Let’s face it, Nicki Minaj has never been one to shy from controversy or public discourse. She’s sexual, abrasive, and at times, down right raunchy, but now that Lil’ Kim is pregnant, the public is in need of the next “super femcee”. In much the same way that the public is regularly appeased by the rolling out of one addition to our daily lives that make things “diverse” (think Howard Cain’s candidacy, the new ‘hispanic’ Bachelor, Wes Welker at receiver) that are placed there to end the ‘controversy’ of their absence. In short, if we have one person/thing that’s different, we’ve covered our bases. It’s this line of thinking that has vaulted Nicki Minaj to the forefront of females in hip-hop and has raised plenty of talking points on whether she deserves it.
Just before the weekend, Minaj returned from relative silence to drop the song and accompanying visual for “Lookin Ass N**ga.” It’s a powerful lyrical undertaking that calls to mind her ruthless verse on 2010’s “Monster.” It’s a riveting, bone shaking verse that make plenty of statements and conjectures for the game to take note of, but does it really make Nicki deserving of the ‘top female title’? And is she the best image to portray?
Before we get carried away, let’s back up. It’s an age-old tale in hip hop that anyone without a Y chromosome is placed into a separate category called “female rappers”. From there, it splits into two distinctly different camps. For sake of the argument, let’s call them the Lauryn and Kim camps, the former being Ms. Hill and the latter, Lil’ Kim of Bad Boy fame. Female artists, much more than their male counterparts, are subject to fitting into one of two stereotypes: artistic or ratchet. Either you have the ass to go with the shaky bars and the money that comes with it, or you focus on the craft and sacrifice the fame and money. Female artists have always been highly marketed in hip-hop as sex objects, Lil Kim thrust her pelvis at more front rows than many working girls in attempts to sell records and Nicki Minaj is shrouded by rumors of drastic plastic surgery to achieve that continent-sized backside. But what about the artistry? Sure, Nicki has tremendous skill, that is exemplified in the “Lookin’ Ass N**ga” video and beyond, but would she have the same impact, would she be referred to as the best female rapper, if she didn’t have the assets?
Artists like Rapsody, Rah Digga, Angel Haze and Jean Grae represent several generations of female artists brave enough to not exploit their femininity for a superficial commercial success. Nicki Minaj is widely regarded as the best female MC in the game, regardless of the fact that her last label project was 2012’s Roman Reloaded which, despite debuting at No. 1 thanks to the Cash Money push, was described by Randall Roberts of the LA Times as a “disjointed, artistically confused” album. As much as I can appreciate the skill with which Nicki addresses how people approach her, but how much can she really complain about people looking at her ass when she promotes it more than a Thursday night NBC sitcom? Anyway, my point is, Nicki can do her thing for sure, but I’d rather see someone else get the spotlight for once.