Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Nicki Minaj Represents To Me

**WARNING: Please keep an open mind with this post. It is likely to offend some Nicki Minaj/Young Money fans :) **

I've always had a weird thing about Nicki Minaj. When she first came out with her feature on "Bed Rock", I got so excited that there was a female rapper on the scene. I instantly googled her and listened to tracks from her old, unreleased mixtapes. Although the subject matter was pretty much self-praise (which is a very popular topic in hiphop, and artists use these songs to show off their wordplay skills) I was relatively impressed with her flow, her lyrics and her unique sound. I was looking forward to hearing more from her.

I wasn't really impressed with what she came up with afterwards, except for her song "Moment 4 Life" with Drake, which I actually liked. I was also impressed that in her video with Mariah Carey "Up Out Of My Face", she looked cute and even sported a little belly and was still sexy with it. I was hoping she would be a celebrity who advocated a natural body image. But the more and more she blew up, the more and more my weird feelings about her intensified.

To me, good music is good music whether it's commercial or not. I never really understood why people complain about "commercial music" and about how music is gone to hell these days... until I noticed Nicki Minaj's path, and I realized, she is the embodiment of ALL of that is wrong with "commercial" music.

I must make a distinction though, that I'm not against "commercial music". Commercial just means you're making money out of your music. But someone like Nicki Minaj does not only make "commercial" music, she makes mass-populated, reach-to-everyone's-ear-whether-they-like-it-or-not kind of commercial music. Everyone knew who she was, from that little girl who copied her on YouTube to your grandma. And that's kind of the problem.

My friend @kilmastudios who owns the UAE-based record label Kilma Studios, has argued with me on this very same topic before, and he said "Artists should have the freedom to be creative, its not their responsibility what kind of effect their music has on others". Though he has a strong point, I disagreed with him. I think that if you are that famous, you have a responsibility on the impact your music has on the huge chunk of society that is listening to your music and watching your videos. And you shouldn't rap about how everyone wants to lick your pu**y (reference to the lyrics/video of Big Sean's song Dance A$$ ft. Nicki Minaj), because the fact of the matter is, that shit is gonna be played everywhere whether we like it or not, and all kinds of people will hear it -- including children. We are no longer in an age where we can truly expect parents to filter out what their kids are listening to, even the "best" of parents. Because the fact is, this music is played everywhere.

I have no problem with offensive music, but I do have a problem with it when its forced down everybody's throat -- on the radio, TV, in stores, everywhere! Believe it or not, the music we hear does affect us, at least I believe so. When T-Pain's "Buy You A Drank" came out, everyone started saying "drank" instead of "drink". Lots of people started hash-tagging #IDoIt to their tweets after Big Sean's song. And how many people smoke a blunt in Snoop Dogg's name every single day around the world? How many people started saying "no I'm not lucky, I'm blessed" after Minaj and Drake's song "Moment 4 Life"? And these are fun, small, harmless things.

Imagine if The Weeknd's music was put on blast everywhere. The Weeknd is an independent artist who got everyone hooked on his atmospheric beautiful music. His songs glamorize the fact that he is a heartbreaker who gets drunk, stoned, laid, and high on cocaine every day of the week. Didn't it make you wonder what his lifestyle might be like? I know I did. If you had kids or teenagers, would you want them to listen to that? I don't think I would.

Lots of mainstream rappers talk about how much money they have and how they spend it, and the end result, is sadly, we begin to think that this is cool. We start caring about what car we drive, how many designer clothes we're wearing, and how many champagne bottles we're washing our hands with. No really, this shit really does get to people's heads, and if you don’t believe me, check out this Facebook group. It’s called "TheMoney Killers" and its members live in Dubai and talk about how they spend their money, post pictures of flashy things, and put links and references to "hiphop" songs that are all about that! I'm not saying everyone is like that, but I am saying that lyrics definitely influence us, some more than others.

I recently saw an interview done with Minaj on YouTube.
The interviewer asked her "Why do you think there aren't many female rappers?" These were her comments:
o   "Females don't make it because they don’t understand that its’ a 'business'. They don’t put their business first".
o   "I attack this game from all aspects. And that's what a lot of girls can't do".

