I Never Thought It Would Come To This: My Letter in Defense of Nicki Minaj

OMG: Rap Theory at PITNB!

*The first installment of PITNB‘S NEW popCULTURE CLUB: theoretically putting the “culture” back in “pop culture,” one post at a time…

Dear PITNBrs,

This is hella weird. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d one day be coming to the defense of Nicki Minaj I would have laughed, then cried, then laughed again. Nicki Minaj, I would have said, will never need me to defend her. She’s doing just fine; even if I never buy any of her albums, even if I think she is an abomination, she’ll still be doing quite well for herself. In other words, the rich and famous never need to be defended by the non-rich, non-famous people of the world.

But today I think Nicki Minaj does need defending. And not because of Summer Jam. She’s on her own with that one.

 


THE ARTIST, PRE-BARBIE

 

Like Ann Powers at NPR Music (who wrote this amazing piece on Nicki Minaj, Madonna and Female Pop Icons), I see something in Nicki that is worth thinking or theorizing about, something worth defending to the people who are offended by her, annoyed, or relatively indifferent (I’ve felt all three, sometimes simultaneously). And I don’t defend her for her sake (again, I’m sure she’ll be fine with or without this blog post); but, for the sake of her audience. And whether we like it or not we are all apart of her audience. At some point today, and for many days to come, we will probably hear or see the name “Nicki Minaj” and we will either smile, giggle, frown, rejoice, or—if we are the women of my mother’s generation—probably roll over in our graves.

 

 

Knowing all of this—and knowing that I have had all of these reactions to her persona or her music (minus the rolling over in the grave one… but whatever the land-of-the-living version of that is), I admit again that this is weird. But I feel like some things should be said.

I’m on the neutral side when it comes to Nicki. I’ve never been a huge die-hard fan, nor one of her Barbs. And I’ve never loathed her music entirely, or felt like she marked the end of a civilization, or the downfall of women, or black women, or mankind entirely. I always felt like she was entertaining, and that she could on occasion even spit hot fire… and sometimes, spit the worst crap ever. I’ll admit to being wishy-washy about her, which might even be what “neutral” really means. However, one thing I always disliked about her was how closely she sometimes resembled Lil’ Kim in performance, persona, and delivery. We, as artists and as people, all “steal” from each other. It’s called “learning,” or “creating.” But I believe in giving props where props are due, and as a huge Kim fan, I wanted Kim to get her props for being one of the many influences on the one we call Nicki Minaj, which is why I thought Kim was right to make the diss record, Black Friday. We saw a similar issue with Madonna and Lady Gaga over Born This Way/Express Yourself, where one artist’s refusal to acknowledge his/her relativity to another artist can be annoying and hella disrespectful. Nicki (like Gaga) stands on the shoulders of giants, and I know that the Queen Bee is one of those giants. Other than that, I didn’t really have major beef with Nicki. But I also never loved any of her songs or videos… that is, until I saw Beez In The Trap.
 

 

Um, why did I just like that video? I asked myself, as I watched the final scene of Beez In The Trap, with 2Chainz dancing around Nicki like a totally adorable idiot. And then I remembered, Oh yeah. This is how I like my rap music. Of course I love lyrical and so-called “conscious” rap too, but not always. A lot of the time I like this music to sound like rap (like what I think of when I think of rap); not like Barbies trying to rap, not like poets trying to rap, but like rappers trying to rap. And I like my rap videos to look like rap videos, for the most part. I don’t want to see princesses and spaceships and a whole lotta pink in my rap videos. Ballerinas, yes (if you’re Kanye), but otherwise, no to that whole movement aka all the other Nicki Minaj videos I did not like. But Beez In The Trap: yes, please. Well, no, to her third verse, and—obviously—the song is not a lyrical track. But it is very much a rap song, and it serves its purpose (for those of us who legitimately like rap music); it entertains without too many over-the-top distractions. [Insert Nicki Minaj booty joke here].

