Besides projecting, producing and portraying characters such as Nicki Minaj, Harajuku Barbie, Nicki Teresa or Roman Zolanski, the rap artist from Queens we’ve come to observe aspires to become a pop star.
If last night’s performance at the 2012 Grammys by Nicki Minaj didn’t solidify in your mind (or hers) that she dreams of hanging in the pop star realm, I’m not sure what other signs you need. During her performance, Nicki Minaj debuted her new single, “Roman Holiday.” With her mini-video and set inspired by the 1973 classic The Exorcist, Minaj delivered a performance full of all the things pop stars are made of like uncontainable energy, indescribable costumes and undeniable party dance beats.
Even before the Pink Friday artist took the stage, she arrived at the awards in a bright red cloak gown designed by Donatella Versace. She hit the red carpet, hood raised, while being escorted by a guy masked as the Pope or a bishop. Later, this all made ‘somewhat’ sense when she took the stage. There will surely be backlash from the religious community over her performance, but I’m sure her Barbz are on the battlefield for their Lord. However, Nicki Minaj was not the first artist to use religious undertones in his or her material and she will not be the last. In a most recent example, somehow it is acceptable for Lady Gaga to use blasphemy in her presentations, but for Minaj it is a no-no. Creativity did exist before Gaga, way before…
Critics quickly took to Twitter and the blogs, criticizing Minaj before her performance was even over. I’m not sure if people were expecting to see mixtape “Beam Me Up Scotty,” or “Super Bass”-Nicki Minaj at the awards. After her successful debut album, it was no surprise she was up for a few Grammy awards and at center stage, being the only black female artist to perform with her own set.
It’s no secret that men govern the music industry by defining “acceptable” gender roles and social norms from a male-dominated view. This is where relevancy comes in, begging the question (that normally goes under answered): what significance do black female artists play in music? Black female artists are immediately painted as freaks and sexual objects, pushing no boundaries but a nice bust line. Black women don’t have the privilege of doing outlandish things and being well received.
Despite Minaj’s new found European stroll, the struggle for female rappers to break away from the misogynistic lyrics and images rap music perpetuates has always been a part of our culture. Hip-hop is often criticized for having explicit undertones – especially surrounding women. Is there not any room for a Nicki Minaj in the pop realm? Are black artists not allowed to embody pop? A testament of universality or crossover is when the influence of any genre in mainstream culture is seen in popular styles of fashion, dialect and cultural values—again popular.
I’m not saying everyone should give Nicki Minaj a standing ovation on her performance alone, but on the merit of her trying to be the pop star she dreams. Before we begin to judge her talents, I hope we take a scale of the music industry as a whole because everyone other artist is doing it to stay relevant. Unfortunately, there’s not much talent there to criticize. Music is a business and like any business trying to find the balance isn’t always simple but a conscious effort must be made. Discrimination not only extends between lifestyle and political values but it also occurs between race. Let’s not continue to criticize Nicki Minaj for trying to step outside of the box. She’ll find her groove eventually. Bottom line is Minaj’s image works and is very relevant with the times, which is where all her magazine and product endorsements come from. To make this happen, Nicki Minaj, Harajuku Barbie, Nicki Teresa or Roman Zolanski knew if they wanted to be the face of the black female pop star, they had to jump on a few tracks, spit some bars and make some key connections with some of the biggest names in the industry.