I like this Jonah Weiner piece on Nicki Minaj, the chameleon-like Lil’ Kim semi-clone who’s been popping up as a guest on all sorts of tracks, mostly because it got me listening to her, and damn, girl is talented. I always get mixed feelings with discoveries like this, because I end up regretting the number of times I failed to hit “replay” on a artist’s great tracks, even as I’m thrilled that I’ve found them. But honestly, I have a hard time sharing Weiner’s authenticity concerns. “Is rapper Nicki Minaj really a gun-toting, bisexual, British madam — or just a theater enthusiast from Queens?” he asks in the piece’s deck. But I just don’t really care. Perhaps this is the result of a pop upbringing full of fake virgin and posing emoboys, maybe it’s growing up in an era when Jay-Z’s continuing to sing about slanging seems a little silly given his status as a respectable businessman and when Kanye West’s pretensions to street-ness were always precisely and self-consciously that. But I’ve never assumed that artists were exactly, or even remotely, who they said they were. I’ve always felt like I was buying a product. Authenticity seems kind of…precious, whether in service of extreme toughness or extreme sensitivity. I care about the truth in my personal relationships, and the quality of execution in my art.Besides, I wish Weiner had mentioned Minaj’s “Still I Rise,” a track in which she flows like Cam’ron (the sonic similarities to “I Hate My Job” are stunning) and deconstructs her images — and criticism of it. (Warning, I’d listen to this with headphones in, and discussion of lyrics continues after the jump in the name of avoiding over-the-shoulder readers):
She rhymes, in the voice of one of her critics:She said fuck Fendi but I think she was playin’I heard she do them thangsI think she fuckin’ WayneShe call herself Lewinsky that means she give him brains*She tryin’ be like Lil’ Kim her picture looks the sameWhy didn’t she sign with G-Unit, she from Queens right?And what’s her nationality, she’s Chinese right?I mean she okay, but she ain’t all thatShe ain’t the next bitch tell that bitch fall backSee I’m hater I go hard, listen let’s beginYou know her last name Minaj she a lesbianAnd she ain’t never coming out, they could come and see That every time she do an interview you know I run and seeShe get me so sick it make me vomitThat’s why I spend my time online leaving commentsAnd you know I got some more haters with me And sure, the chorus is Auto-Tuned to hell, but I kind of dig the shimmer in the sound, and the prize-fighter ethos. The next verse is a veritable anthem for women who might follow her into the business, a frank explication of the economics of image, and of how women should use each other’s success to force more opportunities for themselves:’Cause every time a door open for me that means you,Just got a better opportunity to do youThey don’t understand these labels, look at numbers and statisticsI lose you lose, ma its just logisticsAnyway, real bitches listen when I’m speaking,cause if Nikki win, then all ya’ll gettin’ meetings.The whole song is surprisingly straightforward, almost an inversion of Robyn’s “Curriculum Vitae,” pairing bravado with practicality. I cannot stop listening to it.*I generally dislike nasty humor at Monica Lewinsky’s expense, but damn is that a great rhyme.