It was all good just a week ago.
Or rather, two years ago. Nicki Minaj had what will likely end up being the biggest hits of her career with songs like “Starships” and “Super Bass.”
She was making the kind of money you can’t make making rap music that only appeals to black people. She was making that MC Hammer money. If the big Lurch-looking fellow who owns Cash Money Records let her keep any of it, imagine how many wigs she was able to buy.
With Whitney Houston out of the picture, only Beyoncé could claim to be as fortunate.
A meeting was held, not unlike the meeting in the early ‘90s at which the Illuminati decided to promote gangster rap in order to grow the prison-industrial complex. At this meeting, it was decided that they would find someone who makes garbage pop rap, like Nicki Minaj, who doesn’t look as much like one of the “models” from Kay Slay’s Straight Stuntin’ magazine.
Enter Iggy Azalea.
A white female rapper from Australia, Iggy Azalea was signed to T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records back when T.I.’s career was such that it warranted his own vanity imprint, i.e. a few prison stints ago. Now T.I. could almost be signed to Iggy Azalea, if a black male rapper being signed to a white female rapper was at all acceptable, and if a new T.I. album was at all necessary.
Iggy Azalea is at least as phony as Lana Del Rey, if not even more so. Like Lana Del Rey, Iggy Azalea was essentially a Britney Spears impersonator before she settled into the style for which she would eventually become famous. Video from that part of her career recently surfaced on the Internets.
Her bio, per the world’s most accurate encyclopedia, reads like the kind of corporate PR-concocted mythological origin story that should have long ago ceased to exist. It’s only slightly less ridiculous than Steve Martin’s bio in the movie The Jerk—and it’s not altogether different in substance.
Azalea travelled [sic] to the United States in 2006, right before she turned 16. She told her parents she was going “on a holiday” with a friend, but eventually decided to stay and shortly afterwards told them she was not coming back home.
When she first arrived in the United States, she stayed in Miami, Florida, and afterwards lived briefly in Houston, Texas, Azalea settled for a few years in Atlanta, Georgia, working with a member of the Dungeon Family named Backbone.
Personally, I’m wary of stories of white girls who run away from home to live with black rappers no one ever heard of that don’t involve not being allowed to leave a motel room. Remember the scene in Hustle and Flow where Terrance Howard brought that white chick to a pawn shop to help negotiate a price on a microphone? My father is enamored of that film and will sometimes quote from it at the dinner table.
She’s with me, but she’s not with me, if you know what I mean…
Back around the time when Iggy Azalea was born, Vanilla Ice, her spiritual forefather, used to go around claiming that he grew up in the ghettos of Miami, probably near Rawse, and he once got stabbed in the butt. He was called out on this by Arsenio Hall, of all people, whose name is more or less synonymous with not being able to give a tough interview. It just goes to show how far the media has fallen in the “you should come on my podcast” era.
Eventually, Iggy Azalea became associated with T.I. He may have been brought in as her black public cosigner. Most white rappers, even in the age of Macklemore, have a black public cosigner. Eminem, of course, has Dr. Dre. Mac Miller has Wiz Khalifa. Justin Bieber, who’s not a rapper per se, has Usher. When it came out that Bieber has written a song about the dreaded n-word, Usher had to go on TMZ and “cape” for him. I’m sure it was a difficult thing for him to do, though perhaps not as difficult as the time his son died in a tragic jet ski accident.
Macklemore doesn’t have a black public cosigner that I’m aware of, but I’m sure he’ll bring someone in, as a temp, if/when TMZ turns up any dirt on him. He’s smart like that. He uses the same payola service the major labels use without having signed his publishing over for the privilege.
Increasingly, lending your credibility to talentless white children for a fee is becoming a popular career move for rappers who can’t otherwise get a label to answer the phone. Some song Nelly did with a group called Florida Georgia Line is supposedly the best-selling country song of all time. T.I. was sorta kinda on “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which dominated radio in 2013. I couldn’t tell you anything else he’s done so far this decade, other than going to jail.