 

 

Also, this was a different video for Nicki Minaj. It may seem like a typical rap video, but it’s not typical for her, and I liked that. I liked that she looked sexy, instead of weird (it was a nice break). And I liked watching her and those other two girls dance. Why? Because I’m into chicks? Maybe. But more likely, because they didn’t look like video girls to me, they just looked like girls. Ok, severely under-dressed girls, but still. They reminded me of girls at the club everywhere; girls who shake their asses, show off their bodies, but dance together and for themselves, without any guys around them, really. My friend Michelle took one look at the video and said, Oh! She’s her own video ho. Great! And I explained that I thought that too, at first. But then saw something different. I said, Michelle, if you put a little more clothing on those girls, you’re lookin at you, me, and Nimone (our other friend) at Webster’s Hall (big NYC club) like 5 years ago. She knew I was right. There we were, in Nicki‘s Beez In The Trap video. I went on to say that 2Chainz was that guy who comes up to you and you kinda let him dance “with” you because he’s not really bothering you or touching you, and he knows it’s still your world and your party. I mean, Nicki looks like such a Boss [Bitch] in the final scene!

 

 

This is something no video girl can ever pull off! In fact, I remember watching Jay-Z and Beyonce in the Crazy In Love video, and that scene with Jay’s verse always bothered the mother-loving hell out of me because B just looked like the prettiest video vixen in the world, like Jay‘s hot little prostitute… cute though they were. Do you remember that scene? That moment felt disempowering as a woman. And I’ve never been into them (as a couple) since. Plus I’m terribly jealous of Beyonce. I friggen love Jay. (sidenote, love every second of the rest of Crazy In Love, especially the fire hydrant bit…)

But I digress; the bottom line is, based on this video, Beez In The Trap alone, I do not find Nicki Minaj to be disempowering, or totally wack as a rapper. And it has a lot to do with the dancing; how she dances and with whom she dances tells me everything I need to know. Sounds cray, but it’s true. Her dancing is sexy, the video is sexy; not sexual. This is because Nicki is sexy, but she’s rarely sexual. Which is why you see little girls take pics with her, and it’s not creepy. Or at least, it’s not that creepy. It kinda makes sense.

 

 

Now Lil’ Kim, that is a sexual rapper, the sexual rapper. I haven’t heard all of Nicki’s songs, but I know she does not do what Lil’ Kim (and Foxy Brown, and Trina) did on wax; they did very bad, naughty, glorious things. None of her lyrical content in Beez In The Trap has to do with sex; it’s cocky and playful. Like the dancing, this tells me that Nicki is not really being sexual. And I think there’s an important distinction between the two. My children, for example, are sexy. But unless we’re in a psych class talking Freud, they are not sexual. Big difference.

What most interests me about Nicki is that I know she made a conscious decision to do this; to be sexy without being sexual. Because when I first saw Nicki she looked like this (see the very obvi Lil’ Kim resemblance):


 

And the love of my life, the mixtape King (as in, the authority) was like, She’s actually good. She can rap! And I was like, Right, of course you think that; her vagina’s in your face making you talk all crazy. I went on to point out that every major video vixen always says she really “raps” or “sings” and is just using video ho-ing as a starting point. Like strippers “saving up” for “school.” C’mon now. I told him that nobody who looked like that could ever be taken very seriously (or achieve success), for very long as a rapper. And I’d like to think that somewhere, Nicki was agreeing with me, and decided to take a different route. I’m proud of her for going this route, for being weird and ridiculous (or at least for playing that up), and I’m proud of her for shaking her ass in the Beez In The Trap video.

