Who is Nicki Minaj? My love and loyalty for the rap crossover star depends on how she decides to answer the question each day. There's Nicki the Barbie, Nicki the clown, Nicki the Sophisticate, and Nicki the video chick.The Barbie and the sophisticate are really the only personas I can handle.
The mainstream media exposure that's come with her American Idol gig (and, perhaps, those allegations of violence) seems to have inspired Nicki to adopt a more conservative style. She's begun to wear dresses that don't offend every sensibility and more natural (for someone) looking wigs.
But Nicki has a sartorial habit that causes me concern. No matter how "bossed up" she is at every other aspect of her career, the hottest female emcee in the game reverts back to video girl when appearing alongside male rappers. The outfits she sported in "Dance," "Y U Mad," and "Freaks" were cute in an "exotic dancer for my boo" kind of way, but Nicki's clear pandering to the sexual desires as colleague not hired help are frustrating.
|Nicki in "Dance (A$$)" and "Y U Mad"|
In each of these looks Nicki attempts to "keep it real"by assuming the position of sexual object. Scantily-clad and bent-over is not the authentic role of women in hip hop. Nicki knows that. She's transgressed boundaries of "authentic" hip hop images time and again with genre-building music and wardrobe. The image of the superstar/perpetual video girl reifies the marginalization of women who want to be seen for more than their bodies in rap.
The question remains will Nicki ever evolve beyond a video girl? If history provides any indication, the answer is no. Women who come up as eye candy rarely make that transition. No one knows better than Nicki's longtime lyrical sparring partner Lil Kim. While Minaj throws jabs, she'd be better served to use Kim's career as a guide. Video girls have expiration dates.
What do you think of Nicki's shifting images?
Kimberly Foster is the Founder and Editor of COLOURES. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster