Nancy Kerrigan Versus Tonya Harding : A Rap History
An ice skating beef from '94 has inspired MCs for over a decade.
Eighteen years ago Tonya Harding, a professional figure skater, helped cover-up a plot to cripple her main rival. Harding's ex-husband hired a goon to kneecap Nancy Kerrigan, her rival in the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, when Harding found out about it, she did what every hero would do - she kept quiet and reaped the rewards. It wasn't a very sporting moment, but it was a surprisingly inspirational one. Not for jealous skaters, but for MCs.
When K’naan dropped the line "You bring me to your knees / Nancy Kerrigan" in his new single “Hurt Me Tomorrow”, it wasn’t much of a surprise. Ever since that assault on poor old Kerrigan, the world's rappers have kept the names of both skaters alive. Here’s a look at shout-outs to Kerrigan and Harding throughout the years.
Big Daddy Kane, “The Way It’s Going Down”
The line: "Steppin' to the Kane with some drama to be starting / because I put 'em all on ice like Tonya Harding"
Context: Kane raps about how tough he is by comparing himself to athletes of the mid-90’s like Riddick Bowe and Tonya Harding. Also, at one point he rhymes “prophylactic” with “gonna get your ass dicked.” Which is great.
Diamond D (ft. Big L, AG, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe), “Five Fingas Of Death”
The line: “Gotta do my thing, word up, beg ya’ pardon / time to bounce, gotta skate like Tonya Harding”
Context: Lord Finesse delivers the Harding shout-out on this posse cut. Bonus points to the MC for keeping the focus on Harding’s prowess on the ice, not just her proclivity towards evil.
Organized Konfuzion, “9xs Out Of Ten”
The line: "I'm hitting you harder than Nancy Kerrigan on the shin / fuck it if niggas can't comprehend"
Context: Organized Konfusion’s breakout star Pharoahe Monch delivers a verse about how wack rappers who aren’t in Organized Konfusion are. Typical, yes, but considering the fact that Kerrigan's leg was only bruised by the assault, rather than broken, not too threatening.
Insane Clown Posse, “Terrible”
The line: "Oh my god, look at that, turn it up please / poor Nancy Kerrigan's sweet little knees"
Context: Violent J uses Kerrigan as an example of America’s preoccupation with sensationalized news and not the real shit that Juggalos care about. Swearing, rapping, pretending not to care about the whole 'magnets' thing.
Lil Kim, “Aunt Dot”
The line: “See, it’s sorta like what Tonya Harding did to Nancy / they don’t want you to win no more”
Context: The Queen Bee alludes to the beefing figure skaters when rapping about the way that she’s been treated by the music industry, in a rare example of a rapper identifying with Kerrigan over Harding. Which must be nice for Nancy; I hope she got to meet Lil' Kim.
Binary Star, “Evolution Of Man”
The line: “I want you for the rest of my life and time is starting / your love makes me weak in the knees like Tonya Harding”
Context: In a forgotten bit of Okayplayer-style late-90s positive hip-hop, Binary Star’s The Anonymous gushes about how in love he is with the group’s Brenda J with a reference to a bitter psychotic attack. It's a bit like writing: "Babes, my love for you is so heavy/ like that IRA bomb in Birmingham City."
The line: “Slam people into doors, become retarded / in another life, smoking crack with Tonya Harding”
Context: Remember when rappers tried to prove how weird they were? In this one, Cunninglynguist’s Kno nearly libels Tonya Harding right after talking about masturbating to pictures of Janet Reno. Right on!
MC Lars, “Straight Outta Stockholm”
The line: “I hit you with these flows like your name was Nancy Kerrigan / here and back and there again, atypical American”
Context: You’d think that most Kerrigan references would come from novelty rappers like MC Lars here, but all those other rappers up there got here first. Which makes this Lars' most 4-real rhyme.
The line: “Can’t be nice, right? Can’t be arrogant / I stab a bitch over ice, Nancy Kerrigan / slash Tonya Harding / see the mobsters mobbing”
Context: To be honest, this song kind of reveals Cam to be rather stuck in the 90s. At one point in it, he also brags about spending the night with Vivica A. Fox and namechecks Amy Fisher.
Lil Wayne, “Put Some Keys On That”
The line: “I got the hardest bars, just call me the warden / yeah, excuse me, pardon / I break a bitch down like Tonya Harding”
Context: There’s not really any context for Weezy’s verse that makes sense. Pretty sure he was just looking for things that rhymed with “warden” and “pardon.”
B.o.B., “Strange Clouds”
The line: “I hit her with that pipe, call that Nancy Kerrigan / stay on the greenest greens, call us vegetarians”
Context: B.o.B. had just turned five years old when the Harding/Kerrigan shit went down. But when he needed something to rhyme with “vegetarian,” where did he turn? That's right, the old-as-shit ice skating beef. BOOM!
K’Naan, “Hurt Me Tomorrow”
The line: “I need a button I can push so we can start again / ‘cause you bring me to my knees, Nancy Kerrigan”
Context: It’s another sentimental Kerrigan reference, this time with K’Naan hashtagging her name as he tries to cajole some young lady into not breaking up with him. That probably totally worked even though it barely makes sense.
Follow Dan on Twitter @DanSolomon