November 6, 2011
Nicki Minaj is the pre-eminent female MC of Generation Now. She’s a massive attack on the senses; scorching eardrums with fire-breathing vocals, and blinding corneas with neon-shine vestments – and it’s all at once. She’s so pink you can taste it – a Blow Pop, scattered, chopped, and cooked up by a local street vendor on the Brooklyn block: pank; young culture’s saccharin-infused quarter water: Pank pop. Hype, hair, and hyperimmediacy with hood-pass in hand – she is the pop face of urban misses.
Her style is a snapshot; an urban blender mixing and matching gutter gear with cosmopolitan couture – pose, a harder Harajuku girl posted on the corner of Tokyo-chic and Harlem-beast – pose, a cracked mirror brightly reflecting what’s left of iconic Barbie’s shattered remains – pose, the Young Money queenpin reigning supreme beneath a neon crown – pose, an amazonian commander-in-chief sitting shotgun rocking steady in pink – pose.
Her sound bites eardrums, breaks vinyl, and borders on schizophonia. One minute she’s a soprano-pitched Valley Girl with a bubblegum Swiss Army tongue, and the next she’s laying down lines colder than Weezy’s grill, with the bassment boss swelter of Biggie Smalls. In any given moment, she’ll switch gears like a Maserati, as she blesses every track with her manic John Hancock signature flow. Her records are deviant dialogues between a milieu of manic personalities; line-by-line she throws ventriloquist vocals across a cerebral sonicscape – from Roman Zolansky to Onika, Nicki stands somewhere in between.
Her status stands as the modern matriarch of hip-hop; the princess at the pulse. Vibrant histories of female supremacy in the midst of a male-dominated world set the backdrop of Little Miss Minaj; yet it is that that very well of cultural ancestry which drowns her own independence. When we see Nicki, we see the elements that came before her: Kim, Missy, Foxy, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Eve… These female MCs reigned supreme by creating new standards for the urban female identity. We, however, are blessed with the curse of having seen it all before; and Nicki Minaj is the first female MC to come to fruition in the midst of modernity – those very pillars of the past, are the same shackles barring her from the big breakthrough. Here we see Neo-Nefertiti and Contempo-Cleopatra, Barbie and Harajuku Girls – but where is Nicki? It’s not enough to be the new version of a classic; it’s about being the classic version of something new. Minaj’s sarcophagus, that of shadows past, is what holds her back; she has yet to break past the hyperzeitgeist status of Don-Diva-du-jour. Du jour is of the fashion, du jour is here today and gone tomorrow, and for an artist the challenge is to make du jour last forever.
There’s something about Minaj that just doesn’t sink in, though; she’s so Hood-Pop – she is so vocally hip-hop and street, but so visibly bubblegum pink Pop. More so than past female MCs, Minaj veers towards the artifice; but more so than current, and past, pop acts, she verges towards the hard – but in that void she finds an interesting niche. Her biggest flaw, and arguably biggest deterrent to the big breakthrough, is her lack of definition. She’s not GaGa or Ke$ha because she’s too urban, she’s not Missy or Eve because she’s too pop produced; but (shout to @pmablog) “griping about pop’s overproduction, is like complaining that rap is too misogynistic, or that experimental is too weird” – we get it, that’s the point, and Minaj is a fusion of the three. Moreover though, she’s too much of everything/everyone, and not enough of anything.
Once she breaks through the blur, unleashes the monster behind the mirage, and cements her own bonafide aesthetic – only then can the kings watch the queen conquer. Therein lies the battle ahead: between the one who performs in living color, and the character who is living color: #nickibewhoyouwannabe