by: Cat Puttmann
This is a piece about why I feel like a disappointed parent when it comes to Nicki Minaj, but since I’m going to spend the bulk of it ripping her a new one let’s start out with the things that I like about her:
1. Style—Aside from that weird, regrettable Little Red Riding Hood-esque outfit that she rocked at the 2012 Grammys, I like the crazy hair and bold colors that she consistently wears all while embracing some of the hottest curves in hip-hop.
2. Emcee ability—The girl can spit and she’s cutthroat about it.
3. Assertiveness—Like I said, she’s cutthroat when she raps and I think that her delivery is sincerely aided by her attitude. There are a lot of god complexes in a lot of hip-hop’s artists, but I can appreciate them when they are warranted.
4. Pink Friday (2010)—“Roman’s Revenge,” “Your Love,” “Super Bass,” “Did It On’em,” etc. I could do without all of the hip-pop refrains woven throughout that album, but it boasts great verses, features, and production.
And scene. Now we’ve arrived at the way more fun part where I get to relay the various aspects of Nicki that irritate me, highly disturb me, or some combination of both.
We’ll begin with the fact that the public image she has cultivated for herself is a double-edged sword. Don’t get me wrong, I like that Nicki is wacky and outlandish and that she formed a sort of bridge between the female emcees of old school hip-hop and new talent such as Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks. Today the Chicago publication the RedEye did a feature on her pointing out just that and even went so far as to call Nicki and the women following in her footsteps femcees. I like that we’ve found room in hip-hop for the development of new and different identities for women in the genre; however. I think that Minaj’s style in particular is problematic because it makes her seem blind to the fact that a large percentage of her fanbase is comprised of young girls.
I mean think about it: she projects a very bubblegum, Bratz-Doll image, and who is going to be the most receptive to that type of persona? The same small children who are completely overjoyed when they get to the aisle of the toy store that’s dominated by the color pink. And it’s not who her audience is that bothers me, but the fact that the messages she sends them through her music not only lack consistency but can also be, well, pretty horrible.
I knew this whole pretty pretty princess thing she has going on was going to be a problem as soon as Pink Friday came out in 2010. Like I said before, I love that album, but it presents the same paradox as her overall public image. The woman that puts forth a strong sense of self in tracks like “Did It On’em,” “Check It Out” and “I’m the Best” is the same person who needs a man in “Save Me” or money and clothes in “Muny.” Young kids that listen to Nicki because she’s cool and current don’t have the same ability as someone my age to discern which messages to take to heart and which to let fall by the wayside. And maybe it’s not her problem that parents let their children listen to her music, but that possibility leads me into the uncomfortable waters of wondering why a grown woman has so fiercely latched on to a Barbie persona, something clearly reflective of and connected with childhood, and that is a psychological evaluation that I just don’t have time for right now.
Anyways, Nick is trying to be this badass “femcee” if you will, but acting like a materialistic princess, and I just don’t think that translates in true hip-hop. It seems as though she wants people to think that she’s some radical person because she’s like a well-dressed Barbie with the mouth of a sailor, but quite frankly I think she’s already sold out. As much as I liked Pink Friday I think that its commercial success was what opened the door for her to drop the travesty that is Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which has consequently pumped pop culture full of even more problematic messages. Seriously, let’s break down Roman Reloaded really quickly here. Two words: “Stupid Hoe.” I could write an entire piece on the song/video combination of that song alone, but instead I will make 5 brief points:
1. She perpetuates the concept of women hating women, which I HATE because many of my favorite people in this world are women and I think that mindset really sets us back.
2. With nothing better to say than “You’s a stupid hoe” she shrivels the idea of any intelligent exchange between two women at odds with one another.
3. She presents two stereotypical images of women: a doe-eyed, childlike helpless female and a hypersexualized music video girl who is not only animalized, but apparently also needs to be caged.
4. The song gives me a headache.
5. The video gives me a headache.
Maybe I just hate it because when I use words like “hoes” and “bitches,” I’m not doing it to demean other women. And maybe I hate “Starships” because I’m not a big fan of hip-pop or perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to it. (Fact: I know nothing about starships.) I will give her a nod for “Beez In The Trap” though, because for some reason I love it.
At the end of the day I truly believe that Nicki Minaj has helped to redefine how women’s identities are perceived in hip-hop, which is a great thing. However, it seems as though she sold out and decided to fall back on pre-existing stereotypes in order to garner commercial success. Just because I don’t like the whole Barbie-pop side of things doesn’t mean I wasn’t ready for a new discursive space that women in hip-hop could occupy. The best thing that Nick has done was opening that door in the genre, but her downfall is that she didn’t walk all the way through. Like I said before, I love her style, her boldness, and her actual ability to emcee, but at the end of the day I worry that girls as young as 3 (you’ve seen the videos of the little girls singing “Super Bass,” right?) are looking up to someone who lacks consistency, promotes a conflicting image that marries hypersexuality with contrived youthfulness and delivers a message that drives women apart instead of together.
Is there hope for Nicki? Yes. Is it likely that she’ll seize this opportunity? About as likely as Destiny’s Child getting back together and playing my 23rd birthday party, which is pretty unlikely since the world’s supposed to end about a month before. Bummers!