Tag Archives: Nicki Minaj

THINKIN’ OUT LOUD

Fat Trel – Truffle Butter (Freestyle)

Young Money needs to just start funneling all their hits through Fat Trel, he does way better than the artists with the “official versions”.  Remember his “Started From The Bottom“?

Maybe a more realistic idea would be for Trel to go full on ’07 Weezy and make a mixtape where he raps better than Young Money on all their own hits for a couple hours.  I mean how excellent would he sound on “Hookah“?  Or “Rich as Fuck“? Or “0 – 100”  — oh wait

Fat Trel – 0 – 100 / The Catch Up (Remix)

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POINT ‘EM OUT

Nicki Minaj – Lookin’ Ass Nigga

Rewind to ’07.

Hotstylz – Lookin’ Boy (feat. Young Joc)

It’s funny I didn’t realize until after reading the surprisingly extensive Wikipedia entry for “Lookin’ Boy” that the original, unedited version was even more similar to Nicki’s.

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BUN B’S JUMBO COLORING BOOK AND RAP ACTIVITY

This is real.  I just wish my niece was old enough to color.

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BAD GIRLS

Among the probably millions of videos posted in reverence for the passing of Donna Summer, I happened across this one the other day.

Donna Summer – Bad Girls

One thing that struck me about this video is that for how raw, physical, and sexual this song is, her stage presence is actually kind of limp and unsexy.  She definitely has power and conviction in her voice and facial expressions, but the rest of her body is just not keeping up.  Her posture is often hunched, when she tries to strike some kind of pose it often comes off as awkward and forced, and her attempts at sultry hip-shaking and stage strutting look more like somebody’s dorky friend on the sidelines of a dance party, looking off in the distance and moving just enough to not stick out as the one girl not dancing.  Luckily, Donna has enough vocal abilities to make this performance still shine, but it really makes you wonder about just how comfortable she and other artists like her are with their sex symbol image.  I’ve noticed this same phenomenon in some more contemporary artists as well; sexy songs with an attractive woman singing, sounding completely sincere and honest, but betraying a surprising lack of animal magnetism in their bodily movements.

Nicki Minaj – Starships

Lady – Yankin’

In Nicki Minaj’s case, it’s a little bit more subtle.  I think she has enough money behind her for there to be some coaches around helping her out with her movements and stuff, but I still feel like there are times — even in her official music videos — that her natural, awkward, unsure physical side comes through.  If you really pay attention to her backup dancers and how they move compared to how she moves, even in her sexiest moments, there’s really no comparison.  Judging by how Lady comes off in her video, and with the knowledge that she doesn’t have anywhere near the financial backing Nicki does, it’s safe to assume she’s not getting as much coaching on her movements, but  I think in some ways she actually pulls off the physically inept thing a little better than Nicki or Donna.  She seems to be more conscious and accepting of it, in this video it kinda feels like part of her “I don’t give a fuck” persona.  But it’s still interesting how much sexual imagery is used in these songs and videos while the artist in the spotlight is coming off about as sexy as a shrug.

I hope nobody thinks I’m trying to belittle these women or criticize their beauty in any way.  You will never catch me saying or even thinking that any of these women are the least bit unattractive physically, and the last thing I’m interested in is making fun of an R&B legend for being unsexy less than two weeks after her death, or any other time for that matter.  My point isn’t to point out their unsexiness, my point is that examples like these make me wonder how inescapable it is for many artists to be put in the position where they are supposed to be sex symbols whether or not they genuinely want to be.  I can’t speak for Nicki or Lady, but I have read that Donna Summer was pretty heavily coerced by the music industry to take on a more sexual image than she originally intended for herself, and watching that performance of “Bad Girls“, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was true.

It reminds me of the stuff I talked about in this post, which is coincidentally (or maybe not-so-coincidentally) also about Nicki Minaj to a great extent.  Probably the most sure-fire way for a female artist to overcome the skepticism I talk about in that post is to play up their sexuality, and people in charge of record companies have known this for decades.  It’s about sales for them, and if you can get your already talented and attractive female artist to even hint at her own sexuality, then huge sales will soon follow.  I imagine some female artists genuinely want to play up their sexual side and would do it whether or not they were on BET, but I feel like somewhere in those videos is at least some shred of discomfort with the pressure to be overtly sexual that probably a lot of women feel who are trying to be successful artists, or to be successful in many other fields for that matter.  And I hesitate to truly condemn these examples, maybe I’m incorrect about these specific cases and all these women don’t mind or even enjoy flaunting their sexuality in these performances.  Let’s also not forget that there is a distinct possibility that artists like Nicki Minaj and Lady could possibly be, to some extent, parodying the overtly sexual overtones of pop music as much as they’re playing into them.  I can’t know for sure.  But I still feel that the phenomenon that these examples reminds me of is a real thing that would be good to bring up.  I should also mention that this phenomenon is not limited to female artists either, this article about D’Angelo that Simon sent me recently illustrates that very convincingly.