Why does that make me proud? Because, oddly enough, it reminds me of something my mother taught me. I will never forget being a kid and going to Boston’s West Indian Day Parade with her (sure, nothing like NYC’s parade, but still a big deal), and seeing the Trinidadian girls in the parade doing things in public my mother would have shot me for doing; they were dancing. But it also kind of looked like they were having sex (with each other, with the men, with the pavement), and I couldn’t believe my Mom (professor of African studies, and Women’s Studies, and everything smart and cultural and empowering for blacks and women) was happy to bring me here and to have me all up in these X-rated moves. When she saw the look on my face she said to me, It’s cultural, Shannon. It’s not sexual; that’s how they dance over there. This was also her way of saying, if you’re not Trini and you’re not in a parade, you have no business dancing like this. Nicki Minaj is, by the way, 100% Trinidadian and definitely, I think, in the middle of some kind of parade.

My final point in my defense of Nicki Minaj is gonna sound, well, bad. Here goes: I liked Nicki’s Beez In The Trap video performance because it made me think, Finally! She looks like a black girl. This is politically incorrect to say, especially considering what I can assume is my demographic on this blog. But eff it. I said it. She FINALLY looked like, what I think of as a black girl and I know that we are—like girls of all ethnicities—too varied and too different to be put in a box. But let’s be real. When I say “white girl” an image pops into your head. And it’s the girl at the beginning of A$AP Rocky’s Purple Swag video, minus the grill. Or better yet, it’s Britney Spears circa 2000. And when I say “black girl” an image pops into your head, unless I say artsy black girl or awkward black girl or punk rock black girl. See what I mean? It’s ok, we’re all friends here. I hope.

I liked seeing Nicki Minaj up in the club—looking very Nicki—but also looking like she was glad to have succeeded as a pop icon, so that she could FINALLY be her Trini-Queens-black girl self (kind of like she is in the top video, featuring early Nicki).

That’s right. Black girls. After we leave our Black Lit class at Sarah Lawrence. We be up in the club. Big booties. Shakin them. To sub-par music our parents would be embarrassed to know we shake our butts to (just like their parents before them were embarrassed by their kids’ music). We throw shade. We make guys dance funny. Kind of like all girls, everywhere.

At least we do until we grow up, have kids, and/or go to grad school and/or join the ‘real world,’ and then we only relive those moments through videos like Beez In The Trap.

So for that flashback to my early twenties, I say, thank you Nicki Minaj. If nothing else, you are—on many levels— a cultural phenomenon. And that is no small feat for a Queens girl.

 

 

*Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this week’s popCulture Club post in the comments. Is Nicki Minaj an artist or an abomination?*

 

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  1. MoNate

    I love what you’re wrote above. Being a black gurl I agree. Starship is a hot ass mess even the song she sang with breezy a mess. Her only saving grace was cause my boo Nasir Jones was in the video. Beez in the Trap is my jam. I miss her doing real hip.hop.

    She was an artist but with the mess that is starship she fell down big time. And now we have miss azelia banks on her tail only God knows what her future is.

    Her behind needs to stop singing though. Like For real stop it.

    BTW first time commenting on this blog and I love the way you write.

    Welcome !!!!

    • MoNate– thanks for your comment! I think Nicki probably has the potential to be somewhat of a legend, but I def can’t get with her on some stuff. However, i find her interesting and so many of my college friends were bashing her, I felt compelled to write about it all. Thank you again for your thoughts! Oh– click that link at the beginning of the post to “Summer Jam.” It’s her argument with Funk Flex on Hot 97– so bananas! LOL

  2. smoozle

    “We saw a similar issue with Madonna and Lady Gaga over Born This Way/Respect Yourself.” – Express Yourself? Also, Shannon, you are weird as hell, and as a veteran PITNB reader, I LOVE it.

    • smoozle

      I should mention the “weird as hell” comment comes after reading your ode to those dresses you can’t wear / afford. Laughed so hard.

    • LOL, you know what it is? I just hate seeing fashion posts on some blogs and they make it seem like, oh it’s totally normal to wear dresses like this. EVERYONE should be wearing this dress. It’s like c’mon. Let’s be real. That dress is amazing, now let’s talk about why none of us blogging about them actually own any. LOL :) “weird as hell”– I likes!

