Posts Tagged ‘Nicki Minaj’

Hip-Hop-2014

The Story

Recently Nicki Minaj sought to return to her alma mater, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Art and Performing Arts, to give an inspirational talk to the students. The Principal denied her request. Nicki tweeted about her disappointment over not being allowed to speak at the school. She stated that the school had changed her life and she wanted to inspire he current students there.2014 MTV Movie Awards - Arrivals

Naturally a social media backlash began as people spoke out about whether or not qualified as an “appropriate role model” that she speak to students. This same so this cussing came up when P. Diddy was scheduled to speak at Howard University’s commencement ceremony (add to that he was given an honorary degree that day as well).

The Problem

In true definition a role model is someone whose behavior, example, or success mirrors that to which others aspire. This means that a role model is not publicly elected not do they volunteer. They are those individuals who influence and inspire others through their own natural presence.

The problem is that we, as a society, have become so obnoxiously grandiose that we presume to be the authorities on everything. The power of social media has given a broader voice to those everyday citizens who twenty years ago may have never been heard. However, this access has deluded us into believing that just because we have an opinion it always matters concretely. I say this to say that while the public opinion (supposedly represented by the media) may have it’s opinions and thoughts on who should or should not be a role model, it really doesn’t make any difference. Individuals, people, and/or groups choose their role models and nothing anyone else has to say will change that.1035x684-seancombs-1800-1399907449

To deny a celebrity the opportunity to speak directly to the population for whom they are a role model is controlling and counterproductive. I think this is especially true when it comes to Hip Hop artists because they often occupy a controversial and contradictory space in society (not that they can help it as reality is controversial and contradictory). Giving them an opportunity outside of their art to speak to their fans and supporters would allow them to add dimension and clarification to their messages that may be confusing to younger audiences. And if nothing else it will allow them to see their role models outside of the cameras and lights and assess them with greater understanding.

The Point

The point is that I get so sick of popular opinion seeking to control and dictate people’s behavior and thoughts. The strength of that choke hold is growing everyday through opinion, ideology, and legislation. Little battles such as this one is where we are losing the war. We are so tunnel visioned and opinionated that we miss the big picture. The more we allow institutions and systems to appraise our individual value, regulate our behavior and dictate the spaces in which we allowed to move, the more we become commodities and not citizens; prisoners and not people.

 

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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The Story

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You would have to be living under a rock to not hear about Lil Kim’s recent release of identity theft, which featured Nicki Minaj’s face on an ID with Kim’s name on it. Of course the Hip Hop illiterate media are screaming that Kim is renewing her beef with Nicki but what is actually happening is something deeper, bigger, and better.

Enter the Queens

Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind
– Queen Elizabeth I

Nicki has been holding down the public face for the women of Hip Hop for past few years. It’s a throne to which she ascended without much challenge except for Lil Kim. Recently there were attempts of the media to push Iggy Azalea into the ring with Nicki, which have failed miserably as Iggy can’t even earn her credibility as an authentic member of the Hip Hop culture. So the only person who has come at and can come at Nicki is Kim…and Kim’s back.

Kim’s first attempts to protect her legacy were fairly weak and uncreative. After a lil while Kim faded back into shadows and Quenn Nicki kept the spotlight. To Kim’s credit she was not prepared for Nicki and worse she gravely underestimated Nicki. In truth, Kim has nothing to fear really. She’s put in her work, paid her dues. And her place in Hip Hop history is fixed: she is and always will be a Hip Hop Queen.

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Lauryn Hill has been performing quite a bit recently and although she hasn’t dropped anything new and fans aren’t really impressed with her Soca mixed speed spitting renditions of the tracks from The Miseducation of Laurn Hill, she’s making her presence known and it won’t be surprising to her start dropping singles and or getting features to lead up to – we hope – another album. So there’s that.

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But Hip Hop heads in the know are also waiting to see what will come from the Bronx bred Remy Ma who has been released from her seven year prison stint. On August 1st Remy posted an “I’m back!!!” text gram on Instagram. The post was followed by photos of Remy sitting in the studio beside DJ Khaled. A few days later Khaled and Remy dropped “They Don’t Love You No More.” Remy’s hungry.

