People who claim to be gatekeepers of music genres and dictate to the rest of the world what’s good and isn’t, are draining and out of touch. Art is subjective and if it captures you, you shouldn’t be made to feel inferior for liking it.
A few years ago, I was alerted to a still then unknown female rapper, called Nicki Minaj. I watched her spit a short 16 bar cipher and immediately fell in love with her style, attitude and character accents.
My excitement about her wasn’t shared by all though. ‘‘What’s she even saying though?’’ She’s not hip-hop, she’s pop’’ and so on.
6 years later she’s a superstar selling out stadiums globally, and has youth from every background, class and culture all united and rhyming her lyrics altogether in joyous unison. As soon as hip-hop acts go mainstream and commercial, the hip-hop snobs disown it as not real enough. I recall Jay Z once told me ‘’if they say I’m a sell out great! Im selling out stadiums homie!’’
I am from the Foxy, Lauryn, Brat, Misy Elliott, Monie Love, Latifah and Kim era so I can say for sure, that Nicki has surpassed their global reach and achievements. Of course their journeys helped lay the path for her existence. Lauryn Hill had a moment in time of Grammy wins and worldwide fame, but arena tours and big commercial expansion on Nicki level? Nah son. She is touring all over the UK this month. Here’s why she’s selling out arenas.
*What blew me away was her PRESENCE. It’s easy for many acts to be great on tracks, but crap live. Nicki smashed it at levels above and beyond I was truly expecting. She hardly ever mimed, she danced her heart out, spoke to us and her presence was immense! She is determined, demands you acknowledge her regal Royalness, and even though near the end she was a lil out of breath, she worked her world-famous ass off onstage. If you are at any of her live shows this month, you will see her lead a two hour set full of hits, with a very impressively rehearsed and choreographed show.
*Contrary to popular belief, she’s not just a naked butt. She makes incredibly catchy successful hits. Check out Starships, Superbass, Anaconda and more. The production on her albums is also totally unique with a very high quality panoramic sound.
*Hard, soft, pop, rap, she always gives you lots to choose from. However, it’s clear that her fans want the attitude, high intensity frenzied vocals they initially bought into, not the slow ballads, as this live ballad section had many escaping for drinks and toilet breaks.
*Frankly. It’s incredible that she can even get an audience singing ‘’grand piano’’ alongside her and hold a ballad section. She pushes her own boundaries, steps out of her comfort zone and admits herself, that she’s not a singer. Shouldn’t we applaud ambition?
*She unites music lovers. The live show started with a hip-hop section, then ballads, then reggae, and finished off with a euro dance/ EDM section. She had white kids twerking and black kids raving. COLD. She brought up a fan – Ellie from Hertfordshire – who sounded very well spoken. Even Nicki looked surprised that she knew every word, and did an impromptu call and response with the audience asking ‘’do you all rep Hertfordshire….or Brixton?!’’
*She’s both vulgar and vulnerable, but she juxtaposes her nasty lyrics with school education advice. ‘’I want you all to promise me you will never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough. Make sure you take yo ass to school. Don’t be a quitter, be a winner. When I return, tell me about all the accomplishments you’ve all made!’’ Come on!
*Some think she’s just a vulgar hood-rat done good. But Nicki is no more vulgar as artists like Janet Jackson and Madonna, but cos she raps her words it seems much more shocking and in your face. To this day, the most vulgar thing I’ve seen in female pop music is Madonna’s SEX book. Now that was truly nasty.
*As a rapper, her vocal dexterity, flow, speed and wordplay is formidable and first-class. When she raps I feel like I’m watching a boxer or sprinter at their peak. Oh, and she’s funny too.
*Watching the audience rap alongside her every word, you could practically see them put on a superwoman cloak of empowerment, akin to the teens watching Elsa in Frozen. Nicki’s a rebel and she makes us feel rebellious, and makes women feel like bosses and go getters that can be both sexy and vulnerable.
*If you really know her music, you can see that she has a very diverse breadth of content. Her fans can relate to more poignant songs too, like “All Things Go,” the song in which she addresses her relationship breakup, an abortion she had as a young woman, and use of painkillers. There’s always a NM song for every mood. We all need a music act or album to go to when you’re in a particular mood. When younger and I felt I needed to vent or get myself hyped I would put on Wu Tang. Now I play Nicki.