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SHE IS A ROBOT MIMICKING MIMICKING HIGH SOCIETY MIMICKING A HOODRAT IN A NAIVE ATTEMPT TO SHOW OUT ON THEIR MYSPACE PHOTO SHOOT

Andrew Noz just recently took back what he said about Nicki Minaj a few years ago, but I still feel like that line that I lifted from him for the title of this post is still a pretty apt description of her.  I don’t mean it in a negative way either, I just think it perfectly expresses how thick the layers of abstraction and artifice are around her whole style, how you can’t just listen to her music and get it right away, there’s a lot you have to be clued into in order to grasp what’s going on.  Not to say that she’s has some kind of elitist or esoteric slant, it’s all low-brow pop culture idioms that you have to have experience with and appreciation for in order to be on board with her style.  Say what you want about it, it is undeniably original and attention-grabbing.

Amber just recently sent me an article that a Huffington Post blogger named DJ Louie XIV wrote about Nicki and the phenomenon of the female rapper, and he brought up some interesting points, but I felt his assessment of the situation was fundamentally flawed in a few ways.  In the article, he points out that so far, no female rapper has been able to achieve the longevity that many male rappers have achieved, and wonders about how Nicki Minaj will fare in that regard.  He points out that her style and approach differ greatly from the prominent female MCs of the past in that she doesn’t focus on rapping alone to get her message out, even though her skills in that area are hard to question, and she is taking many cues from the largely-white pop scene to gain greater popularity.  From the subtext of his writing, it seems pretty clear that DJ Louie XIV is a big fan of hip-hop, and he feels disappointed that Nicki doesn’t stick to the stuff that he enjoys listening to, the rapping, which I can understand.  But it’s strange that he points out that all previous prominent female rappers didn’t do what Nicki Minaj is doing now, and is sad about their lack of longevity in the industry, but also criticizes Nicki for not blindly following in their footsteps and suffering their same fate.

I think the male/female thing is a little bit of a red herring here.  What’s really going on is a separation between pop and underground, and in those terms, the rules are the same for males and females alike.  If you’re going to be widely popular for a long period of time, you have to adjust your style to be appealing to a wide, diverse audience.  Popularity is a numbers game to the core, if you don’t have masses of people buying your albums, merchandise, and concert tickets, then you’re not going to have mainstream success, that’s what those terms mean by definition.  It’s interesting that he picks Jay-Z as his poster boy for a male rapper that’s enjoyed success for a very extended period of time because Jay-Z was criticized heavily for “going pop” after his first album, Reasonable Doubt.  If you listen to Reasonable Doubt and then listen to any other album he’s done since (except maybe The Black Album which he envisioned being his final album and wasn’t as concerned with continuing his career and being widely popular into the future), there is no doubt that he adapted his style and abilities to be more appealing to a wide audience.  That’s what mainstream success is.  Nicki is doing exactly the same thing.  If you listen to “Don’t Stop, Won’t Stop“, you can’t deny that she wasn’t putting as much energy into being appealing to a broad audience as she is now.  And now she is widely popular, after adapting her style.  If Jay-Z had kept to his pre-pop style, he probably would have skated by with a cult following in the rap community and could have had moderate success for a while, or maybe even a long time, but he couldn’t have had anywhere near the fame and attention he gets now if he hadn’t switched it up.  Just like how Nicki would be now if she’d kept to her “Don’t Stop, Won’t Stop” style.  They would both be where all the female MCs Louie XIV talks about are, obscure and only moderately appreciated.  You have longevity as a mainstream artist if you can consistently make things that a wide number of people will pay money for, period.

Where the male/female dynamic does come in is the pressure that is almost assuredly put on female rappers by an industry run predominantly by males and with predominantly male fans.  I can’t see how there couldn’t be a lot more skepticism for any female artist trying to make it as a rapper by the rap power structure, so the lengths she must got to just to get noticed and promoted are far greater than what an equally-skilled male rapper would have to go through to gain that same recognition.  It’s like any industry controlled by men: the women have to work harder and usually get less pay and recognition than their male counterparts, and I imagine that this extra strain put on the female MC is just too taxing to keep up for a Jay-Z-length career.  The industry and the fanbase is just too harsh and unforgiving for the female rapper, and I feel that it’s that factor that is responsible for the ill-fated career of all the once-famous lady MCs out there.  Just read the comments in that article, there are countless male rap fans that make blanket generalizations and dismissals of female rappers, it’s no wonder it’ hard for them to make it, especially for extended periods of time.

And maybe the record labels are right, maybe a woman does have to warp and alter herself to the extreme in order to be marketable, and it’s not just the label’s fault, it’s a failure in our society to recognize and value the true greatness of women for their natural born qualities.

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