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Commentary: Nicki Minaj saves hip-hop with ‘Pink Friday’ album

Michael Phillips, LV Life Editor

In the last few months it has been hard to not hear Nicki Minaj on the radio, whether it was on singer Trey Songz’ “Bottoms Up,” Sean Kingston’s “Dutty Love” or her own song “Your Love.”

To many, the Lil Wayne protégé has magically appeared on the music scene, but she has actually been making music since 2007. The female rapper has done what few other women have done; entered into the “boys only” club of hip-hop and dominated on her own terms.

Usually when women enter into the world of hip-hop they do so by being the woman in a group full of men, for example Lil’ Kim and Junior Mafia, Eve and the Rough Ryders and many more. In these groups the women many times rely on their male counterparts to generate a buzz for them, a buzz at times based on their looks, sexuality, or roughness. From there they fall into the role of the stereotypical female rapper who lacks the ability to adequately compete with her male peers.

However Minaj has taken a different approach. Instead of objectifying herself, or reciting raunchy lyrics in her music, she has created music that is sporadic, energetic and mystifying all at the same time. In many of her songs the cadence and pitch of her voice switch constantly, her enunciation of words gives them new meanings, and the faces she makes while performing does the one thing hip-hop music often forgets to do, entertain.

Minaj has set herself apart from both male and female rappers whether it is her unique delivery, her blending of the pop, rhythm, blues and hip-hop genres or her fanbase. Besides being a male-dominated arena, hip-hop is often a homophobic and hypermasculine one.

It is a world where derogatory slurs regarding sexuality or a woman’s genitalia are used to insult others, and where anything gay or feminine is immediately identified as being weaker. Minaj embraces the gay community, and all other fans of hip-hop, white, black, rich or poor. For awhile Minaj would not share her sexuality with the public, in fear of being boxed in, or grouped based on her sexuality, though her lyrics would hint at the artist’s bi-curiosity.

At a typical Minaj concert you can see a line of at least 50 or more women, waiting for her to sign their breast; she has even claimed to have gone through 15 markers in one night. To many this would seem confusing and awkward, but to Minaj it is only reiterating the fact that all women are sexy and unique.

The artist has received criticism from the public for her Barbie image, to which she remarked that it is okay for a woman to refer to herself as a female dog, but to refer to oneself as a Barbie is wrong or fake.

With her album out in stores, Minaj is becoming more known for her own body of work rather than her many billboard features. Her album “Pink Friday” was estimated to sell about 400,000 copies in its first week but sold about 375,000 an impressive feat for any music artist at this time.

The album itself is different than Minaj’s features in the fact that it is more personal, and shows her growth as an artist. To others her delivery on feature songs were too animated and did not make sense, however with her album she’s able to mix all her sides into a cohesive, unique and vibrant sound. Pink Friday displays all three of Minaj’s alter egos, the loud and abrasive Roman Zolanski, the innocent Harajuku Barbie, and Nicki the rapper who’s been patiently waiting to conqueror hip-hop and the world.

An accomplishment of the album is the fact that Minaj does not use sex or extreme vulgarity to get her album’s message across. For the first time the many sides of the complex woman Nicki Minaj become apparent, as she takes listeners on her ride to stardom.

Minaj is changing hip-hop and taking chances many artists are afraid to take. As Minaj said in her album, “As long as they understand / That I’m fighting for the girls who never thought they could win / Cause before they could begin you told them it was the end / But I am here to reverse the curse that they live in.”

Michael Phillips, a sophomore journalism major, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at michael.phillips2@laverne.edu.

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