Floyd Mayweather will occasionally mock both Nelly and T.I. and also 50 Cent on Instagram for being washed up. I think Nelly and T.I. both banged his baby’s mother, and Floyd may have returned the favor to T.I. I’m not sure what the beef between Fiddy and Floyd is, but whatever it is it led Fiddy to challenge Floyd to read a page from a Harry Potter book. Floyd responded by posting a check for $72 million on Twitter. I checked—it really does say $72 million.
Iggy Azalea may have gone down in history as a footnote, like any number of white proteges of black rappers who don’t have a career anymore, if she hadn’t arrived at this particular moment. White people playing black music is hot right now. White artists dominated Billboard’s Hot 100 to the point where not a single black artist reached number one, for the first time since 1958.
Azalea’s song “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, and Ariana Grande’s song “Problem,” on which she’s featured, have dominated radio this summer not unlike “Blurred Lines” did last year. At one point, they held the top two spots on the Hot 100 simultaneously. Azalea was the first artist to have her first two hits achieve such a feat since The Beatles.
Of course she didn’t achieve that level of success solely on the basis of her perfect body and her “flow.” Her label pulled a few strings. “Fancy” was selected to be part of Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio “On the Verge” program, in which each of Clear Channel’s 840 radio stations was required to play the song at least 150 times—at which point they could choose to continue to play it, if it somehow became a hit.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure how a song that’s been played 150 times on 840 radio stations could not be considered a hit. A Little Brother song could have been a hit in that program!
I did the math just now, using the Calculator program on my computer. If each station only played “Fancy” the required 150 times, that means it got played 126,000 times this year.
“Fancy” was actually the fourth single from The New Classic. The other three you’ve never heard of, because the label wasn’t spending enough on payola.
Before she had a song anyone ever heard of, Iggy Azalea was probably most famous for pages and pages of GIFs of her twerking in concert, on Tumblr. GIF, thankfully, don’t have any audio. There may have also been a video or two on World Star.
In one of the clips I saw, she bent over near the edge of the stage and let guys touch her ass. I half contemplated buying a ticket to an Iggy Azalea show just so I could arrange myself near the stage and see what happened. I came thisclose to “dropping a digit” on Lady Gaga maybe a year before she became famous, and the fact that I didn’t has been one of my life’s greatest disappointments—which is saying something, if you know me.
Around the time her album came out, earlier this year, Iggy Azalea went on the radio and complained about guys trying to fingerbang her. Guys, who may have seen the same video I saw, were hitting her up on Twitter to let her know they’d be at the show and they were hoping to get their fingers wet. I took this to mean that Iggy Azalea was going out on tour, and if you copped a ticket, there was a slight possibility you could put a finger on it.
Of course there were any number of “think pieces” about the fact that not a single black artist topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013. In one of the ones I read, maybe the one at Slate, it said that Nicki Minaj, who was planning to drop an album this year, represented the black community’s best chance of reclaiming that number one spot, which of course is near the absolute top of our list of priorities.
That hasn’t happened. Well, Nick Minaj hasn’t done it yet. That Pharrell song “Happy,” which literally no one really likes, topped the Hot 100 for several weeks earlier this year. He was riding the wave of both “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, both of which also suck balls, and numerous appearances on awards shows, late night TV and what have you. There may have also been some sort of “Harlem Shake”-esque scam in which he was able to juice the YouTube stats—which count on Billboard now.
Earlier this year, Nicki Minaj dropped a song called “Pills n Potions,” which I’ve yet to hear. But you shouldn’t necessarily hold that against it. I won’t seek something out just because it’s popularly, and I don’t regularly find myself in the kind of places where you’d be subjected to that sort of thing against your will, like a mall or Gitmo.
If anyone actually liked “Pills n Potions,” it wasn’t enough people to make it a hit. It never rose any higher than number 24 on the Hot 100.
Nevertheless, Nicki Minaj was feted at this year’s BET Awards, where an artist is never quite irrelevant enough for an invite, leading to no small amount of consternation on Twitter, the term Black Twitter having been invented after a controversy in which white people thought the trending topics algorithm was broken because random black celebrities from 1986 kept showing up—the cast of the show Amen, say.
