Nicki Minaj: From Queens to Hollywood
When I was young, the music that I listened to was all based on the people that influenced me most. I had an older cousin that I admired, and followed around like a pet. She influenced my tastes in music, and I can attest my love for Brooklyn rappers to her. She sat by the radio and nodded to Biggie, and as his words flowed from the boom box my little mind scrambled to memorize each line. Then of course there was Jay-Z, a rapper that turned tragedy to triumph, and learned his best lessons in the confines of Marcy projects. As I sat watching her, I believed that only what she listened to was worth hearing. As I got older, I began to try different types of music and continued to add these rhythms to the collage of musical styling that shaped me today.
Yes, music has a huge influence on youth culture, and it had a HUGE influence on me.
Today, Hip-Hop/Rap has taken a turn. I'm not sure if it's a positive or negative turn, but as a music connoisseur, I am always willing to turn up the music and listen.
About 4 years ago while I was still in college, I came across a female rapper named Nicki Minaj. I first heard her on a mixtape with Lil' Wayne, and her voice paired with the beat made for a winning combination. At the time, Lil' Kim, and Remy Ma weren't at the forefront, and hearing a female rapper with a great flow was so exciting.
She was hungry, and gritty, and I could hear the New York in each line she spoke. I remember sitting in a car with a bunch of friends nodding my head just like my older cousin would.
Then, Nicki Minaj broke into the scene completely taking over, and solidifying her place as the female addition to Lil' Wayne's expanding group of young and ambitious entertainers. I was all for her emergence because Hip-Hop needed a female that is strong, versatile, and willing to takeover where people like Remy Ma left off.
This is now January of 2012, and I cannot say that I have the same feelings for Nicki Minaj that I once held. Her lyrics have gone from New York grit to gimmick, and I am sadly disappointed. Nicki's most recent video, Stupid Hoe, littered with colorful images of Nicki stretched into unrealistic positions isn't even the issue. This is in NO way a review of Nicki's video, but I am posing a question, actually many questions.
Do we pigeon hold artists to a style? do we lose faither once they begin to stray from that image we hold of them? Rap relies on urban culture and the "hustler" lifestyle for credibility. Did Nicki ever have that "gritty" image to start? Could she have been able to create Stupid Hoe while coming up in the rap world? I think not.
Stupid Hoe is not a shot at Lil' Kim, but Nicki's own suicide of all that made her desirable to begin with. Referring to herself as the "female Weezy" does nothing to boost her lyrical reputation, as Lil' Wayne has also lost his lyrical credibility. My sole issue is with her lyrical content.
"Ey yo SB, what the fuck's good?
We ship platinum, them bitches is shippin wood
Them nappy headed hoes, but my kitchen good
I wish I wish I wish I wish a bitch woooooouuuulllldddd"
Now, some say this song is directed at Lil' Kim, as the two have developed a beef that is too stupid to discuss. All there "beef" amounts to is another type of black-on-black crime. Other than that I am truly disappointed in what this Queens native is spitting out these days.
There is another point of view that I am willing to consider. Sean Carter or Jay-Z, the rapper that has become his own brand, faced a similar type of response from critics and fans. People began to question him for straying away from the "hustler" talk that filled his albums and on to a "luxury rap" flow. Basically, Jay-Z didn't sound so hard anymore, and that's because Marcy Projects was no longer his environment. Visiting Paris, Milan, and the Turks and Caicos on a monthly basis will change anyones perspective.
"Niggas want my old shit, buy my old album Niggas stuck on stupid, I gotta keep it movin' Niggas make the same shit, me I make "The Blueprints"
Fed up with the talk of him not being so street, Jay-Z, like any conscious artist, responded artistically. If you want to hear Jay-Z speak on the streets, and hustling, then pickup one of his older albums. If you're interested in his perspective on life now, then simply turn on the radio.
I could not agree more with his stance on the topic. If I agree with him, then maybe I should turn this same philosophy on before listening to Nicki Minaj. There is only one difference. Jay-Z did not water down his content lyrically, he merely changed the subject matter. Nicki's delivery and content have drastically changed to support this Young Money Cash Money Billionaire(YMCMB) lifestyle.
For the purpose of this, I believe it's best to define what a "gimmick" is: first, a "gimmick" is a noun, which means it is a person, place, or thing.
Gimmick: A trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business.
I don't intend on disrespecting Nicki by calling her a 'trick', but she is leaning towards the latter part of the definition, as she is attracting 'attention, publicity, and business', but not for the reasons I would have hoped.
As a fan of true lyricists, I can no longer look to Nicki Minaj to fulfill that lyrical itch in the female rap category. I can only hope that the rest of her album proves me wrong. I understand that Hip-Hop/Rap is a business.I also understand that change is necessary, but why change what got you noticed, your words!
Onika Maraj is a beautiful woman with qualities that obviously lead to stardom. She branded a style of dressing that Lil'Kim originated. I cannot fault her for being the first to give it a name, and then banking on its success. I understand that all of us sample from one another, and that innovation doesn't come around often. I will support Nicki because she is a black female, but not because she is a strong lyricist. Maybe I'm analyzing this too much, but I must respond to my society, and learn as much as possible. I only hope that someone comes across this and passes it along.
Long live YMCMB, for all the wrong reasons...