SHE’S NOT A BUSSINESS WOMAN. SHE’S A BUSINESS.
*Nicki is not just a music artist, her brand encompasses music, fashion, film, art and beyond. She has expanded her brand with ads for her own perfumes, adidas, Beats by Dre, Roberto Cavalli, a wine beverage called MYX, MAC and many many more. She is getting paid. In full.
*The Internet is rife with blogs and articles about whether Nicki is great or terrible advocate for feminism. Don’t you love it when feminists try to police other women’s bodies and sexuality? Old worlde feminists refuse to understand her. Naked flesh to them automatically equals a supressed and exploited female. Don’t be fooled by her big butt and intimidating expletive-filled lyrical content.
*Nicki has defined her own lane, established a new role for female rap stars, and achieved equal rights in the hip-hop game. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women. If you’ve followed her from the beginning you’d understand that she is about being a strong feminist, on an equal playing field with the men in her industry. Isn’t that a feminist? Watch and listen to her ‘’Lookin Ass’’ video. It’s vulgaryes, but do you understand what she’s saying? She reclaims her own sexuality whilst telling men why she in charge.
*Why do we only seem to look at pop culture for our feminist icons? Nicki’s feminism might not be everyone’s feminism but you can’t deny her talent. She’s one of the girls, but she’s one of the boys too. She’s part of the females changing what the image of an empowered woman looks like.
*She’s the musical equivalent of a woman saying she wants to be a welder or a bricklayer. Taking on male rappers in the hip-hop world, duetting with them and killing them on their own tracks like she did with Kanye on his hit Monster.
*She’s not just the second-class, token female in her Cash Money Records crew, like Foxy or Kim were in The Firm and Junior Mafia. Oftentimes she’s bigger than her male rap family members Lil Wayne and Birdman.
*She may have had disagreements with other ladies in music like Kim and Mariah, but generally she is about championing other ladies. She will duet wit Beyonce, Skylar Gray, Arianna Grande, Jesse J and Jessie Ware.
*Some folk get their knickers in a twist when Nicki says lines like “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun” and “he want something he can grab” line. Should there be no balance in the world? Since I was a kid magazines have been brain washing me into thinking that if my butt looks big in this it’s a bad thing. That every summer feature is about getting the weight off and every winter feature is about not putting on the pounds under all that winter laying. We are subtly told that thin is better, more valued and respected. What if your body type is naturally curvy? I’m not skinny or curvy but I can see why it’s good to let the curvy girls have their moment too.
*I’m not usually a fan of ladies being nastily naked, but somehow with Nicki I don’t mind her overt sexuality for as long as it feels like its being owned by her, and not put upon on her by a man, in the same way as say…The Cheeky girls lol. Her hits may be co-written by men and men may direct her videos, but ultimately I don’t get the impression this is a lady that could be forced into anything she was uncomfortable with. After all, she surgically enhanced her own features and body herself way before the fame. Blame media for that, not just men.
*When a black woman is naked she’s akin to a porn-star-video-chic. When it’s a black woman its vulgar and trashy. When models like Cara Delevigne and Kate Moss are naked its called art. When Madonna and Lady Gaga get naked its ‘’artistic. WTF? Can anyone say Double standards? The world is so threatened by the naked female of colour. Is it the curves or the colour that freaks people out? Isn’t it empowering that Nicki makes curvy girls feel ‘’normal’’?
*Black women’s naked bodies have been objectified and SOLD throughout western history. The majority of black women I know don’t like the way they are forever stereotyped but still respect Nicki’s hustle. She’s done what she has to do, got that initial attention and debate going and swiftly switched it up. In a society that puts down black and brown skin tones, hair texture, and body shapes, Nicki’s affirmation of her own beauty resonates with all women who do not comply to Eurocentric ideas of beauty.
*Confident, sexually empowered women are seen as dangerous. Don’t sleep on her, Nicki is a multiple threat.
ROOTS AND CULTURE
*She reps her Trinidadian and West Indian roots hard. She has a massive dancehall influence I her some of her tracks like Trini Dem Girls and at the O2 she had thousands of people chanting….”Brixton girls dem a pop da booty”.
*She loves the UK. She told us ‘’ I can’t believe I’m back in my second home. Did anyone bring me some scones and tea!?!’’. And I checked, she doesn’t say this in every city she attends. ‘’Every time. I come to London you guys make me feel at home. Nobodies f*&*%$£ wit London’’.
