Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Nicki Minaj.

I listened to/saw the video for the first half-ish of Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Hoe" last night. I say the first half because I actually couldn't bring myself to sit through the entire thing. It was like torture; I love myself too much to subject myself to such foolishness. Some things can't be unseen/heard. 

It's like, okay, from an academic perspective, I would really like to like Nicki Minaj. Or at the very least, to be able to appreciate her and what she's trying to do. I want to embrace her like I embrace Rihanna, for owning her sexuality and putting herself out there with an agency not often afforded to women, and particularly not to women of color, even in 2012. I want to applaud her for being the only female member of Young Money, and on an even greater scale for like, reintroducing the female rapper, whom we haven't really seen since Eve and Lil' Kim disappeared a while back. I want to commend her for being unashamedly and unabashedly herself in the face of an entertainment system that tries its damndest to mass produce creativity.

I want to have all this respect and maybe even some love for Nicki Minaj. I really do. But I just...find it hard to. I have three songs by the Black Barbie in my music library, "Fly," "Your Love," and "Super Bass". She is featured in three other songs in my library: Gyptian's "Hold Yuh," Sean Kingston's "Letting Go," and Trey Songz's "Bottoms Up." I have few major issues with any of these songs, but they're but a fraction of Minaj's work overall.

It's like, okay, first off she just kind of freaks me out, with her ridiculously colored wigs/makeup and her incessant tics in her music videos. But, as my blog description proclaims, I believe in the power of making audiences uncomfortable to inspire change, so I'm not going to knock her for freaking me out. And as a full-figured woman, I definitely appreciate a nice rack, but...she's just got too much artificiality going on there for me. But that's just a personal preference and I'm not gonna come out and say I'm like, against cosmetic surgery entirely, because it really does change some people's lives for the better. I just kind of wish she embraced her natural body, but hey, this isn't enough to write her off entirely. 

It's songs like "A$$" and "Stupid Hoe" and "Did It On 'Em" that get me. It's not that "A$$" is "too sexual" or that any of these songs are "too aggressive" or "too aggressively _______," it's that they're just too damn vulgar for my tastes. (And the fact that "Stupid Hoe"'s entire chorus is "You're a stupid hoe, you're a, you're a stupid hoe" is just problematic on all sorts of levels.) It might not even matter what your message is if it's so buried in seemingly unnecessary vulgarity that people can't find it. I am dubious of the idea that intent matters more than consequence. 

And then, okay, can we talk about this Barbie thing? Sure, people should be allowed to create their own identities and embrace them and yada yada. That's all well and good and I generally support it, but can we take a moment to analyze the identity she's putting forward? She's the "Black Barbie." Pause. Barbies, by definition, aren't real. They're toys, children's playthings to be used in whatever way the play-er wants and then tossed into some dark box, only to see the light of day again when the play-er decides. They have no will, no volition. They make no choices. They are only used and thrown away, used and left to collect dust. I wasn't really upset if Barbie's head came off because I combed her hair too hard or if my teething little brother chewed on her feet, because Barbie was a thing. By aligning herself with that image, Nicki's objectifying herself, and I can't really see any reason why doing it to herself should be any better than a man (or a patriarchal society) doing it for her. And to add another level, Barbie dolls represent anatomical impossibilities and are one of the first ways in which society indoctrinates young girls with standards of beauty they'll never be able to meet, which it could be argued that Nicki is also playing into by modifying her body with implants. 

So many women have so much love for Nicki Minaj, but it's not really clear to me that she has love for us, or even for herself.

And rather than sharing any of Nicki's music here, because I'm not sure how comfortable I am with it on my page even in a critical sense, I'm going to share this poem by Jasmine Mans, whom Josh Bennet told me to check out way back when I met him at the Mellon Mays mixer in December:

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