Nicki Minaj remains in the forefront of Hip Hop discussions: partially because of a lack of mainstream female presence and partially because she has a provocative persona. Most recently Nicki came under attack via Change.org petitions against her use of a well-known picture of Malcolm X for the cover of her latest song. “Lookin Ass Niggas.”
One petition from Kevin Powell’s BK Nation was quoted to say:
We at BK Nation are deeply saddened, offended, and outraged that musical artist Nicki Minaj has decided to make a song called “Looking A__ N____.” The song is bad enough: a berating assault—laced with the n-word, in hideous quantities—on men who don’t spend money on her; complaints about men staring at her assets even as her whole video is a pathetic display of such assets; a reduction of all male-female relationships to dollar signs. But now Nicki Minaj’s new single, “Lookin A__ N____,” also has the gaul to put Malcolm X in its artwork, one of the great icons in Black History, and during Black History Month in America, no less. Malcolm X frowned on Black self-hatred, anti-intellectualism, and materialism. He was about the upliftment and empowerment of our communities, and he was a husband and father, not a n____.
– Kevin Powell
And the other petition from Rosa Clemente says:
Let’s stop Nicki Minaj, Young Money and their record labels from dishonoring the life and contributions of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. I am asking anyone who is a lover of HIP HOP culture and who respects Black history to please sign this petition and force Nicki, Young Money and their record labels to take this down immediately. We cannot allow this to happen. As well, please pledge not to buy ANY of their products.
– Rosa Clemente
After the petitions grew legs, Nicki went to Instagram and responded:
What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word “nigga” causes so much debate in our community while the “nigga” behavior gets praised and worship. Let’s not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you.
– Nicki Minaj
The first misunderstanding comes from people’s assumptions regarding Nicki’s use of the photo. Some commentors have thought that a Nicki was calling Malcolm X a “lookin ass nigga” because he’s looking out the window in the photo. That’s a fairly unintelligent assumption as it would make no sense for Nicki to attack Malcolm X (have we forgotten that he’s a Hip Hop icon much in the same vein as a Bob Marley, Scarface, and Che Guevera?). Also, since she’s the one with the guns in the video it would make more sense that she would be likening herself to Malcolm.
The next issue is that the people behind the petitions are 2 ole skool Hip Hop heads. Now as OGs it’s expected that they definitely have a heart for the culture and a personal stake in its future. So the fact that they have strong feelings and emotions about the happenings in Hip Hop culture is a given; however, I think they were totally wrong in the way they went about expressing themselves.
First of all they should have engaged this discussion from within the culture. Either of these accomplished individuals could have written a feature in Hip Hop magazine and got at Nicki for her alleged “disrespect.” The petitions take the whole issue outside the community, which one displays divisiveness and two turns the mainstream against one of our own (like we need more of that). This whole petitioning comes off as a publicity stunt or as some self affirming authority to police Hip Hop based on past relevance. Either way I guess it’s true what they say: “the liberals of today become the conservatives of tomorrow.”
Overall I think it was clearly artistic choice that led Nicki to choose the photo and as with any artist, one cannot presume to know the creator’s intentions, which is why art is given poetic license to express itself. This whole disrespect to the legacy and Black History is sensational overdosing on propaganda to make a subjective point, which almost always leads to an unsubstantiated discussion. I applaud Nicki for taking the high road and issuing her statement and removing the photo, but I kinda wish she had stood her ground. Just like Nas with his album “Nigger,” which he was forced to release untitled, I think this assault on Hip Hop artists under the guise of proper a Blackness is really going to lead us down a slippery slope. We think we’re sending some message to the world and setting a standard for Hip Hop and/or Black music, but really we’re giving them the ammunition they want to strike the legitimacy of the organic nature of Hip Hop and reinforce their system of controlling the manufacturing of the music. These OGs need to remember a few lessons their parents taught them: we don’t air our dirty laundry in public, some conversations are only to be had in the privacy of our own homes.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man