “No Frauds” opens on a shot of Weezy and Nicki in matching thrones. Many things about this music video are not clear—Why is Drake dressed like a ‘70s pornographer? Why couldn’t Minaj’s team make this set look more like London? Why are they in London in the first place? —but the regal imagery is not one of them. Nicki Minaj wants you to know that she is the undisputed queen of hip-hop, even if that means having an unlimited scepter budget and twerking in front of Buckingham Palace.
At first, it appears that “No Frauds” might be a lyric video in the style of “Only,” Minaj’s tone-deaf, fascist ode to never sleeping with Drake. But the closed captioning quickly fizzles out and Nicki proceeds to give us what we came for: elaborate rhinestone headpieces and slow-mo shots of old-timey British gates opening and closing. There are also multiple red double-deckers and even a bagpipe—as if to say yes, this video really was shot in London (which isn't entirely true, due to the fact that Lil Wayne wasn’t allowed in the U.K.). After a full day of sightseeing, Nicki unwinds by going back to her hotel and changing into something more comfortable: a black mesh one-piece and cropped boob corset. She then spends a verse or two walking down a nondescript London street, surrounded by smoke machines. The point is, it’s very foggy where Nicki Minaj is—which is definitely London.
Things start to really heat up when Minaj and her crew head to the club. At this point in the track, Minaj is going in on Remy Ma: “What type of bum bitch shoot a friend over a rack? / What type of mother leave her one son over a stack? / Lil Boogie down basic bitch thinkin' she back. / Back to back, oh you mean, back to wack? / ‘Back to Back’? Me and Drizzy laughed at that!” In order to really rub that line in, Minaj brings Drake onscreen so the two of them can literally giggle together on camera.
We need to talk about Drake. Drake is no stranger to being brought on set as a male-shaped accessory, basically meant to stand there and takes turns grinding or being ground upon. So it’s confusing why the rapper couldn’t do his one job on “No Frauds,” which is to not distract from Nicki Minaj. Instead, Drake decided to grow a full beard, pair his yellow tinted aviators with a patterned silk bomber jacket and tacky-ass jewelry, and trot out some of his patented corny dance moves. Look, Drake, we know “Hotline Bling” was fun for you, but this isn’t your music video or the set of American Hustle. You just know Rihanna made an offhand comment once about how sexy turtlenecks are, and Drizzy has refused to wear anything else ever since.
Overcome by the Aubrey Graham of it all, it’s easy to miss a crucial component of this scene: the multiple seconds-long presence of Rah Ali, Remy Ma’s VH1 co-star and former best friend, who now appears to be firmly team Nicki. Featuring Ali is the pettiest decision Nicki Minaj has made in this entire music video—it’s just one step short of beating up a Remy Ma piñata or making out with a hologram of Papoose. But hey, all’s fair in love and hip-hop.
Now that Drake is done rapping about how Nicki Minaj ages like a fine wine—Drake ghostwriters, please put us out of our misery—Nicki is back in her throne with Lil Wayne by her side. Minaj is wearing a Medusa-inspired dress, thigh-high gladiators, a crown and a face mask that’s dripping with pearls. Lil Wayne is wearing a black hoodie, plastic sunglasses, and his signature Styrofoam cup. Of course, this music video isn’t about Young Money, ill-matched couples, or the codeine-based concoction that’s slowly killing Lil Wayne. It’s about Nicki Minaj, who ends the video with her eyes closed, crowned and triumphant, slowly filling the frame.