Wednesday, November 11, 2009
How Nicki Minaj Should Be Enjoyed
With cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.
And a sense of fun. Which was lost on the Cocaine Blunts comments section a couple of weeks ago (super-senior year is clearly still affecting my timeliness) when Noz brought the Au bon Pain (no NPR) on Nicki's amazingly awkward BET freestyle. Noz's description of the whole thing and his reaction was hilarious and spot-on and the only real point of contention with the post was his assertion that she's "an awful rapper", which is bullshit. Being "an awful rapper" is really just not being able to rap on beat. At all. That's it.
There's clearly a qualitative difference between "Let Me Take You To The Movies" and Nicki. Nicki can rap. Really fucking well, actually. The issue is the perception of someone's rapping ability is usually couched, like anything else, in the sound of their voice and their mannerisms, two things that she's managed to completely split opinion on due to a post-Wayne dedication to quirk that usually runs anywhere from endearing to awkward. For better or for worse, she's always entertaining. Although she has definitely gone overboard with the performing arts high school graduate thing since I first caught on to "Itty Bitty Piggy". That video and song is a lot more subdued and controlled use of what now just comes off sort of manic, but given how she's changed since that first Lil' Wayne feature two years ago to now there will probably be another version of Nicki by the time the Drake album comes out next year.
(Is it worth anything to state the fact that lyrically Nicki Minaj shits on Drake? What does that even mean?)
The usual centrist comment regarding Nicki Minaj is that her lyrics are good enough, somewhere a couple of notches above "mixtape rapper", but you have to look past her spazziness and, as Noz put it best, her tendency to rap with "...every accent and yet no accent at all", there's a lot more to immediately love than anything featured on Nahright. Beam Me Up Scotty is the most compulsively listenable thing I've listened to lately, and as opposed to all the Gucci mixtapes that felt like work to listen to (always a bad sign), I usually found myself in the stacks during October only listening to that tape.
My cosigning of Nicki Minaj feels defensive, even as she's gotten so much more popular over the summer and fall, mainly because how seriously IRL people take my enthusiasm is equal to how seriously they take her. Its still fruitless trying to explain to people that their clueless assertion about how "pre-2002 Cam'Ron was great", even in 2009. You'd think by now people would have open minds and realize their rote arguments about Cam's rhyme schemes "sounding like Sesame Street" miss the point completely. They're ignoring legitimate, usually (at least pre-2008) quality Cam lyrics because they mistake cleverness and a sense of humor for somehow being too silly to enjoy or take seriously. The same mentality that informs the Nicki Minaj and Cam'Ron debate is what informed people's opinions about The Darkness. The fact that the Darkness weren't that great is besides the point. But, like Cam'Ron and Nicki Minaj, more people are fixated on and prejudiced by their perceptions of each artist's respective silliness that actually stepping back and qualitatively looking at their product never came up in the discussion.
In response to Noz's question about whether "fake quirk was defensible", I said "Isn’t everything fake quirk, though? People become interesting performers by manufacturing tics and mannerisms and etc out of not being able to spew from the sort of dust cloud that made Prince 'Prince'."
And that's really what it comes down to. There are only two real criticisms in regards to Nicki Minaj, and that would be her mania and her lyrics. Her lyrics range from a C+ to a B-, and her mania is enjoyable like a sassy car crash. Her mania/quirk/gimmick isn't any less valid than someone who actually comes off as weird away from the stage, though some might try and derive a qualitative difference between the two. But, it's called "performing" for a reason. And regardless, she's not making any strides to declare premature greatness like Cudi or Wayne or even Jay. She's not declaring much of anything except that, as of right now, she's better than any notable female rapper, which is true. There's no rap purism to her, she's a complete pop-tart, which is why the BAAAAAAAWING of the Cocaine Blunts comments section was both funny and kind of pathetic. There was a woeful lack of perspective that maybe the best way to look at Nicki Minaj is someone rapping and singing for your entertainment. Which is all she's doing.
That and being persnickety about her deli.