 My interpretation? It’s not that a lot of girls CAN’T do it, it’s that a lot of girls WON’T do it. Plus, she doesn't even really answer the question. Is she implying that men do "business" better than woman? How so? She doesn't explain.

I just feel like its a guise for saying, if you really want to make it big as a female, you got to understand that you need to sell more than just your music – that’s where the 'business' part comes in. You need to sell your image, your body, and your dignity. She straight up compares marketing music to marketing clothes, saying that big boobs would catch your eye in a fashion advertisement, which will lead you to go to that store. She acknowledges the fact that she is not a mere rapper; she says, "I'm an entertainer". Yes, that is exactly what she is... an entertainer. It’s not just her music that pleases people, it’s her image, her sexuality, her body, her radical personality.

The weird thing is, she says "I want to explore the business and take it where the guys took it as a businesswoman". But how I see it, is that she is not a businesswoman at all. She is a product. Think about it. They got this girl who knows how to rap and is relatively good looking, and thought "Hey! That's new in the music market... a female rapper!" She even says it herself in the interview: "you have to do your homework on the market". A female rapper is what was lacking in the music industry (demand) and she provided it (supply)... and they did the "market research" on where to put her music on the map... just like a product, like tuna or toothpaste or something.

If you work in the marketing industry like I do you'll know exactly what I mean. We hear these terms on a daily basis. Product positioning. Target Market. Supply and Demand.

Except in this case, its on a very wide scale and the product is a human, and their dignity, sexuality and image is 90% of what makes up the product. When people get bored of the available music and image of the artists they follow, record labels recognize that. So boundaries need to be pushed in order to keep their audiences stimulated – and for females, that often, unfortunately, means sexual boundaries.

There are so many female artists and female rappers that made it big without having to go down that path, like Lauryn Hill or Norah Jones. They were sexy, they were pretty, they were "commercial", they made money from their music, but they did not sell everything they had. And probably didn’t make as much money as Minaj either.

I guess its not Nicki Minaj herself that I'm mad at, I'm just mad that a shocking sexual image is a must if a female is to excel in the music business. I'm mad at radio stations, because record labels work to get their acceptance to play their artists' songs. I'm mad that "consumers" subconciously do have these demands on female artists -- after all, consumers are the stakeholders. And I'm mad that everyone, even small children, is hearing this kind of music. To me, she is just the representation of all that. The same goes for Rihanna and other celebrity figures that push sexual and moral boundaries with every song and video they make. Honestly, I was quite shocked at Rihanna's video "We Found Love" and thought it was completely inappropriate to be played on TV where anyone can watch it (I did enjoy the song though).

I wish I could talk to some of these celebrities. I would ask Nicki if she really thinks she is talented, if she really feels like she's being herself, and why doesn't she advocate at least ONE positive thing in her music instead of rapping about how great her pu**y tastes. Minaj always jokes around that she is bisexual or bi-curious (she never confirms it, I think), why doesn't she do a song condemning everyday violence that gays and lesbians are subjected to just because of their sexuality, for example, as suggested by spoken word poet Jasmine Mans in her spoken word piece "Nicki Minaj"?

I just feel sad to see that this is commercialized hiphop. Granted, hiphop has never been perfect but I do believe it has great potential as it is found in every country in the word and it is a word-based art form which allows a lot of information and knowledge sharing. But I still believe in it, because people all around the world keep it alive, we just have to search for it!


  1. I wouldn't worry too much about her, i just read a comment on her music video for Ass with Big Sean and it said
    This porn has terrible music... with 120 likes
    I still have hope in humanity :)

  2. No really, this shit really does get to people's heads, and if you don’t believe me, check out this Facebook group. It’s called "TheMoney Killers" and its members live in Dubai and talk about how they spend their money, post pictures of flashy things, and put links and references to "hiphop" songs that are all about that!


    This reminds me of a guy I knew who grew up in Jeddah but used to say things like, "Don't pull that shit on me yo; if you that shit in the streets, you'd get shot for that shit!"