  3. YIKES! thanks for the correction smoozie! also, we’re fixing the image issue now!

  4. stacy

    I love this. I can relate but only partially. (Clearly I don’t know anything about what it means to be a black girl). HOWEVER…. I do have a daily love/loathe dilemma with Ms. Minaj. I love how you dive so deep into your view of why she made that video. I think shed be honored to read it. I can imagine if I were any sort of artist I’d want my fans to feel emotions from my work, and speak to them on some level. I feel this way about a lot of music. Also, I love the story of you and your mom at a cultural festival. It made me smile.

  5. I think Nicki is a mess and I love her for that. I enjoy her pop songs but I love when she raps. I can’t remember if it was a conversation or a review of her new cd that said sometimes it sounds like she has schizophrenia. And yes it kind of does. Especially during “Come on a Cone” it sounds like she just recorded it in one take and did not care how it sounded sometimes because it is so raw. As an adopted Korean into a white family I tend to surprise people when I say how much I enjoy her music. And yes the Hot 97 incident is craziness.

    • Thank you kschoice94! Nicki is very proud of her “multiple personalities” and it’s kind of a hoot– not sure about how it plays out in the actual music sometimes though, lol. But ultimately, I think it’s all in good fun.

  6. Erica

    I *LOVE* that you’re bringing hip hop to PITNB! And especially in an educated, let’s discuss what this really means way (but at the same time, not taking art too seriously – not sure how you’re managing it but again, love).

    Sometime, I’d like to hear your thoughts on Lupe Fiasco. I’ve got high hopes for his next album, especially after listening to the first single Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free). THIS is the hip hop I know and love (when I’m not in the mood for the fun, just-a-catchy-hook-and-nothing-else nonsense kind of rap).

    • Ahhh Lupe. Maybe I can review his next album, I know it’s coming out soon. I’ll be honest, I don’t know his music like I should. But of course he’s lyrical and crazy talented.

      There will be more “rap theory” on PITNB because it’s probably what I spend most of my time thinking about, lol. So glad you enjoyed it Erica.

    • Erica

      You’re right, Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album drops in September – a review, in with the rest of your rap theory, would be awesome!

      I’m anxious to hear your take on some more of the music I listen to (I <3 Trent like whoa but for the most part, our music tastes have never jived).

      And if you DO decide to check out Lupe's next album, I'd suggest checking out the original Food & Liquor first – it's got appearances from Jill Scott and your crush Mr. Carter – and the first single playing in the background during MTV show credits was enough to make me pay attention and actually buy the album (no lie). Lasers was great, but that first (mainstream) one is still my favorite.

  7. my issue with Nicki is she had this potential to an all star female MC, something hip hop has been missing out on. granted i dont know ALL her songs (i dont seek her out) – but from what i’ve heard, half this things she says is ridiculous and after a while just seems annoying. Nicki & cash money, turned her into a gimmicky joke, and in the end thats going to hurt her, atleast in the hip hop world.

    • nicole I hear you. I do not own a Nicki album and I’m not sure that I will anytime soon. BUT she is a wildly fascinating subject! I do so wish she’d move away from the gimmicky stuff, but it’s what got her “here” so it’s difficult to judge. But I am glad she’s around and that she’s sparking interesting convos. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Sam

    I’ll start off by saying that I really dig your writing, Shannon! Kudos!

    Now, about Nicki…What’s sad to me is that a song/video like “Beez in The Trap” is actually considered “real hip-hop”. I understand that rap is not always lyrical, but, common, Nicki is NOT a hip-hop artist. Past aside, she is a bonafied pop star.

    I am on the “abomination” side of Nicki because she’s kind of a paradox. On the one hand, she seems like she can do whatever the hell she wants because some of her songs seem like absolutely no thought was put into them, and it’s obvious that the lyrics she writes aren’t brushed up or edited. On the other, it seems like she’s a very calculated marketing effort. I’m pretty sure that the crazy getups, the weird facial expressions and all that jazz was not something Nicki wanted to do, but rather something that Wayne thought would sell. To me, she comes off as fake, fake fake!!!

