Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nicki Minaj: Why Society’s Metaphorical Anaconda Wants Some, Hun

>> On Wednesday December 3rd, there was a last minute private event at Up & Down in NYC. The event was a listening party for Nicki Minaj’s upcoming album The Pinkprint, and various circumstances led me to be the one working the door. The guest list was limited but full of impressive names, and there were few to no problems with guests being turned away. There was one problem though – doors for the event opened at 8:30pm, and Miss Minaj was nowhere to be found. The bar inside kept guests occupied while I stood outside in the cold with some security guards, and at 10pm, Nicki finally arrived. I smiled at her as she walked by, and I’m not sure if it was the cold air or her refusal to acknowledge the help, but she looked right through me. It would have bothered me if the next exchange didn’t happen. She walked in, looked around, and immediately scoffed “There ain’t no food here?” before sending her manager running to the 24-hour pizza place down the block. She may be a diva, but she knows what she wants and she’s honest about it. She really won’t miss meals (See “Anaconda” lyrics). Finally, someone I can respect.

>> Nicki Minaj released her debut studio album, titled Pink Friday, in late 2010 and her name hasn’t left society’s collective mouth for very long since. Minaj has done a myriad of things over the years to keep it that way. This includes performing at the 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in one of her many brightly colored wig and outfit combinations, a performance that brilliantly showed off her affinity for both music and style. She has also launched an exclusive clothing line with K-Mart, a perfume whose bottle is in the shape of Nicki herself (below), her own brand of Moscato (MYX Fusions), and has therefore become an entrepreneur in her own right. She’s been on talk shows, late night TV as an interviewee and a performer, and she’s had a song featured on one of those Fearless Records “Punk Goes Pop” compilations – the fourth volume to be precise. Between all of this and that hilarious song “The Creep” with The Lonely Island (for which there is a video, and a great one at that) – it seems like Nicki has virtually done it all. This is something she addresses in her hit “Moment 4 Life:” “We done did everything they could think of / Greatness is what we on the brink of.”

>> Having just turned 32 a few days ago, it’s clear that Nicki has been gaining success as she gains life experience. But what makes her different from any other pop star? Others have seen similar levels of success, but what is it about Nicki Minaj that lets her stick around instead of fading out as another one hit wonder? Having the support of Young Money / Cash Money certainly doesn’t hurt, but there's more to it than that. I chalk her success up to strategy and branding. When she first started getting some attention musically, it was more than just the songs that made people stop and listen. First, female rappers exist but generally aren’t as popular as their male counterparts. Seeing someone like Nicki making music with and on the same level as artists like Drake and Lil Wayne automatically sets her apart from her peers. She even declares herself “the female Weezy” at the end of her single “Stupid Hoe."  The second way she stands out is through her presentation. Nicki has various characters that she uses in her songs, in guest spots on other artists’s songs, and in her videos. There’s a character with a cockney British accent and another that is essentially a living Barbie Doll. These wild characters plus her loud and unique style automatically make her an artist to keep an eye on, even just based on the curiosity over what she could do next.

>> When debuting her new album at that listening party at Up & Down, Nicki Minaj chose which songs she wanted to play for those in attendance. She skipped the already well-known singles and focused on the tracks that she thought were more content-heavy. When it came to “Only,” she purposefully chose a clean edit of the track to play and after a few seconds, she grabbed the mic and rapped in the expletives before moving on to songs we hadn’t heard yet. Seeing how much each song meant to her and seeing her not be able to resist singing along to her own music really stuck with me. The same thing goes for her demanding food upon her arrival. It was a dramatic moment, but it gave me an appreciation for that line in “Anaconda” because even though it sounds silly, it’s a fact. She isn’t missing meals, whether or not she’s already running late for her own event. Jokingly or seriously, Nicki raps about her reality, and it’s something worth acknowledging. We see her beautifully tackle the most personal of topics like love and loss on The Pinkprint, and hopefully fans will get to see a different side of this versatile artist as a result.

>> Sure, she’s a diva. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to ask for – no, to demand it – and there’s something significant in that. Her lyrics, videos, and persona(s) exude confidence, and it’s a confidence that demands respect. Nicki Minaj is an artist, whether or not tracks like the ‘in your face’ “Anaconda” are interpreted as art or click bait. The beauty in Nicki’s strategy is that hooking people in with a song and video combination like “Anaconda” gets them invested for when her deeper and more genuine songs like “All Things Go” and “Bed of Lies” come out. After hearing her forthcoming album, it’s more than obvious that there’s more in her songs than the fact that she has a great ass (although that’s still fairly crucial). She raps and sings about losing loved ones, the struggles she’s endured on the road to success, and other very personal matters. There are still dance songs and tracks that demand an “oh snap!” from the listener, but The Pinkprint is much more than that. As an artist, Nicki is much more than that. Mega pop hits like like “Starships” and “Super Bass,” seemingly created just for the sake of having hits, were just the building blocks of the Minaj Empire. The Pinkprint is Minaj’s throne.
Long may she reign.

- Kate Russell

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