Nicki Minaj à Quoi?

April 26, 2009

To be honest, I like Nicki Minaj. The whole image she’s had up until now has been a jigsaw assembly of all the right femcee cliches: Remy Ma’s thuggish unfuckwitable persona, Foxy Brown’s lyrical punctuality, Trina’s sex appeal (circa Da Baddest Bitch) – she’s got bits and pieces of every other female emcee bundled together to hold her own in the lineage of strong ladies that came before her. But with her latest DJ Holiday & Trap-A-Holics-endorsed mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty, something is a little off with the latest step forward in her burgeoning career.

On the cover of her last promo release Sucker Free Mixtape, Nicki let it all hang out, paying homage to Lil’ Kim’s legendary Hardcore promo photos by squatting down spread eagle and adding a sexier touch by lathering a big ol’ lolly. But the whole concept (on both the lyrical and image sides of the femcee coin) of Beam Me Up Scotty is somewhat disjointed. Instead of just sticking with straight bodily exploitation, Nicki gets weird, playing dress-up in a scant Wonder Woman ensemble as the Starship Enterprise spotlights her chesticles with an aptly aimed laser beam. (Since when did Star Trek and Marvel Comics have anything to do with one another?).

I have nothing against females exploiting their sexuality for the sake of getting the attention of hip-hop’s primary demographic: the dudes. It’s a standard game of cat and mouse, with the females using their body as the bait to rope in male listeners and then dazzling them with their lyrical wit in their ignorant male stupor. Nicki is well aware that hip-hop’s baddest bitches have to lasso an ear by flaunting their funbags, a position that she’s gratuitously exploited like the ghosts of femcees past. But here, her sexpot image is compromised by way of absurdity. Never before has a female rapper encroached on this sort of sci-fi territory, and for an emcee that’s built her career as a sharp word-commander dressed in tit-hoisting garb, it’s perplexing to just go from point A to point F without taking any baby steps.

That same confounding image makes up the lyrical base of Beam Me Up Scotty, a mixtape as exhilarating as it is exotic. Spread over a whopping 23 tracks, Beam Me Up Scotty sees Nicki spitting line after line of head-swirling couplets, doling out metaphors and one-liners that could fill an entire notebook with quotables (check “Still I Rise” for some delicious hater-fending rhymes and “Itty Bitty Piggy” for some uncut fire). But while her lyrical wit is undoubtedly sharp (she once sassed, “You bitches better sharpen your number two pencils – cause I stay on point” on The Come Up DVD series, a statement that still holds true to this day), the mixtape is peppered with references that parallel the questionable nature of this developing image.

And who exactly is the culprit for most likely coaxing Nicki to embrace her inner alien? None other than Lil Wayne, who inducted Nicki into his Young Money Crew a few years back and shows his tattooed face a few times on the tape. “I Get Crazy,” boasting a beat that plays like an old school variation on Bangladesh’s insta-classic “A Milli,” is the mixtape’s first full track, with Nicki rap-yelling, “So I got a bad bitch mentality / Cause I just came from another galaxy,” with Weezy referring to her as a “witch” between rhymes about being wrapped up in straight jackets. Part of Weezy’s charm is that he justifies his weirdness by branding himself an alien (a probable explanation for a dude that consistently proves to be other-worldly), but that doesn’t mean that it automatically extends to Nicki based on affiliation. And as for the robotic auto-tuning of “Get Silly” and comic book heroine self-referencing of “Can Anybody Hear Me?” You can probably thank Wayne for that, too.

That’s precisely why these sci-fi references bring Nicki’s credibility – not as a talented emcee, but her image in general – into question. What I’ve come to love about Nicki Minaj is that there aren’t any gimmicks (you get exactly who she is without any sort of foolery, and yes, Officer Ricky, you should take notes). She gives it to you straight and has nothing to hide, with her sexuality and poetic talent as her God-given weapons to fight her way to the top. So why is she compromising that persona by clouding it with eccentrism?

In a game where females have a difficult enough time as it is in earning both the respect of their peers and devotion from the masses, this is troubling. Does she think that she’s playing into male fantasy by dressing as the Black Barbie version of Wonder Woman? Here is a female emcee that’s already distinguished herself from her femcee peers based on lyrical swagger and image. But now, she’s placing herself in a lane that toils with what she’s already built. At the beginning of Beam Me Up Scotty, Nicki states, “In the end, it’s not going to be about my talent, it’s not going to be about my connections, it’s not going to be about my looks. It’s going to be about who wants it the most, and I want it the most.” I beg to differ, and based on the direction she appears to be heading, it’d be in her best interest to put her comic books back in their plastic wrapping and dead the gimmicks. Because here is a rapstress that has the raw talent to pull off a career ascension, as evident on this tape as it’s always been in the past.

3 Responses to “Nicki Minaj à Quoi?”

  1. Fresh Says:

    Interesting POV but beg to differ. Sometimes I think we have to remember she may be the artist but she aien’t a boss just yet. There’s people behind the scenes telling her what to do and how to do it. Honestly, if I was working with Wayne and he told me to grab the Wonder Women suit and pose for the camera, I would do it. Solely because Wayne is already successful and knows the ropes a lil more than me. Later on down the line she may have more input but for right now she has to learn from her mistakes. I have nothing but faith in Nicki cause she has talent to back her up at the end of the day.

    P.S. Love the blog…can’t wait to read more ttyl!

  2. […] Nicki Minaj post had me thinking about the career trajectories of femcees. How exactly do these bad girls get put […]

  3. illersz1 Says:

    Its DC comic stupid !not Marvel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: