So, I’m watching Nicki Minaj’s performance on Good Morning America (Aug.5), and I noticed she did part of a song that I hadn’t heard before. The song was “Where Them Girls At?” by David Guetta, which features Minaj and rapper Flo-Rida. Similar to her current hit single, “Super Bass,” the track was radio-friendly, commercial pop-rap. I was immediately concerned. When something is commercially successful, record execs see nothing but green and expect you to forever duplicate the sound that got you on the pop chart. I fear that in the future, Nicki will continue to record pop-rap and that will be at the center of her repertoire. Nicki Minaj doing nothing but pop-rap is a bad thing because it’s likely that she won’t be viewed as a legitimate artist and the longevity of her career will be shortened, as it will be dependent on commercial singles. Considering the fact that her ability level is already questioned in the hip-hop community, it’s especially important for her to prove herself, demonstrate her strengths and make impactful music.
Why do I care about the longevity of Nicki Minaj’s career? Because I think she has a bigger plan and a feminist agenda that I like. From what I know of her start in the industry (which is moderate), she went from a “rough around the edges” sexually charged rapper, to a more polished-looking artist with mild sexual energy. Comparing her pre-record deal image, music and interviews versus now, I drew the conclusion that she was playing by the unwritten rules set by the “Boys Club” of hip-hop to establish herself, and planned to switch gears once she “made it.” Due to misogyny, sexism and double standards, aspiring female rappers have a difficult time succeeding in the male-dominated genre without be being disregarded, disrespected, unreasonably challenged or expected to compromise or exploit themselves. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Minaj’s former image was the result of this unfairness. Between the shift in her presence and the multiple declarations she’s made about improving the conditions for future female emcees and expanding her brand, I say Minaj is trying to change the game for the better. She’s trying to be the first female Jay-z: a “Jane of all trades,” multi-talented entrepreneurial mogul that changes the definition of what it means to be a female rapper and contributes to making hip-hop a widely embraced culture. There’s always been some sort of a “glass ceiling” for female rappers; a limit to what they can accomplish and Nicki seems to be trying to take a hammer to it. That’s why it’s so pertinent that she succeeds, because if she does, it will open a pathway for a future generation (for example, she’s the first female rapper to be featured on the “Forbes” -a finance magazine-top hip-hop earners list. Now we know it’s not impossible for a female to make the list).
The first step to achieving this goal is musical and artistic solidarity. Minaj needs to strive for a happy medium on her next record: a splash of pop-rap (ex. “Super Bass”) with a strong chunk of clever, unforgettable rhymes (ex. her feature on “Monster” or “Roman’s Revenge”). The more artistry she exhibits and the more respect she garners, the longer her career will last and she’ll have more power to access what she desires.
Just a thought. What do you think?
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