Thursday, June 6, 2013


Dear Old Nicki

When questioned about the content of her sophomore album, Nicki held firm the entire time, consistently stating that she’s proud of her pop work, but it’s weird to see Nicki even having to explain herself. Why are we debating the merit of her foray into other genres like “Starships” isn’t incredible? Why aren’t we having a discussion about how positive her eccentricities are in an occasionally stagnant culture and why it’s necessary to not give a fuck about artistic restraints as much as Nicki didn’t on that album?

Here is an interesting addition to the Eternal Nicki Minaj Debate: does her pop music undermine her as a serious hip hop artist? Ernest Baker makes the case that Nicki's pure pop songs—like "Starships" and "Super Bass"—are cementing her legacy and ensuring that she'll "go down in history next to Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, and not Remy Ma. We should applaud how that helps hip-hop add to a larger doctrine of great, powerful female artists." 

Baker's piece was inspired by Minaj's appearance on Hot 97 last week, when she confronted DJ Peter Rosenberg for hopefully the final time, but it certainly fits into a broader narrative of female artists having to apologize for adapting and appreciating pop music. "I’m tired of people telling me I’m ignorant for liking pop and hip hop, because I’m not," Canadian singer-songwriter Grimes wrote on her blog back in February. "The first time I heard Mariah Carey it shattered the fabric of my existence and I started Grimes." And here's Minaj on Hot 97: “Even when I'm on stage performing my rap songs, it's more organic, it's more authentic. But I still grew up loving Cyndi Lauper and Madonna."

Nothing wrong with that. Read Baker's piece here.

37 Comments / Post A Comment


I have devoted an inordinate amount of time wondering which of her features Nicki likes the best (insert "ass/azz/ass" joke bc that verse was obviously killer too) and I have always assumed she's way more into her "Up All Night" shit than f-ing "STARSHIPS" but I would actually really love it if she was secretly just as proud of the pop stuff. GET ME NICKI'S WIG PERSON STAT


Critics busted a nut with Ryan Adams made a space metal album. Let Nicki Minaj have other musical adventures, as well.


@Emby You're 'allowed' to be less mainstream for an album not more mainstream.


Fucking Rosenberg. I hated Starships just as much as the next human, but a White dude telling a Black woman that her hip hop isn't "authentic" enough just rubs me the wrong goddamn way. Keep shakin em off, Nicki!


@hallelujah Yeah, a cranky man dismissing a female musician? How cutting edge!

French Linton@twitter

@hallelujah Rosenberg is one of the worst things about Hip Hop right now. I am always supicious of gatekeepers in art, but he especially because he lives in New York, which somehow still perpetuates this fantasy of being the kingmakers in rap music, which hasn't been the case since it boo'd Outkast.


Damn this is some deep lyrics@a


It's one thing to say that people shouldn't criticize her just for making pop music--they shouldn't--but most of the criticisms I've read (not that I've read a lot) are that her pop music isn't as good. Which is an opinion, yes, but it is a valid one. And it's one I agree with ("Super Bass" is garbage I'm sorry). The other fact of the matter is that pop music right now isn't particularly good in general, whereas 5-10 years ago plenty of people were arguing it was the best music being made.

So yeah, maybe people are saying she's not "real" or whatever for making pop instead of hip-hop, and that's dumb. But I think the more interesting discussion is that pop music--including hers--is not particularly high quality right now, and I really think that's what most people are saying. I mean, Carly Rae Jepsen was voted best song of last year in Pazz & Jop, right? Do that many people really just completely dismiss pop music out of hand still?

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

@antarcticastartshere maybe this is bc i know a lot of music bloggers/writers but there seems to be more music critics finding pop music as legitimate (if not more so than other forms) than ive ever seen before


@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood well I mean also who considers anything a radio DJ says about music to be valid, right?


@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood "I know a lot of music bloggers/writers" is the new "I have a lot of verified followers on twitter"


@antarcticastartshere Eh, I for instance sure as hell don't remember plenty of people 5-10 years ago that weren't slagging off pop music.



I mean there are always rockists, but they are seriously never going to find a woman and/or pop/hip-hop artist valid anyway.


@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood I have mixed feelings on the whole poptimism thing coursing throughout music journalism/criticism lately. While I'm happy to see a wider variety of styles and genres being embraced by a historically dickish and exclusive audience, it also seems like there's still a ton of cultural gatekeeping going on. For every Carly Rae Jepsen and Nicki Minaj that we see being lauded by the Pitchfork set, there are other artists making similar music that people are still shamed for liking. I don't necessarily think that some dude blogging about how he actually really likes Taylor Shift makes me feel like we're experiencing some great revolution in what constitutes enduring good/cool music. It's still the same people deciding what gets to be recognizes as cool or authentic.


