BITCH, I’M ME: The Rebranding of Nicki Minaj

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By: Jessica Covington


     This summer I had the pleasure of earning federal minimum wage while making beds for people. One of the things that got me through, besides alcohol, was listening to Nicki Minaj and pretending I was too good for the job. Her recent string of remixes and features were just perfect for that. Songs like “Boss Ass Bitch,” “No Flex Zone,” and “Lookin’ Ass Nigga” had me turning my nose up at fitted sheets, working through the day much happier and pretending there was a hired chef waiting to grill my swordfish at the end of the day. Nicki Minaj has come the fuck up – She’s gone from protégé of Lil Wayne, to pop-rap superstar, and currently, back to the bad bitch from Queens that raps her ass off.

Now, she’s enjoying the fruits of her labor and sipping her own brand of moscato. Of course with this sort of trajectory, people have divided Nicki into halves – “real” old rap Nicki and whatever that pop stuff was she did before these remixes. To those that think that – are you so used to hearing annoying white girls recite “SuperBass” that you forgot about “Itty Bitty Piggy?” “Shitted on Em?” Her verse on “Up All Night?” That doesn’t even include the two revamps she did of her first album: Pink Friday… Roman Reloaded and Pink Friday Roman Reloaded: The Re-Up. Minaj is simply doing what all-great artists do – experimentation and expert rebranding. Kanye West is the greatest example of this, being that all of his albums are amazing but different. Each one tackles the new sound that he wanted to channel. Minaj is now rebranding as the rich, entrepreneur bitch you want to go to a bottomless mimosas brunch with. Sleep if you want to, but a little rebranding never hurt anyone.

Many thought she was trying to be Lady Gaga with the colorful wigs, outfits, and vibrant videos. “I’m glad she’s done with all that,” a friend remarked to me. “She looks prettier now with her simpler makeup.” Peasant talk. What he fails to realize is that he likes Nicki’s look now because she fits the mold that he wants her to fit. Minaj is all about expressing her sexuality and looks for herself, not to cater to what men (or anyone else) wants to see. As a woman, and a black woman at that, she’s sure to catch shit from white feminists and the like that slam Rihanna and Beyoncé, but see Madonna as a sexual powerhouse. She just released her second single from The PinkPrint – “Anaconda” – the artwork is a glorious almost Lil Kim homage with Minaj squatting, ass facing us, in a pink g-string and Jordans (see TOP photo).

 

 

Of course, online media outlets were quick to say that she pushed it too far, that she is too controversial, and even that she was undermining her image as a powerful woman in her male dominated field. Minaj responded straightaway and timely as always. She took to Instagram to post pictures of models from Sports Illustrated in thongs just as revealing as her artwork. All of them are thin, white, and posed for the male gaze. Under their pictures she wrote: “Acceptable. Angelic.” She then reposted her single cover with the caption, “UNACCEPTABLE”. She is clearly calling out the bullshit racial double standard regarding black women’s sexuality. White models exposing their asses for all the old dudes that subscribe to Sports Illustrated flies by with no comment, but Minaj falls under the all to frequent hyper-sexualization of black women. The other root of this dumbass problem is the fact that Minaj’s pose is not struck with men in mind. “What Minaj is doing, then, is defending her right to bear her behind from a sex-positive perspective,” Lauren Duca writes in the Huffington Post. “She has ownership of her body.” Despite the constant media scrutiny of her body, those complaints fade out and her upcoming album is still the main topic of discussion.

 

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Minaj has the rap world stirring with talk of the release of her third studio album, The Pinkprint, due out sometime this year. As if that uncertainty wasn’t enough, she’s been dropping remixes, singles, and features left and right. All of these remixes are pointedly different from her previous album, which was a pop-rap success and made her a household name. Just recently she released a remix of No Flex Zone with quotes by the bar. As if that wasn’t enough this summer she’s done the following:

  • She fucking sweeped at the BET Awards this summer winning Best Female Hip-Hop Artist for the fifth year in a row.
  • She co-starred in the movie The Other Woman with Cameron Diaz and Leslie Man.
  • She’s pushed her new fragrance, Minajesty, on HSN.
  • She fucked shit up at the annual NY hip-hop summit Hot 97’s Summer Jam, bringing out Lil Wayne, Drake, Soulja Boy, Young Thug and Lil Herb.
  • Did I mention the bitch has her own wine?!

These business ventures aren’t news though. She maintains that she’s a force to be reckoned with on all fronts. In her cover story with The Fader, Minaj talks about how others lament the fact that her ambition can’t be curved. “[But] every time I do a business venture or something that isn’t the norm for a female rapper, I pat myself on the back.” She stresses how important it is for people to see a young black woman being able to sell things outside of music. It doesn’t matter what color you are – her remix of Boss Ass Bitch inspires everyone to do better and not let clown niggas play you, but as a young black girl, you feel like Minaj is speaking directly to you. I’m like, 100% sure that listening to her while making those beds caused me to level up. All those verses stayed in my head long after checking the bathroom for linens, changing the ways I think about myself and others. She’s reaffirming her manifestos with every drop. They became mantras I made myself repeat – “I like bad bitches cause they like bad bitches too!” “Give a bad bitch her proper due!” “Bitch I been hot since flip phones!” Nicki is reminding you exactly who she is with lines like these, because apparently everyone forgot during these past five years. Despite how far she rises, she always reps for women that wanna do the same. She never forgets that used to struggle, like a lot of her fans, before she could take pics with her pink Lambo. My favorite line from her string of remixes comes from ChiRaq: “Brokes bitches that talk shit, now them the bitches I stunt for.” I’m happy to have such a strong force in my corner.

 

Articles Used:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/30/middlebrow-nicki-minaj_n_5635394.html

http://www.thefader.com/2014/08/05/nick-minaj-cover-interview-on-family-fame-and-black-women-in-pop-culture/

Jessica tweets as @yungbobbyflay.

Oh, and Blue Harvest loves her.

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