With the introduction of Nicki Minaj onto the scene, female rappers have enjoyed a brief renaissance–but for how long?
Since Nicki Minaj’s debut album dropped, we find ourselves thinking of a better, simpler time: a time when female rappers actually existed. As in, more than one of them.
I can recall a time not so long ago when both Lil’ Kim and a pre-diet Missy were still on the scene, and actually didn’t feel the need to hate one another bitterly and compete for the top spot. Minaj’s unashamedly nasty verse brings us back to a time of fierce female rappers who weren’t afraid to gross people out by using the word ‘pussy’ too many times in a song.
However, the lessened hype surrounding her ‘Pink Friday’ release reminds us of something, too: how hard it is to have and maintain that platform. Minaj herself suggests that one can only regain power by seizing formerly negative symbols. She’s fond of the phrase ‘bad bitch’, is not averse to a ‘c’ word or two, and often identifies with Barbie, the ultimate symbol of the enemy, short of a Disney princess.
Still the fact that her release could, coming at the same time as Kanye’s, be so overshadowed by it is a testament to the market. It’s as if the need for Nicki Minaj is only as great as the need for her to stay fringe, a cameo artist who comes into the song three verses in, pumps some life into it, and leaves. One has to wonder if Minaj’s destiny is to share a similar oblivion as Missy Elliott. (How long has it been between albums? Too damn long.)
Of course there’s always the other more hopeful possibility–that she’ll excel as a sort of non-album phenomenon, becoming someone who doesn’t even have to put it down for a whole track, but exists as the subversive element that enlivens even the tamest rap collaborations she takes part in. My fantasy is that she’ll become a sort of Quentin Crisp of hip-hop—someone whose mere presence on a track is cause enough to rejoice.