Nicki Minaj hates to pat herself on the back, but she does believe in the importance of writing your own rhymes, no matter how asinine said rhymes may be, and so, accepting an award, she congratulated herself for having written her own rhymes, while subtly hinting that Iggy Azalea doesn’t write her own similarly brilliant lyrics. It was the female rap equivalent of Suge Knight’s speech at the 1995 Source Awards.
Any artist out there wanna be a artist…
It’s been suggested that T.I. writes Iggy Azalea’s rhymes. The thing is, they’re bad enough that it’s not inconceivable that she wrote them herself. Why would you pay someone to write “Fancy?” Aside from it being one of the most popular songs of all time, I mean.
They’re arguably worse than the rhymes T.I. used to write for Lil Bow Wow… which suggests to me that he wasn’t lying when he denied writing for Iggy Azalea. He’s not listed as a songwriter in the album’s credits in the wiki, which means that if he did write her rhymes he did it for an up front fee rather than a percent of the publishing. Having been in the rap game in some form or another since the 1990s, the decade Iggy Azalea was born, you’d think he’d know better. Then again, think of how many times he’s been in and out of jail since then.
At any rate, Minaj’s accusations didn’t seem to have much of an effect on “Fancy’s” popularity. It may have been that the people who were paying to download that song weren’t watching the BET Awards. “Anaconda,” presumably, was an attempt to appeal to people who were watching the BET Awards, now that it’s clear that Iggy Azalea has the white community on lock.
First came the “Anaconda” cover. Minaj was pictured in not enough underwear to be considered appropriate on a public beach in Murica, squatting down in blowski position. Her skin had been photoshopped to be a shade lighter, Beyoncé-style (one of the main things that lets you know this was intended to appeal to a black audience), and the nasty fat rolls on her stomach were removed, but little if anything was done about the size of her ass.
The main thing it called to mind, other than the general concept of desperation, was the legendary poster to promote Lil Kim’s Hard Core, from ‘96, in which Kim struck the same pose, except facing the camera—which was arguably even more inappropriate. But maybe social mores have shifted since back then, which was almost 20 years ago. Today, you can hardly mention a woman on the Internets without someone attempting to contact your employer.
Lil Kim, sensing an opportunity to get her name in the paper and maybe some sort of appearance fee, pounced, releasing a song called “Identity Theft.” I listened to maybe 20 seconds of it. It sounded like it as recorded on a laptop computer. Lil Kim hasn’t sounded quite right on the mic since I was young and yet still not particularly handsome. The cover of the single wasn’t as amusing as it was surprisingly professional-looking. She must have blown someone who knows Photoshop.
Don’t even get me started about how Lil Kim looks these days. If anything, Nicki Minaj should take Lil Kim’s appearance as a warning of the dangers of excessive plastic surgery. Certainly, Nicki Minaj shouldn’t have anything done to her face. Not that she’s that cute, but I’m at a loss for an example of face plastic surgery that went right. It’s even worse than fake tits.
Nicki Minaj is at least fortunate—depending on how you look at it—in that she’s carrying a significant amount of body fat. The flabbier you are to begin with, generally speaking, the more realistic your fake tits look. If Nicki Minaj’s ass is fake, eventually she’ll have to have whatever she pumped in there removed, before she ends up having to have one of her arms lobbed off at the elbow. In that sense, it’s probably for the best that her career is winding down.
If the “Anaconda” video wasn’t purposely intended to alienate white male viewers, it might have that effect anyway. Nicki Minaj is simply more woman than most white guys require. Their tastes have shifted over the course of the past 10 years, but not by that much. The fact that so many white guys sweat Asian girls these days goes to show the emphasis they place on ass—or the lack thereof.
The night the “Anaconda” video hit Twitter was like the music video premiere equivalent of #Ferguson: while black guys furiously masturbated, white guys seemed largely indifferent. The meme that night on Twitter was #TweetYourAnacondaVideoReaction. The way it worked was, you looked for a pic, a Vine or whatever that suggested you were masturbating and you posted it along with the hashtag. Hopefully no one posted a pic or Vine of themselves masturbating, of if they did they sent it to a girl directly.
