The Double Life of Nicki Minaj
“Just killed another career, it’s a mild day” – Nicki Minaj, “Monster”
Nicki Minaj is inarguably the top female MC in the hiphop game, and has been so since her debut album Pink Friday, released in 2010. Young Money Entertainment protégé and self-proclaimed Barbie, Minaj has ascended from relative obscurity to a level of esteem parallel to her label boss, rapper Lil Wayne. Throughout her career, she has clumsily skirted the fine line between creativity and absolute farce. In a weird shift from lyrical dexterity and cleverness, to pop-fantasy records, Minaj rebranded herself as an outrageous, wig-wearing, black Barbie with Lady Gaga-esque aspirations of ridiculousness. She went from “Did It On Em” (“If you could turn back time–Cher/You used to be here now you’re gone–Nair”) to “Starships” (“I’m on the floor, floor/I love to dance), where she temporarily abdicated the throne as rap goddess, in favor of a more commercial persona.
There is an important distinction between selling out and selling yourself, and for a good minute, Minaj was doing the former. Being a sellout is certainly not a career-ending move, but it definitely takes dexterity and skill. Many have done it in much less offensive ways than Minaj –spending years creating consistently superior and legitimate music, before delving into shallow waters. After Lil Wayne went from sophisticated, authentic rap to sonically-offensive rock music, his fans were willing to accept him back, simply because he had proven himself worthy of their forgiveness. Minaj, however, hadn’t yet reached that level of security before she went sideways.
All hope of her redemption, though, should not be abandoned. In recent weeks, singles like “Lookin Ass Nigga” and “Chi-Raq” signal that Minaj is ready to reclaim her dominion, and is hopefully here to stay. Her lyrical finesse is necessary and refreshing in an often male-centric genre, and Minaj never stutters when she puts these men in their place. Perhaps the ridiculousness of her wig lawsuit got her mind right, but either way, we should all be excited to have the Empress of Rap back.
Jasmine Burnett is a sophomore in Lowell House, studying Government with a secondary in African American Studies. For her, reading culture blogs and hunting for new music is a daily form of sustenance. Her song of the week is “Hello or Goodbye” by Christon Gray, and she is currently, impatiently awaiting new albums from Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, and Frank Ocean.