    My biggest problem with her is her LYRICS! They are such a joke and no matter how catchy her beats are, I personally cannot get myself to enjoy a song that seems to treat its listeners like complete idiots. Rhyming nothing with nothing (Beez in the trap) or:
    “Now everybody let me hear you say ray ray ray
    Now spend all your money cause today’s pay day
    And if you’re a G, you a G, G, G
    My name is Onika, you can call me Nicki”

    Honestly though, a fun party song doesn’t have to be a DUMB party song…what does she say even mean?!?!

    OR, my favorite, in “Turn me on”: I just want you to be my docta, we can get it crackin’ chiropractor, I, I, I, I know you can save me.”

    Her lyrics seem like they were written by a six year-old. She is an obnoxious rapper who thinks that 2 years of fame makes her the queen of the world. She needs to pace herself and stop being over-confident or else we won’t be hearing anything about her come 2015….(actually, keep doing what you’re doing Nicki, that doesn’t seem so bad!)

    • Sam, i love that you used the word “paradox” – so on point with that one. And your point about the lyrics is similar to the gimmicky thing nicole mentioned. I think it’s all apart of the Barbie persona. Barbie’s aren’t that smart or lyrically inclined, lol.

      The paradox is that Nicki is SMART. The first time I started paying attention to her was when I stumbled upon some show she had maybe on MTV2 and she was saying all these random but kinda brilliant things about being a female rapper. Some of it was the same old stuff, but some of it was new and interesting. I’m gonna keep my eye on her, lol. Thanks again for your remarks.

    • LISTEN TO HER EARLIER STUFF!! “AUTOBIOGRAPHY” IS ONE OF MY FAVORIIIITE NICKI SONGS.

    • she released two mixtapes before her two albums. and for the record, her lyrics are unreal in both of them. nicki wouldn’t be on top if it wasn’t for her past stuff. thats what made her recognized in the rap world. after that, the mainstream accepted her after she created mainstream pop infused rap/hiphop. no judgement. i understand why nicki did that. she wanted a bigger platform. there have been no other female rappers to look up to since the 90s. nicki has given us a chance to have another female rapper ON TOP. and she’s proved herself to be muli-dimensional. little girls can sing her songs and feel like a boss, and older girls like me can finally have someone new to listen to. even guys.. i shouldn’t even say she just for girls. guys like nikci too. cuz she’s talented at what she does.

    • lorili THANK YOU! I think a lot of us don’t know much about Nicki’s start so this is really helpful. But you know what I wish? I wish that we didn’t have to latch on to and immediately obsess over every single female rapper that comes out JUST because she’s a female rapper. It’d be really nice to have more to choose from, to have so many to choose from, that we could all be a little picky. Thanks for the comments and the links, much appreciated.

  9. Kevin

    the Crazy in Love video…you’re nuts. I guess it is pretty offensive that Beyoncé did that and married the man and has been with him for 10 years. Good for you Shannon.

    Trent, no more guest writers

    • Kevin thanks for the comment. You’re right, I am nuts and few will agree with me about Crazy In Love, which is why I stick to my guns. Now I wouldn’t dare comment on their off-screen relationship; I’m sure it’s authentic and as lovely and (I hope) as flawless as you made it sound. BUT that very specific on-screen performance/representation of their relationship did not work for me, and this post is really about representations. I try not to comment on things that I know nothing about– like Jay-Z and Beyonce’s true feelings. I also willingly admitted that my view is skewed by a deep, personal crush on Jay-Z ;)

      The bad news is, I’m not a guest writer. You may have missed my Intro post, but I’m here to stay, lol. The good news is, I welcome all comments and love to hear opposing arguments. Thanks again for your comment :)

  10. Jennifer

    I’m in love with the fact that your mother is a professor and that you’re clearly coming from an anti-racist feminist perspective. It kind of makes my entire day, just so you know. I also loved how you drew attention to the different types of being a woman and that being sexy doesn’t necessarily mean disempowering (although it’s a different form of power most men enjoy). :)

    I adored Nicki Minaj at first, but I found it a little hard to separate from some of her lyrics that talk about degrading other women both sexually and racially. What do you think about that? Also, what do you think about her pre-famous bisexual-esque quotes and then kind of recanting them after she got big?

