It's an agonizing task picking out Nicki Minaj's 10 best one-liners – a lot like selecting hay from a haystack. Hell, on 2012's "The Boys," she crowns herself "Punchline queen, no boxer though," and when inspired, she even bests Lil Wayne, her boss and mentor. There may not have been enough room for some of her topical one-liners ("You're like balloon boy, mama, you was never there!") or wordy subliminals ("Now which bitch want it, 'cause that bitch get it/I gave him to you, bitch, don't fucking forget it") here, but these 10 disses are all close to perfect, showing the rapper at her sharpest, funniest and most ferocious.
"Fuck I look like, ho?/I look like 'yes' and you like 'no'"
The best way to get somewhere isn't always a straight line, but this time, the direct takedown worked, immediately popping up in Facebook statuses everywhere. The line can be deceiving because it couldn't get any more basic – as opposed to #basic – but anyone who waves it off is just mad they hadn't thought of it first.
"I think I'll have a rap bitch for my entrée/'Cause they be thinkin' they can spit, spit shine my shoes"
Ah, fan favorite "Itty Bitty Piggy," a track often brought up as an example of the Mixtape Nicki day-one fans still light candles for. The song features vintage Onika – E train line Onika – hitting bar after bar like it's Santacon, and this is the clear highlight. Close runner-up: "I don't fuck with pigs, like As-salamu alaykum/I put em in a field, I let Oscar Mayer bake 'em."
"I just pop up on these hoes on some pimple shit/And put the iron to your face you old wrinkled bitch"
This couplet is funny for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that it's placed in a light song that samples Aqua and was produced by Will.i.am. But really, consider the lines themselves: Nicki twists the word iron from slang into literal hot press, such that just imagining this assault requires a couple of hours and Crayola crayons. It's so smart, so hilarious and so weird – as the best Nicki lines always are.
"Every shoot is hot; when I'm out, I'm spotted/They gone frame the receipt if I sign the dotted"
Nicki has made clear she wants to be considered shoulder-to-shoulder with Jay Z, and while no one stands quite as tall as Mr. Carter, it's very tough to argue with lines like this. Also, she wears heels, so she's that much closer.
"Your money mini, I ain't talking 'bout the Mouse, trick!"
Back when the BET Awards' cyphers meant something – before every mouth with an e-mail address got a chance to spit for DJ Premier – a still-untested Nicki Minaj showed the world she could out-rap any veteran. "Monster" would ultimately take her to another level, but this verse (and this line specifically) helped her get in the building.
"Yes I am an icon, that's me on your T-shirt/Thought you knew better! Do your fucking research"
As inescapable as Rae Sremmurd's song is and was, the tune is all hook and more filler. It was thus was nothing short of refreshing to hear Nicki chew through Mike Will's beat like it was frozen popsicle. Her voice may be inviting, but her words are as ferocious as ever. The preceding two lines? "Running this game for five years/Guess that's why my feet hurt/Wonder when they bite me/Do these bitches' teeth hurt?" Yikes.
"Yo, I employ these niggas/They be grown men but I little boy these niggas/Want the cookie so I gotta Chips Ahoy! these niggas"
In late 2013, Minaj had been quiet – too quiet, as these things go. Then at year's end, she threw a bagel to the birds, dropping an unofficial remix that opens with these three lines. It was a shock to the system – as far from pop radio as she could've gone – and with that she announced she was back in "album mode." (Not to be missed: this interview with the girls of PTAF, who were as surprised as anyone to hear Nicki rapping on their song.)
"Y-y-you fuckin' little whores, fu-fuckin' up my decors/Couldn't get Michael Kors if you was fuckin' Michael Kors"
Once again, Minaj – ever the performing arts school graduate – steps in and steals the spotlight. While Big Sean was busy thinking up more ass (a$$?) puns, Nicki ran to the well, signing an "I'm here, you're not" postcard in blood. To make it clear, though: Michael Kors has been in a committed relationship since 1990, so that hurdle's even higher than probably imagined.
"And I'll say, Bride of Chucky is child's play/Just killed another career, it's a mild day"
Nicki's voice – one of them – shows up at 3:36, ferocious purr and claws out, Giusseppe heels firmly in the sure stance. Then here, amid an unforgettable whirlwind of a verse, time slows down and she baby-talks her way through Temple of Doom-type surgery before returning to a caps-locked "Pink lips, thick ass, give 'em whiplash." Honestly, who even cares that Kanye, Jay and Ross are sharing her space.
"She got it twisted like a cock-eyed bitch/That's why I be in Mr. Chow's, you a Popeye's bitch"
Rare in every sense of the word, "Beef Stew" has Nicki breaking the "Money in the Bank" instrumental open with a crowbar. Lost to the sands of broken links – in 2008, the Internet wasn't prepped for loosies the way it is now – the verse could never be confused for her best, but there's absolutely no arguing with this couplet's pure, just-crossed-the-bridge neck snap. When people talk about Mixtape Nicki, this is what they dream of.