The Point

This is a mad exciting time for Hip Hop as the queens ante up to take own their respective place in the culture. So while the media is playing readership games flinging terms like beef and talking about which female is running Hip Hop, what we actually know is that even as they tussle for the reigning throne, they’re all queens and Hip Hop is better for them all representing Hip Hop women and dropping shit for the streets to bang to.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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The Story

Ironically, I had heard the song but hadn’t paid much attention to Iggt Azalea. From listening to the song I expected it and the creator to fade into Rap oblivion too quickly to be worth the research. However, a few weekends ago I got into a discussion with a dude in my neighborhood, who is and indie rapper, and he says to me that Iggy Azalea is coming for Nicki Minaj’s spot. I bust out laughing and said “she can’t possibly. I don’t even know who the fuck that is.” He acts appalled and we rush over to my laptop and he pulls her up on YouTube. I can’t remember the first song he played but 30 seconds in I grabbed my drink and walked back to other side of the room. He stares waiting for my response and I ask “You like this shit??” He then adds that T.I. Is backing her (as if that means anything). I responded by saying “well shame on T.I.”

Keeping It Real

One of the major principles in Hip Hop is keeping it real. Hip Hop is a culture that was birthed from rebellion of inner city youth who were tired of being disregarded and lied to. Those youth challenged the society in which they lived and that status quo that oppressed them. Because of those forerunners Hip Hop has a legacy in truth telling that includes all aspects of life. If someone calls themselves a part of Hip Hop and gets caught fronting, it’s a serious offense.

On her single “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea raps “First things first. I’m the realest.” One does not simply make a statement like this and not expect to be investigated. But to add to the call for question is a line from Iggy’s song “D.R.U.G.S.” In which Iggy says “When the relay starts. I’m a runaway slave master.” Female rapper Azealia Banks took issue with the line tweeting:

I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it.
– Azealia Banks

Regardless of how Hip Hop Iggy may consider herself slavery pins from a White person is not only distasteful but appalling. Such carelessness makes one question how authentically Hip Hop she can be if she cannot understand and respect the deep connection between Hip Hop and Black culture that make such a reference more offensive than witty. The final stroke that most definitely brings Iggy to the chopping block of Hip Hop authenticity is the media hype that she is a contender for Nicki Minaj’s spot.

Iggy and Nicki

For the past few years Nicki Minaj has been the major mainstream representation for female rappers. That is not to say she has been the only female rapper making music, but she has one of the few to see large mainstream success and celebrity. When Nicki first hit the mainstream there were many comparisons between her and Lil Kim. The public discussion and fans and Hip Hop heads taking sides pitted the two against one another. The end result was a few studio disses and terse interview statements. However the two have now settled into their respective spaces and have their individual fan followings.iggy-azalea-nicki-minaj-mercy-remix-507x397

Enter Iggy Azalea. With her single “Fancy,” media attention, and the backing of T.I. (a respected established rapper) Iggy Azalea is beginning to contend with Nicki Minaj in terms of publicity and attention. The major concerns with Iggy are that she’s an Australian White girl who sounds Black. Her persona and the content of her material has left many Hip Hop heads questioning her authenticity, which is serious in the world of Hip Hop. Nicki Minaj recently made an offhanded reference to the fact that despite the popularity of “Fancy” and Iggy’s self proclaimed realness, she doesn’t have a writing credit on the song. Rumors have swarmed that it is possible that T.I. Is writing for her. THAT would be the nail in the coffin that would bury Iggy in the Hip Hop graveyard for posers.

The Point

The media favors Iggy – for some reason – and continue to defend her place as the new Nicki; however, the Hip Hop community who is and will always be the final jury still has their doubts. Personally, I can’t willingly sit through a whole song and when the visual is added I’m more repulsed than intrigued. Iggy Azalea may sell records and gain media attention but from the evidence I’ve seen she is little more than a gimmick for T.I. to make money.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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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.”

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The Petitions

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

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Nicki’s Story

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 Problem

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.”

The Point

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

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As Hip Hop lovers struggle to maintain control over the culture, a battle between Hip Hop Purists and those who are willing to see Hip Hop take on qualities of other genres persists. But whose right?

The Story

What inspired this thought was the year long beef that occurred between Nicki Minaj and DJ Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97. It all began at Summer Jam 2012 when Rosenberg made comments about Nicki’s then single, Starships.