    • Jennifer, many thanks for the response! That’s a great point– about Nicki’s either real or faux bisexuality. I think it had EVERYTHING to do with wanting to be appealing to men, which at a certain point she was all about. I saw an early interview where someone asked her which two female celebs she would have a 3-way with and her response was “Cassie and Lauren London.” That’s when I knew she was full of it– that was THE answer every guy watching the interview wanted to hear, but it wasn’t authentic. But Nicki succeeded in changing her image– and this is what I kind of liked about it. Once she got the limelight she stopped playing up the hyper-sexual stuff, which is really what the “bi” stuff was about. I’m sure she’s hooked up with chics or whatever, but that doesn’t make her bi… I don’t think.

  11. trent fan

    These posts are so not Trent. The writing’s fine but out of place, imo. I’ll think twice about clicking continue now.

    • trent fan (great name) you are absolutely right! i am so not Trent, lol and if I tried to be I guarantee the writing would be pretty awful. Trent has such loyal fans, it’s going to be tricky having a new writer around but I plan to stick to what I know and I know Trent will do the same. Trent fans still have all the good stuff to look forward to, and rap theory heads have me :) I appreciate your comment– I see that you have a lot of love for Trent and for PITNB.

  12. Sam

    Shannon, I gotta ask you this, did you really think Beez in the trap was a dope video? The whole time I was watching it, I felt extremely uncomfortable. I felt that it was misogynistic and I was disappointed that Nicki would have a bunch of “video hoes” around her like any other male rap star. I feel that Nicki lacks respect for other women. Many of her lyrics are totally degrading to women and people who are trying to make it in the music industry.

    I’m not saying Nicki is talentless, because that would be a lie. The girl has proven that she can rap on a track in her earlier efforts. My problem however is that she chose to forgo portraying her talent and instead promotes a dumbed down approach to music, which, let’s be honest, too many pop stars do today (Katy Perry, Kesha to name a few).

    And…my last point, I swear: I hate artists who use almost every song to comment on “the haters” a.k.a people who don’t like their music, and then diss them at length just because they don’t like their stuff. Nicki is a prime example of someone who uses entire verses to tell her haters to shut the eff up, but then it’s like…these haters seem to be your only source of inspiration because that’s all you rap about!

    • Sam, great questions. You got me thinking/sweatin over here a bit, LOL. I love it! Ok, yes. I liked the Beez In The Trap video. As it started playing, I though oh god here we go. And YES, I had that uncomfortable feeling we all sometimes get. But if I can kinda keep it a little bit real, I attribute that feeling more to my own embarrassment when it comes to representations of black women. I LIKE watching the video. I think it’s fun and entertaining.

      Don’t tell my kids, but my girls and I used to be at the strip club (Sue’s Rendezvous– EPIC) with dollar bills in our hand and all that. OMG I can’t believe I’m admitting this. But seriously, I was not that great of a person at 21. I would not go to a strip club now (THEY are an abomination) but I had (very immoral) fun in my 20s and, like I said, Nicki and those girls look like they’re having fun. But why do they have to be naked, right? I get it, great question. I don’t know why, exactly. But I do know that their being naked doesn’t bother me; their being naked and being watched by other people who then look at it and say “Look! Naked (black) girls! That’s what they Do!” That bothers me. In theory, we call that “the gaze.” And I was taught to be VERY concerned with “the gaze” in college because it’s related to exploitation of ALL people– but esp women and then it has special repercussions for black women, I think. However, as important as the gaze is, I don’t want it to be the reason I dislike something.

