Monday, February 13, 2012

On Nicki Minaj... Again

My relationship with Nicki Minaj has been rocky. Like Chris Brown & Rihanna rocky. I loved her, then I hated her, then I tried to go back, that didn't work out, so now we're off again. But last night after her Grammy performance I had a deep convo with a couple of my homegirls and I feel the need to break some shit down about "the Mistress".

After the performance, as I tweeted in disgust my homegirls were declaring that Nicki Minaj is "still a black girl" and is "breaking down and creating dialougue about black girl sexuality, respect, and identity politics in her performance and overall presentation." On the surface, I can rock with that claim. She is definitely not a representation of "traditional sexy" and is willing to LITERALLY (note Roman) be different people. But among those colorful, tall wigs and dresses made of Hello Kitty dolls did we forget that this is the same woman who continuously wraps her fake ass in the tightest neon spandex she can find? Did we forget that she, too, rocks the leotards and swimsuits as "outfits"? Have we not seen an equal amount of cleavage from her as we have from her rapping fore mothers? And I ain't mad at it. I'm just trying to be critical about this "progressive" pedestal she's on.

Lyrically, Nicki Minaj is a BEAST. This chick can rap her ass off! I haven't and never will doubt that fact. Additionally, she's not afraid to be self reflective and encouraging to other women in her rhymes. But on the flip side, she indulges in alot of the same shit that most rappers do: materialism, glorification of a specific body type, and all the other shit we love? about rap music these days. Also, she has a habit of flaunting her newfound wealth and coming down pretty hard on "broke bitches" who "disgust her". I wonder if she's referring to all the poor and working class women who consume her music and do indeed have to look at the price tag first.

As an artist, her "image" is of importance. And while her stunts and antics definitely do not fit inside black girls' traditional boxes, there is still nothing original about her. One of my homegirls said that people are mad because Nicki Minaj is on some "Lady Gaga shit" and that we loved her when she was on "that Lil Kim shit". And then of course there was the all too famous line "Why we mad because she gettin money?" I have several points about this because it nicely sums up alot of the key dialogue around Nicki Minaj and female entertainers in general.

1.) One of Nicki's breakthroughs was when she paid homage to Lil' Kim with her "Lollipop picture", but during the remainder of her time as an underground artist (think Gucci Mane's "Slumber Party" or "Failure", she's featured on both), very little of her persona mimicked Lil Kim. It was actually just a little before "5 Star Bitch" and other more commercial hits were released that we began to witness her hair color change and she started repping for the Barbies (a saying also used by Kim first). Prior to that, she was simply a chick from  Queens via Trinidad, and referred to herself as the Mistress. The point here is that Nicki Minaj could have still "made money" riding the Lil' Kim train. America loves a sleeze (no shade), especially one of color.

2.)  As an artist, fans are duped when you rip off another artist's swag. So, as an artist, moving from Lil' Kim's swag to Lady Gaga's swag was not a step forward for Nicki Minaj. Why? Because she's not Lil Kim OR Lady Gaga. So the important question becomes... Why are Gaga knock offs prioritized and more accepted than Lil Kim knock offs? A Black girl mimicking a white girl rebel doesn't get a pass just because she's a Black girl doing it. It seems to me that we are still afraid of Lil' Kim, her sexuality, and what that type of "bad exposure" means for Black women. Yes, we need to be critical about representations of Black women as hoes and sluts, but if one of our goals is to validate women who do indeed like to "hoe around" (respectfully of course), why are we so pleased that Nicki has "taken a different route"? P.S.- Have ya'll listened to Gaga's lyrics? I'm a fan and I have. She got some freak in her, too.
And while we're on the topic of sexual politics, how many of you remember the Nicki Minaj that was openly bisexual? No? Probably because she didn't stick around long. As she grew in popularity, she denied that she slept with women, then, when challenged on the denial, she suggested that all of us common folk were just too shallow to understand what she ever meant anyway. And now we all her love her apparently heterosexual self. Go Nicki.

3.)"Why are we mad that Nicki Minaj getting money?" Well, why are we mad that Nike makes money by exploiting women in third world countries for cheap labor? Why are we mad that Walmart is making money by mistreating their employees? Why are we mad that white music exec are making money off of Black rappers and leaving them broke when the contracts are up? Why are we mad that slavemasters were making money off the slaves? Making money is not the end all, be all. If the shit ain't right, it ain't right. We still have to hold people accountable for their actions. Period.

I can respect that Nicki Minaj is willing to take risks, be criticized, defy the politics of respectability (kind of), and make sucky pseudo pop music then call it rap expand the hip hop genre to different groups in order to set herself apart in the game. And yes, she definitely creates conversation (hence this long ass post). But as a consumer, what I thought I was getting was a female rapper. Not a pop singer with no vocal ability and a completely unoriginal gimmick. Plus pseudo pop has never suited me. And don't get me wrong, her image as "the Mistress" was problematic as well (Black women can not, under ANY circumstances, be separated from their pussy, right?), but I felt like I was seeing a real, talented rapstress.

I think the rap game needs a Black woman who speaks truth to power and is simply herself, creatively. But I don't think the industry, or it's consumers who are equally compelled to be anything but themselves, are ready for that. And they probably won't be for a real long time.


  1. I LOVE YOU! I love this! I could not put my finger on what is was I didn't like about her... I couldn't figure out what I was missing that everyone else was seeing- particularly when folk talk about how she "breaks boundaries" (because I definitely want to be down for someone- especially a Black girl- who breaks boundaries). You hit it right here: "So, as an artist, moving from Lil' Kim's swag to Lady Gaga's swag was not a step forward for Nicki Minaj. Why? Because she's not Lil Kim OR Lady Gaga. So the important question becomes... Why are Gaga knock offs prioritized and more accepted than Lil Kim knock offs? A Black girl mimicking a white girl rebel doesn't get a pass just because she's a Black girl doing it." Why is it that folk of color get mad dap when they manage to do shit like white people do??? The spirit of integration politics remains internalized in us. So, for sure, I give her an Black girl artist respect but I'm doing cartwheels about her. Sure, her performance last night was "something you won't forget"... but not for the reasons I think, she thinks.

  2. YES! i love this post...but here's the thing. you forgot to mention Gaga is a repeat Madonna!!!!!!!!!!!!! The thing about Nicki is that she tries soooooo hard. It was cool when she was paying hommage to Lil Kim, but now she's tryna diss her like she ain't "new to this". I'm not too familiar with her A&R, but I'm sure she has a lot of creative control and is trying to do what's cool and popular and will give her the most recognition. it's working but it's also embarrassing. ...just my thoughts!

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