*One of the new generation Queens of reinvention – when she first came out it was all Lil Kim style bikinis and flouresent, day-glo wigs now, with the guidance of her stylist Rushka Bergman she’s transformed herself into a haute couture icon too and featured in Italian Vogue.
*If you were expecting just over the top black Barbie this tour she’s one step ahead of you. Her opening outfit was all black lace everything. Black bra with see through chiffon sheer sleeves, a draped black chiffon skirt., lace tights, black PVC wrist cuffs topped off with a long raven-black ponytail and lots of cleavage.
*We also saw the more risky bikini’s, see through cat suits, bright pink Barbie doll and sequined, shimmering couture goddess.
*Her lyrical style may once have been Katy Perry meets Kanye, now her visual’s are competing with the avante guarde looks usually favoured by the Lady Gaga’s and Madonna’s.
THE ULTIMATE PERFECTIONIST.
*I produced her when she was the host of last year’s MTV Europe Music Awards, and can tell you that she’s a very hard-working businesswoman, who really takes pride in writing and rapping in a way that still shows that she’s still hungry, and made a freestyle flow for the show in minutes to engage her Scottish hosts.
*One thing the viewers didn’t see was that when a photographer backstage pulled out a plug and her teeny tunnel area where she was changing and half-naked was plunged into darkness. She had mere seconds to change her outfit. She was an UBER professional and changed by the light of three of our mobile phones with not one quibble of cuss there or later.
*The day before the show, when she wanted to perfect her script, I was summonsed to her hotel suite after midnight so she could ensure it was right on show day. She dictated her changes to me whilst being pinned and fitted for numerous costumes, multi-tasking like a master.
*When being directed or advised for stage direction she truly listened, making her own changes and decisions, and adding more than the producers of the show could’ve hoped for.
*So, maybe Nicki isn’t the savior of feminist. Maybe she’s a feminist, maybe she’s not. Ultimately she’s just a woman pushing boundaries, hustling her brand, speaking for local communities with a global voice and just trying to exist in this male dominated music world. Now that’s the definition of hip-hop as I know it.
Of course I’m only writing from an older, music industry stalwarts point of view. Here’s what one of her biggest fans – Rosie Gilbert – told me after I noticed her over excited, leaping around, petite white girl self, get rescued from the crush of the front row and placed next to a ‘safe seat’ next to me.
Why do u love Nicki so much?
I love Nicki Minaj because she can go from different genres so easily so no matter what mood you are in there is always a Nicki song for it. She is also a genuine nice person she tries to do enough for her fans and for people who are less fortunate than her.
How long have u been a fan?
I wouldn’t say I have been a fan from day one although I did enjoy bedrock when it came it. I started becoming a proper fan about 3 years ago when I moved into my scout leaders house and her son always had the pink Friday album on so I just started liking her from there.
Why is she different?
She’s different because when she first came out she was crazy and I think everyone (including myself) didn’t think she’d be around for long. When she started getting bigger she calmed down and started doing all different music from slow songs like dear old Nicki to Dance/rap like Twerk it. She always has something different round the corner and I love the fact that you never know what she could come up with next. She also puts so much emotion into her music so when you’re listening to her sing you know it’s coming from the heart not just some lyrics someone wrote for her.
Who else are you a fan of?
My music taste is very strange as well as loving Nicki I enjoy Bring me the horizon which are a scremo/ Rock band. I also enjoy Elvis, which is influenced from my mum and country music like Johnny cash and Gareth brooks.
How does Nicki make you feel?
Nicki Minaj can make me feel different emotions depending on what song I listen too. Songs like flawless and boss ass b*tch (you can just put boss ass in your article I don’t know weather you can say bitch) can make me feel like I can do anything and I can achieve anything that I set my mind too. Where as songs like the crying game and save me make me realise my past and how much I have been through.
What’s your top track of hers and why?
I don’t have a favourite song of hers but I would say my top 5 favourite songs are iddy biddy piggy, boss ass, save me, buy a heart and moment for life.
How would you sum up her show?
I would sum up her show as an experience I would never forget. I have been to other concerts before none of which compare to Nicki. She is just so amazing and to be honest I didn’t know whether she would rap or dance live, so to see her rapping and dancing in front of me was amazing to watch!.