      I saw a similar phenomenon with “The Help,” where I hated the movie before I saw it because I couldn’t stop thinking about how it “looked” to people who weren’t black. But when I saw the film it immediately became a favorite, and I had to put aside that question: How does this make black people/black women look? And if it makes us look bad or should embarrass me a little, can I still like it? (I’m drawing the parallel NOT because being a rapper and being a maid are at all alike, but to point to this question of art and performance and how and why certain images make us uncomfortable– so it’s more about Nicki, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer as artists performing different versions of black women that we’re not quite comfortable seeing sometimes).

      So I would ask you the same– are you uncomfortable because of how it really makes you feel or because of how you think it should make you feel? It’s hard to tell the difference sometime but it’s a question and the answer can be diff for everyone.

      The truth is, I like very bad things sometimes. Three Six Mafia songs, screwed and chopped music. Sometimes I call it low-brow hip-hop but it’s really just rap, which is why I call this rap theory, not hip-hop theory. Although I can’t wait to do some hip-hop theory too. I defended Beez In The Trap because people were literally saying stuff like “This is why the world has no respect for black women.” Is it an EPIC video that I’ll remember 5 years from now? No. But it was fun and a new look FOR NICKI.

      What I REAALLLLY want to address is your comments on Nicki’s eff the haters routine. If you listen to that convo with Funk Flex you can hear how truly insecure she is, at times. I think. She gets sooo defensive, it’s scary and a little sad. Nicki is very aware and I think she thinks MANY of the same things about herself and about what she’s done with her career as we do. It’s interesting. Thank you so much for your questions Sam!

  13. rOXy

    Holy ! I just skimmed through the post and comments and now I am going to go back and read it thoroughly because any post that can generate long winded comments such as these has to be good!

  14. Robot

    Ok, that was a nice read! Here’s the opinion from a regular guy that lives in The Netherlands. Oh, English is not my first language so bare with me.

    I love popmusic and especially female artists/rappers but I never heard of Nicki Minaj until the collaboration with Christina Aguilera on ‘WooHoo’. I was immediately interested in this girl because of the way she did her verse on this track. I began to watch her videos and I believe only Massive Attack and Your Love were out. Both, fun songs but just ok. I watched a performance on BET where she did her verse during My Chick Bad, the way she performed it gave me chills. It was weird, different!

    Then her first album Pink Friday came out and I was hooked from the start. I do admit that it took a me a while to love most of the tracks but now I sing/rap them all the best I can. My favs: I’m The Best, Moment4Life, Save Me and ofcourse SuperBass!

    For a long time I was missing a female rapper in the charts, Left-Eye was gone, Lil’Kim, Eve and Missy Elliot were barely or not making music so when Nicki came on the scene and was doing her solo stuff she just filled that gap. I love her so much, I love her style and facial expressions, I love that she keeps in touch with her fans, I love that she tells you how it is when doing all these interviews. She has made my life a bit more happier and I play her songs every day.

    I actually love that she is making music in different genres. I love listening to pop/dance songs like Pound The Alarm and Turn Me On, but my mother rather plays Save Me or Marylin Monroe. I totally understands that she is trying to reach different markets. But, I do hope that her third album focuses more on her rap skills.

    I also want people to know that when English is not your first language, the lyrics don’t always matter. It’s more about the way a bunch of word sounds together and if the song has a nice beat. I sometimes have no clue what she’s saying but I get the message of the song (like Starships). When they play this song in the clubs, people go craaaaazy! Why? Because it’s a fun song with a cool beat and the video provides some nice visuals by a unique artist.

    Nicki is special and there’s a reason why she has already worked with legends like Madonna, Britney, Mariah and Jay-Z. This girl has talent and I predict a bright future for her. I don’t care if she decided to do opera or want to play in movies, give this girl a break. There is room for everyone and if you don’t like it, don’t play or buy her music.

    I’m going to see her live for the first time on the 18th of June in Amsterdam. I can’t wait to finally see this girl in action and have a good time!

