Disclaimer: JasSoandSo is in no way a fan of Nicki Minaj.
Nicki Minaj’s new single, “Lookin’ Ass Nigga” from her new album The Pink Print is total rapey, waste of time; or so Jezebel’s recent article argues. But is it really, though? As mentioned by a few music critics, Nicki Minaj’s new song” Looking Ass Nigga,” is simply the NC-17 version of TLC’s ” No Scrub.” However, “Looking Ass Nigga,”does more to challenge the normalization of the danger in the male gaze then it’s feminist predecessor.
Let us start with “nigga.” A lot of you cringe a the sight of that word. Others of you will never, ever be allowed to say this word out loud, and please tell me you understand why. Regardless of it’s disgusting past, or the complete disregard for it’s power by using it in everyday conversation, “nigga” is a staple in regards to hip hop and rap language, and you can find it in just about any major rap song. While I personally believe that no one, not even black people, should use the “n word”, it is possible that Nicki Minaj’s use of the “N” word was necessary in making her point. Stay with me. Would “Looking Ass Nigga” be as powerful a message were it called ” Looking Ass Boy,” or “Looking Ass Man,” or even “Looking Ass Dude?” Would there be such a fuss about the song or publicity regarding the song had it been named differently? I mentioned in an earlier piece that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. There is a place for softer progressive feminism and a place for radical responses to misogyny and oppression through patriarchy. For Minaj, this was a play for radical.
In case you need to be reminded of the sorts of misogynist lyrics you can find in rap songs today, EliteDaily.com posted just a few of the lovely words to help you recall;
“My little sister’s birthday / She’ll remember me / For a gift I had ten of my boys take her virginity.”- Amityville by Bizzare verse, Eminem
“Bitches ain’t sh*t but hoes and tricks / Lick on these nuts and suck the d*ck.” “Bitches Aint Shit- Snoop Dogg’s verse to Dr. Dre song
“Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore / Til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?!” – Eminem
Nicki Minaj’s style, language and number of insults in her new single parallel male-led rap songs in its aggression, so much so, it’s like listening to a literal response to misogynist rap music. For those of you familiar with black culture, you’ll recognize the phrase “lookin ass…” as the end of a “check,” which is slang for an insult or to “put someone in their place.” You can find someone using an insult like this in response to someone insulting them first, but please note, it is almost always in response to an insult that you can find this phrase used. Not only does it hold the title, but Minaj uses the phrase, “lookin ass…” throughout her entire song (ex. “diggin in ya booty den smell it” lookin ass nigga”… and so on). By doing so, she asserts herself as the winner of an argument, as the champion that gets the last word. It’s a position of power, talking down to the aggressor and making them seem weak in the process. The desert imagery and mainly just Minaj, herself, shown on screen, definitely reinforces the fact that Minaj got the last word on this one.
Branden Soderberg of Spin Magazine wrote a poignant article in support of Minaj’s new single in which he identified the rap diva’s use of two machine guns was to “murder the male gaze.” One could even argue that Minaj’s use of the image of Malcolm X holding a gun was actually Minaj’s attempt in appropriating herself as the Malcolm X of feminism.Though if that was her goal, she most certainly did not succeed in making that come across.
The problem with Minaj’s use of Malcolm X’s profound photo is that she attempted to appropriate an image clearly illustrating the oppressive and all-too-recent history of African Americans as an illustration of black masculinity as oppressive to the female body and femininity. By doing so, she completely ignores if not denies all that Malcolm X did for the black community, which is in itself, is ignorant and disrespectful. It’s a shame that Minaj’s ignorance is, so far, overpowering the strong message within her music video and lyrics themselves.
Regardless, only a certain kind of feminist can create a song so aggressive and deeply rooted in modern rap culture while still speaking pro-feminism and actually be heard. Thanks to Nicki Minaj’s major respect from fellow, male rap artist, along with her pop star appeal, she’s able to use the same language of those she’s accusing, to fight. This allows for a whole new audience to experience feminism in a way they may never have imagined. The power in the imagery of a solo strong black woman, dressed exactly how she pleases ( in a black, crocheted, see-through, mini-dress), holding machine guns, paired with lyrics that call out a number of wack traits- from men that think they can have sex with a woman just because they’ve got a little money (…”Even if that nigga flew me and all my bitches to Dubai…”) to men that lack culture (“Art on the wall, Basqui, fuck who see…”)- Ok, the last one is a stretch, but the point still stands. Miley Cyrus can’t call out men in the same fashion with the same respect, Lady Gaga can’t either; not even Macklemore- the-Great can do that. Please, note the sarcasm.
Of course there are many issues with “Lookin Ass Nigga,” from the normalization of guns, to the perpetual use of the N word (which is an issue within all of rap culture), but this piece is specifically to play a devil’s advocate of sorts. Feminism isn’t always wrapped in a cutesy little bow, and it’s important that we recognize when this is the case.