After the comment was made and the word got back to Nicki, she refused to go onstage and abruptly left Summer Jam. For the next year Nicki fans attacked Rosenberg for his comments and both Nicki and Rosenberg, when questioned about the incident, gave harsh critiques of one another.

After about a year, Nicki went on air with Rosenberg and discussed the beef and ultimately put it to rest.

After watching the end of that clip (9:00 – 12:49) something stood out to me. When Ebro questions Nicki about the beef and her making pop rap songs like Starships she comments that,

“Everybody knows my story. I didn’t have anything, I grew up here, I really grew up here [NYC]. This was all I knew. So I tell my story – but, but I still grew up loving Cyndi Lauper an Madonna.”

And Ebro responds,

I think it’s our fault in Hip Hop– and I’m the worst one — where we put these boundaries on Hip Hop: what can  be, what it should be, what it could be. And I think I do it — and I cant speak for everyone — I do it from a place of, I know what this music means to the young person who doesn’t have a voice. This was the music of the young person that didn’t have a voice. So all of a sudden when it becomes commoditized and mainstream and all these things that don’t reflect those humble beginnings…I start to be like ‘oh my God, we’re losing it, we’re losing it…”

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Hip Hop Purism

Hip Hop purism is all about standards. It is the an undying loyalty to the original elements of the culture and to the traditional styles of rap music. Hip Hop purism maintains the subculture mentality: glorifying the underground and despising the mainstream. Hip Hop purists, critique, criticize, analyze, and critically think and evaluate the culture and the work it produces.

The beautiful thing about Hip Hop Purism is the fact, like Ebro stated, more often than not it comes from a love of Hip Hop, a respect for the culture and what it has come to mean to so many people, and the influence that it has had on the world. That is admirable — no, it’s necessary. Hip Hop requires and deserves the kind of reverence that is given to it by Hip Hop purists. If we are going to maintain ownership of the culture we have to be the appropriators and cultivators of it.  The other thing about Hip Hop purism that is necessary for Hip Hop is the critical analysis of the culture. All culture needs critique and criticism. In order to critique, one must research, study, evaluate, and then form an opinion. This is what keeps a culture alive and breathing and aware of it’s own evolution and what that evolution means to the culture.

On the flip side, Hip Hop purism has it’s pitfalls or potential drawbacks. One of those pitfalls being the tendency to become so stringent and limiting that the culture is not allowed to grow and evolve. I think Hip Hop purists have good intentions…but you know what they say about good intentions (the road to Hell is paved with them). There has to be some flexibility. While maintaining a standard is great, that standard must evolve as the culture evolves or it will become a stale nostalgia that grinds everybody’s everybody’s nerves and doesn’t benefit the culture.

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The Problem

I think the major problem is that Hip Hop Purists tend to condescend anyone who disagrees with them. I understand why the tendency is there. It’s because all too often the Purists are the only ones who take the time to know the culture’s history, it’s back story, and respect those who have created legacies. Therefore, they come to the conversation more equipped to discuss the culture on an intellectual level. Whereas the average Hip Hop listener (not the Hip Hop Head) tends to only engage the culture and music on a superficial level; therefore, they don’t always have the knowledge or passion to take what happens in the community seriously.

The other problem is that many Hip Hop Purists tend to forget that another essential component of Hip Hop music is innovation. Hip Hop has always been inspired by it’s environment. For many rappers that means the music of their parents or other genres that they have been exposed to. Hence, where sampling comes from. The samples used by Hip Hop producers are usually old school Soul, Blues, and R&B music,which by itself isn’t Hip Hop; however, once chopped, screwed, or looped, it becomes pure Hip Hop. So why then wouldn’t we expect the younger generation of Hip Hoppers to incorporate their influences into their musical creations (even if that influence is Pop music)?

The Point

While I think Hip Hop Purists play an essential part in the preservation of Hip Hop culture, they have to be careful not to try to take it upon themselves to dictate the direction and evolution of the culture. The history of Hip Hop has shown us that no matter how many hybrid moments, or how the evolution occurs, Hip Hop always returns to itself. That is what is happening right now in Hip Hop. We h ave spent the last few years going through Rock-Rap and Pop-Rap and all its various incorprations, but Hip Hop is again returning to itself. So I have no fear of us forgetting who we are and to some degree we have the Purists to thank for that.

I’m not sayin: I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man