I don't list to a lot of rap and hip hop. And YES, this is due to my own racism. I was raised on a ton of white people music and taught that rap and hip hop were "shallow" or not "real" music and so forth. That attitude and taste unfortunately lingers, but I'm trying to break myself of it.
So I've never sought out Nicki Minaj's music. If I ever heard any, it was because it just happened to be playing and I didn't recognize it. However, I have become a fan of hers. From what I've seen of her and read about her on Tumblr and in gifsets, she's amazing. She's expressive and powerful and best of all, unapologetic. She supports women and girls and has taken more steps to support trans and non-binary people than any celebrity I've ever seen. I love her.
So today I finally watched/listened to Anaconda on YouTube. And I have to say, I keep replaying it while I write this. I like it. Some of that may be due to 90's nostalgia, but she is definitely a talented rapper.
I also enjoy the way she takes control of her sexuality and is dismissive of men. And her laugh.
A lot of people look at this video and see her catering to the male gaze. A lot of these people are white feminists. Others are misogynists who think she's using her sexuality for money - an ancient male-imposed trope.
But is that what she's doing? How do you know she's not owning her sexuality, mocking you with it? How can you tell the difference? What's really going on here?
This song and video actually highlights a lot of complex issues about both gender and race. The song's title is a reference to a line in the iconic "Baby Got Back" - a song that highlighted a different body type than the white norm and touched on race issues in its own way. I mean, mostly it was a song about butts, but...
Just read this:
Nicki Minaj's Unapologetic Sexuality is Not a Crisis
This piece also outlines racial double standards:
When Lady Gaga uses her body as a form of expression, she's an “artist.” When Nicki Minaj owns her own sexuality, she's slut-shamed.
Where was the outcry against Katy Perry's “California Gurls” when she laid about nude on a puffy pink cloud, with a small piece of fluff covering her bum? Did folks call Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” a piece of pornography when she salaciously licked a sledgehammer and writhed around naked on an actual wrecking ball? Did Jennifer Aniston face disparaging criticism for her strip scenes in last year’s We’re The Millers? Nope, they asked her how she got in shape for the role.
There's no denying that black women's sexuality is policed and derided in a way that white women's is not. By white feminists, especially. While the general public might have seen Miley's video as pornographic, you saw a ton of white feminist articles defending her expression of sexuality while failing to criticize her use of black bodies as props. You don't see the same defense of the incredible Nicki Minaj. You see complaining about "thin shaming."
The politics of black female sexuality are complex and fascinating, especially in the US, going back to slavery and more depressing topics. I recommend both reading the whole article and going deeper into the issue. Keep reading. Keep thinking about this stuff.