I’ve been one of the very few people over the age of 25 willing to give Nicki Minaj a pass or seven for walking around like a fake ass Judy Jetson. As I wrote for Ebony.com a few weeks back, if nothing else Nicki is keeping things interesting. The problem, I argued, was more so about her execution of her ideas than, say, her existence (as most of her critics like to suggest). There seems to be another issue with Nicki, though, and I hope it’s not something her fans will defend.
I haven’t read the interview in full, but based on every single snippet of her VIBE cover story published online Nicki is coming across very abrasive and way too defensive. Bitchy even, specifically in the last released excerpt. The comments seem to carry that same sentiment she conveyed on “Roman’s Revenge”: She hates being called a pop artist. Or labeled in general.
I find that funny given she’s hitting national stages dressed like a standby member of The Black Eyed Peas, but I guess.
Anyhow, here’s where Nicki’s frustrations are made apparent:
What direction is it going in?
“It’s going in a very free, exhilarating direction in terms of me owning who I am and me enjoying the process of making music. I think that when you get the album you’ll feel as if I had absolutely no boundaries. That’s probably the best way to explain it so that you understand. The album just has no boundaries. The album cannot be boxed in.”
I just want to get a sense of what type of balance the album has.
“You know what, I cannot break my album down into how the normal person like yourself would break an album down and say, well this is rap and this is pop. There is no rap or pop for me. It’s Nicki Minaj. It’s one collective body of amazing work. You’ll feel it. I don’t like the labels because sometimes just by one word or one label, a person can take that the wrong way and apply a negative spin to that. So I don’t give my music labels.”
Let’s start with her first response. “That’s probably the best way to explain it so that you understand?” Hello, condescension. And what up, nerve? I see you’re making your presence felt, too, ’cause with all due respect, Nicki, you’re fine a rapper but your music isn’t exactly super duper hard to understand. You could’ve said the new album crosses genres and when you hear it, you’ll understand how much freedom I was given on my sophomore offering.
Was that so hard? The answer is no. Hell no, really.
Now, that even ruder second answer. “How the normal person would break an album down.” You might dress like a superhero, but you’re regular your damn self, Young Nick, as evidenced by that banal ass single you’ve got on radio. That is what makes this interview so funny to me. She just released the most formulaic track of her career and trying to front as if she’s puzzled why a music writer would ask her what should fans expect in terms of sound on Roman Reloaded.
Our senses work, Nicki. We can tell you’ve changed. You can call it growth or whatever you’d like it, but call it something. To do so is not asking you to compromise your musical integrity. You’re doing a fine job of that on your own. Look, “Starships” is a hit, but it’s very hard for a song that sounds like every damn thing else on pop radio to fail. And that’s essentially why she made it. It’s a cynical ploy to crossover. I happen to think Black artists can make pop music if that’s what comes natural to them, but though I loathe the notion that they have to win white people over. Nicki was already doing that before she started dressing like an opened package of Sweet Tarts and recording Ke$ha’s leftovers.
Do what you do but own whatever it is.
I cannot stand the “I don’t believe in labels crowd.” I grasp the overall sentiment, but more times than not, the folks who boast about it are only doing so because they’re afraid of the label. Why? Largely because it fits them way too perfectly and smacks their comfortability levels to the floor. Like someone I know who could be a certified lifeguard for the vagina pool yet hides behind the “I’m just sexually free” brand of denial.
Speaking of, remember when Nicki was bisexual on wax? I suppose that part of her will resurface when the trend does. Regardless, I like you lots, Nicki Minaj, but if you’re gonna be professing about your album being about freedom, try leading by example. You most certainly are free to record whatever you want, but don’t be a condescending jackass when someone asks you to call it what it is.