Tits would have increased the appeal of the “Anaconda” video to white male viewers, but may have also resulted in censorship, despite the fact that content guidelines are irrelevant in an age of on demand content. If it was truly inappropriate, Twitter could block it from trending, the same way it did photos and videos of James Foley’s beheading. This despite the fact that Twitter ostensibly is content neutral, like a search engine, thus raising the question of if the major labels work with Twitter to ensure the virality of their content.
The day before the “Anaconda” video hit the Internets, in what may have purposely been intended as counter-programming—like when a Hollywood studio releases a romantic comedy the same weekend as a big action movie—Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” video hit the Internets.
Taylor Swift is essentially the anti-Nicki Minaj. You’d be hard-pressed to find two women who are both considered attractive, or marketed that way anyway, with such different body types. Taylor Swift is long and lean, while Nicki Minaj is compact and bulbous. Nicki Minaj looks like her ass might stink, while you can hardly imagine Taylor Swift taking a shit. They seem to have been around for about the same amount of time, Taylor Swift radiates youth and innocence, while Nicki Minaj spent a good decade waiting tables at Red Lobster, and possibly, as the girl from the Remy Ma at the box video.
Twerking appears in “Shake It Off’s” thumbnail image on YouTube, for SEO purposes, but it’s hardly in the video itself. Otherwise “Shake It Off” seems almost shockingly chaste, especially in light of the “Anaconda” video. You have to remind yourself that Taylor Swift is like 25 and not 15, i.e. maybe four years removed for having to pay for special treatments just to get pregnant. Where is the sex?
The twerking aspect of the video, I suppose, could also be viewed as a comment on the exaggerated sexuality in rap videos, not unlike how Lorde criticized materialism in hip-hop in the song “Royals,” another one of the top songs of 2013 and a song that was embraced by black radio despite both its content and its performer. I can’t see the Taylor Swift song crossing over, because it’s terrible—though admittedly she’s a really good singer. With the right material she could probably do great things.
Ironically, “Shake It Off” may have benefited from having been released during a race riot that was taking place maybe 15 minutes from where I’m sitting. Not because it was at all relevant to anything going on in the world, but because the kind of people who would have taken exception to it were too busy pretending to be activists on Twitter. And I’m sure a lot of people were looking for something, anything to discuss other than #Ferguson.
Earl Sweatshirt penned a three-tweet-long think piece in which he said he hadn’t seen the video, but he finds it “inherently offensive and ultimately harmful.” This coming from a member of Odd Future, which built its career on being harmful and offensive. Sweatshirt, who might not have a black fan, says “Shake It Off” perpetuates black stereotypes to white girls who hide their prejudice by proclaiming their love of the culture. He finds that her music appeals to people who don’t otherwise fuxwit black people.
Other than the existential threat it poses to the black community, “Shake It Off” probably poses more of a threat to Iggy Azlea than Nicki Minaj. I don’t think Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift are competing for the same listeners. In 2012, sure—but that was back when Taylor Swift was still making country music and there was no such thing as Iggy Azalea. With Iggy Azalea topping the charts and Taylor Swift making pop records, Nicki Minaj has effectively been rendered obsolete: Why would white kids buy black music from black performers, when they could buy black music from white performers?
And I’d argue that Nicki Minaj is not in any position morally to complain. Cultural appropriation, to me, means white people taking styles of music black people came up with, producing their own pale versions of it, and riding that shit all the way to the bank. A lot of this Nicki Minaj shit hardly counts as black music. Pat Boone singing white bread versions of Little Richard songs is cultural appropriation. Iggy Azalea supplanting Nicki Minaj on the pop charts is the moral equivalent of Vanilla Ice briefly becoming more popular than MC Hammer. Who gives a shit!
Byron Crawford is the founder and editor of ByronCrawford.com: The Mindset of a Champion, a former columnist for XXL magazine and the author of five books, most recently Kanye West Superstar.
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