@lookuplookup Augh, *Swift and *recognized.


@lookuplookup This is a really good point. I think it comes down to an "authenticity" issue that--as has been pointed out here and in literally every discussion about Lana Del Rey--is essentially bullshit, anyway. So maybe the problem is more that criticizing something on the basis of its "authenticity" is considered valid in music criticism but is kind of a garbage way of criticizing anything but ESPECIALLY music.


@antarcticastartshere How Authenticity Works

The first time anyone makes anything new = not authentic.

Ten years later, that same exact thing? = authentic, and will be held up as the example of being authentic to those who have just created new, non-authentic things.


I wouldn't even call it pop. It's more dance than anything else.

Sorry, she'll never be Cyndi.

fondue with cheddar

@Slutface NOBODY will ever be Cyndi.


Pop music is great, authenticity doesn't exist, and white male music journos/bloggers really just need to quit acting like I should care about their opinions.

Heat Signature

@lookuplookup OR just music bloggers/journalists in general.


I haven't listened to much Nikki but last night I was walking home and saw a guy riding down the street very slowly on a tiny bike with a giant speaker strapped to the back fender that was blasting "Beez in the Trap" at top volume and it was honestly pretty great.

Li'l Sebastian

I love Nicki Minaj for her pop music, because it is great. I could listen to Super Bass for days. Have. I have listened to Super Bass for days at a time.

Princess Slayer

@Li'l Sebastian whenever I sync my iphone my itunes informs me how many times I have listened to Super Bass and it's definitely in the upper triple digits by now.


@Li'l Sebastian Word, who is getting mad enough about that song to question anyone's "authenticity"? It's made to make the listener shake her ass, what's wrong with that?? Plus, the fake english accent just LAYS ME OUT. I can't stop myself from smiling and I feel like I should be roller skating when I hear it. WIN WIN.




Ugh, can we just... I actually love music criticism, i LOVE reading about music, but... Everyone likes something that makes them super uncool in someone else's eyes. And "Authentic" as applied to music should mean that it will, in fact, come out of your speakers/headphones if you press play, drop the needle, whatever (John Cage discussion pending). I remember being furious enough to actually BREAK UP with someone I was dating because he looked at me like i was stupid and told me Kanye West's ouvre wasn't "music," because it was "purely commercial," and therefore had no relationship to art. WHAT? I DON'T EVEN LIKE KANYE, but look, you can not like it and never want it on your ipod, but that doesn't actually mean anything about whether or not it actually EXISTS as art or music, which is what people are saying when something isn't "authentic" enough...

Gawd, this topic gets me riled. Basically it boils down to "It's ok/ to not like things/ It's ok/ But don't be a dick about it."


You can discuss her venturing away from rap and her authenticity allll day, but then remember that she was on Kanye West's Monster and her verse 100% dominated that track.

I will always rep Nicki Minaj, if only for Monster.


@pajamaralls I love that song, but I LIVE for that verse.


@lora.bee Seriously. "And if I'm fake I ain't notice cause my money ain't"

Interestingly, Complex just named it the best rap verse of the last 5 years.

Roxy Throatpunch

I secretly can't really believe people hate "Starships." I love that song like candy. Sweet, delicious, pink candy.

Also, what pajamaralls said about "Monster."

Queen Elisatits

@Roxy Throatpunch personally I don't like the background music more than anything, whatever type of music you call that (trance? house? dub? no idea) with the drops and stuff makes me anxious when its played anywhere other than a dance floor. Walking around Safeway with "Starships" playing is not fun for me. Also should be noted I love Nicki otherwise.


Can someone explain to me what Minaj is doing that's supposed to be so revolutionary? I grew up with Tupac and Biggie and Mase and Puff Daddy and Lil Kim and Left Eye and Eve and Missy Elliott, which may just mean it's too late for me to develop a new ear for rap music, but I just don't find her rhymes that . . . good? Am I missing something?

I'm assuming I am, or people wouldn't be freaking out over her so much, but I listened to Beez in the Trap and I could not figure out why I was supposed to admire it. Educate me, music people.


@Linette This is entirely my opinion but I think she has great flow. HOWEVER, if you are listening to her radio stuff, you are listening to her "pop" stuff, where she really doesn't show it off at all (which is my only beef with her as I would like to hear more actual rap by women). Check out her mixtapes (old home-made videos of "Itty Bitty Piggy" and "Still I Rise" are floating around YouTube) for better examples. Although I think "Beez in the Trap" is the besssstttt so YMMV.

gaslen my

Fucking Rosenberg. I hated Starships just as much as the next human, but a White dude telling a Black woman phu nu mang thai thang thu 2that her hip hop isn't "authentic" enough just rubs me the wrong goddamn way. Keep shakin em off, Nicki!

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