Have you noticed that Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are dropping an album on the same day, November 22nd? Did you know that last week Nicki Minaj announced on Twitter that the drop date had changed to November 22nd from November 23rd? Did you notice that Nicki Minaj lends her voice, the deranged one, to the title sequence of West’s short film called Runaway? Have you thought about the ways that they could be connected in the popular cultural deranged-milieu? Let’s work it out…
West has a new album, a new girlfriend, and a new obsession with film. His newest project, a full length trailer for his newest album–in the style of Michael Jackson–seems to mark his entrance into the upper echelons of the status of ICON. Have we ever seen a rapper reach his level of pop-dum? I don’t think so (arguably Tupac did, but only after his death). I remember when Kanye was going to be different; a conscious commercial rapper who talked about the ways that “they made us hate ourselves and love they wealth” (“All Falls Down”) but now… he just talks about himself. And what does Nicki Minaj have to do with this?
As of now there are about 4 female rappers (working) who are signed to major labels and Nicki Minaj is the newest; the first newcomer on the scene (on a major label) in what may actually be a decade. Kanye West is the best rapper to come on the scene in the past 10 years and has set himself up to become the most globally recognized. Minaj is making a dramatic entrance and has been well received by many to the dismay of many. Like West, her entrance into rap comes by way of serious co-signing from other more established artist like Lil’ Wayne. Though her ostentatious brand of representation is not particularly new (she borrows heavily from Lil’ Kim), she has managed to put together some bars on a couple mixtapes and everyone else’s songs that are interesting enough for her to win a BET Award without even releasing an album. And while BET is ready to throw awards at her, I’m not ready to do such a thing without having a project of hers in my ear to actually judge. Her first two songs off her album, “Massive Attack” and “Your Love” are catchy, but they don’t show off much skill or rap mastery, her features have been better–that Ludacris “My Chick Bad” is going down in history. And the videos are absolutely and utterly a waste of digital space. They just aren’t that good.
Foxy Brown came on the scene with much of the same eagerness from hip-hop fans as Minaj is. Lil’ Kim was a beast, selling a couple million copies of Hard Core. Da Brat even went platinum… twice. And let’s not forget that Salt-N-Pepa stayed relevant for a decade. And all of them did that with competition! So Minaj should sell a trillion copies cause there aren’t any rappers out right now, besides Kanye who could give her competition… So why are they dropping albums on the same day?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe they thought it would be fun to see who sold more? I have no clue. You’ll have to ask them about that, but what I do know is that Minaj and West provide something for America. New representations of Blackness that are especially palatable to white audiences. Both of their images borrow so heavily from whiteness–Minaj as “barbie” and West’s obsession with brand names that only the super-rich (mostly white) can afford–but they’re still recognizably Black and America has an obsession with Black icons.
There is something else I know and that’s movies and since Kanye West has gotten into the film business–he should be judged like a film maker, so look out for the next movie review post, A Brief Movie Review: Kanye West’s Runaway.