Falling In Love with Nicki Minaj: “Confessions of an Audiophile, Vol. 1”

There is plenty to be said about Nicki Minaj, and her latest release The Pinkprint has gotten me to fall in love with an artist who, once upon a time, I could not stomach. While I might not be the most credible source on the internet, I am at least an African-American male who was raised by his mother, sister, and grandmother, all in the same household in the most impressionable years of my childhood, so I am sensitive to characters like her. I am a pre-published author who tends to write about women as the lead protagonists, much like Joss Whedon, only that I’m from a predominantly homogeneous and disenchanted West Philadelphia black neighborhood. I always picked the girls in fighting video games, and Kill Bill and Jackie Brown largely define my infatuation with film. I might be a feminist to some extent, or maybe I just have an affinity for girl power and its promotion, including the recent eclipse of my obsession with Audrey Hepburn. Nicki Minaj is an intriguing subject, lending herself to much opportunity for controversy that can easily be misconstrued. Instead of illuminating the potential negatives, let’s highlight the golden validity to the pretty pink princess persona she’s carefully illustrated.

I’m not here to defend her like a sociology superhero. I grew up overprotective of the women in my life, and it’s a characteristic that is less pertinent now, but it’s still there. So, it’s likely that same superhero complex I suffer from is also applied here: this is a woman who might need saving. After listening to The Pinkprint, that is hardly so. This isn’t another diminished white dwarf femme in the universe, but a superstar who owns all the controversy with pride, success, all while holding a suffocating grip on all the men who drool over her.

Nicki Minaj is a phenomenon, preceded by Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and the like, but she is separate from them. She is not a blend. Her music, which I like to affectionately call bitch swag, has empowering elements to it that invigorate particularly the otherwise lost and wildly disillusioned African-American young woman; from pre-teens that are mis-fed a lot more about sexuality than children two decades ago, and the twenty-somethings who are still ladling through their identity soup. Those not familiar with the various drawbacks of being a woman (and the additional ones that come with class, race, etc.) are likely to be off-put by her assertive tone. Yet, in the first two tracks of The Pinkprint, Minaj narrates about her upbringing, from her abortion to the death of her cousin that she feels she could have prevented. Her immediate self-exposure, from the way her family looks at her in the aftermath of her cousin’s death, and the subsequent fame’s generated isolation. She unravels her reservations about committing to romantic love and the inevitable heartbreak. She’s jaded, she’s disappointed, yet she still expresses forgiveness and compassion to those who’ve left her disheveled. She dispels rumors about her promiscuity in a collaboration with Lil’ Wayne and Chris Brown, flaunts her lustful charm in the lead single “Anaconda” and again with a high-profile guest appearance from Beyoncé in “Feeling Myself“.  Yet, despite the warranted display of ego, Minaj shows her soft side in “Favorite,” showing her capacity for romantic companionship, loyalty, and commitment. The album still has some of the inconsistencies from her earlier works, and it is limited instrumentally, but this is without a doubt the most cohesive effort, and shows her maturity, evolution, and serves as a pinpoint to what to look forward to.

Minaj is contradictory for controversy’s sake, yet conforming enough to sell records and establish an audience and a reach. She’s founded strength and empowerment in her vulnerability whereas others less self-aware might endeavor to perpetuate a similar demeanor. They may not be capable of executing such a refined, layered self-portrait. There’s an allure that goes beyond her voluptuous backside. She might be a genius amongst a culture dominated by males. I mean, tell me, is there any reason why she chose the male spelling of her name? I have a feeling that wasn’t an accident.
This is what makes her beautiful, and this is why I love Nicki Minaj. I lend her my appreciation, empathy, and respect with open ears, especially considering how familiar she looks to all the women I grew up around the way. While I finally admit that I do indeed succumb to her commanding lascivious allure, my attraction to her is still highly driven by her presence and her aura, not only the woman-curves she works just as hard to maintain.

Featured Image courtesy of the Artist

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