    • Robot– really appreciate this post, especially the bit about Nicki’s music being able to transcend language barriers. So for all of us concerned with lyrics, it’s important to know that in music, “lyrics don’t always matter.” Thanks for such a thoughtful comment.

  15. I thought about this long and hard. After 2 reads and a skim, I’m ready to discuss. I agree with you. As painful as that feels (and my inner feminist/womynist is freaking the EF out right now), I feel like I’m at a neutral place with Nicki Minaj. The socially conscious part of my identity wants to point out all of the OBVIOUS reasons why she’s terrible and sets women/black women/black women artists back several hundred years BUT… she’s also different which challenges our ideas of what it means to be all of those things…acceptably. IT IS rap music. IT IS a persona. IT IS her controlling it (in some ways/not in others). Beez In The Trap got me too, for those same reasons! I would be lying if I said I didn’t stroll out of the house (or not out of my house) in my early 20s wearing controversial outfits and dancing like the video hoes I loathed during the week in Lit and Gender Studies classes. It’s a dichotomy, I feel, all women of color have about their sexiness and sexuality. Be sexy/comfortable with your own body/culture BUT be very aware of the hyper sexual image others/pop culture has created of you. It’s hard! It’s also easier to take out your own tensions on people who appear to have figured it out. However, I don’t intend on supporting her by buying her music because she’s too bizarre for me and although she does in fact have skills (in the she has the skill to rap- as in the art) her lyrical content is often weak, but I’ll tip my hat to Nicki Minaj for being able to semi-control how she puts her sexy out without being sexual. I wont roll my eyes at her half as much as I did before your letter forced me to think about my real feelings about her!

  16. Deee!

    Just came to remind all of you of one thing: NICKI. CAN. RAP. Sometimes just as good as her male counterparts, and sometimes even better. And I’m not even talking about her old stuff. Look at most of her collabos with other rappers. Monster, Roman’s Revenge, All I do is win, and the Till the world ends remix. Even look at Fly. She is an outstanding lyricist in her own right, so don’t try to downplay her. And this is coming from a gay guy, so I’m not just supporting her because she’s hot.

    • Deee! thanks for reminding us of the reason we’re all here. I agree; if Nicki really did just plain suck at rapping, there’d be nothing to talk about.

  17. emmbee

    Shannon, I have to admit that as a longtime PITNB reader, I normally would hate this very un-Trent-y post. I read your intro post and now this one, and I have to admit that although our interests aren’t really the same, the way you write mixed with your love of both academia and fluffy pop culture have me convinced we would be great friends. Keep it up with these pieces! You rock!

    • emmbee– these words mean a lot to me. Yes, somewhere between pure theory and pure fluff, there’s me! LOL, thanks for putting it into context for me.

  18. C.Lavhan

    This article brought alot of things into perspective. I think that its almost second nature for women to hold other woman to the stadards that we set for ourselves. I am GUILTY. I have turned my nose up, rolled my eyes and joined in on ‘Nikki’ bashing sessions. Why? All because she has successfully created an image that WORKS…for her. If a camera was rolling everytime I danced with a guy at the club, I would totally be a certified ‘video chic’. Since I didnt have to worry about the paps spying on me, I was free to be as nasty as I wanted. NOT FAIR. I get it Shannon. Aleast Minaj can blame her freakiness on her Jamacian roots, I have no excuse. LOL

    • C.Lavhan thanks for contributing to this conversation– and admitting to Nicki-bashing. It’s so easy, right?! Glad we can all have a different type of discussion about her and her music.

  19. C.Lavhan

    TRINI ROOTS.. PLEASE EXCUSE ME!

  20. j

    your delineation between sexy and sexual totally captures nicki’s best edge. paired with a connection to your memories of booty shaking for your own sake was rad, like she captures a moment of childlike freedom in her persona and puts it in a context thats meaningful to grown people (and kids obvi too). its like sexy is when you’re making your own meaning and sexual is when something’s imposed on you, which for women is obviously THE critical distinction…anyways, cool.

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