Few fields have a more impenetrable glass ceiling for women than rap. Pitiably, it’s one of the more unforgivable innate traits of the genre. Rap is explicitly critical of even the faintest whiff of estrogen; it sniffs out anything devoid of male pheromones and pegs it as syrupy, emo-mush. Yes, rap is misogynistic, too, but that is more-so a behavior inherited from this country’s colonizing forefathers. Rap’s true patriarchal transgression, though, is its refusal to provide an appropriate platform for the female perspective, and its attempts to force conformity upon them.
The uncompromisingly masculine status quo of our genre may be shifting now, thanks primarily to the hyper-liberal, reformist agenda of Nicki Minaj. While it would be foolish to overlook the ground-breaking contributions of Roxanne Shante, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, and Missy Elliott not only to subverting and advancing the female role in rap, but to paving Nicki’s way, none of them so viciously attacked the standard as the Harajuku Barbie herself. Nicki Minaj doesn’t just defy the standard; she is obliterating its establishment, and in a young, evolving genre, she is an undeniably progressive pioneer.
It’s been largely reported and analyzed: woman in rap are seen as tools to be objectified and successful female emcees are looked upon as anomalies. When discussing the greatest emcees of all-time, we don’t consider women with the gravity we should, if with any at all. Nicki is set on changing that.
Take, for example, her latest release, “Lookin’ Ass Nigga,” a sharp critique on the male superiority complex. The entire song is set in the context of dismantling the male psyche: she attacks their pockets, dick size, manhood, egos–everything. It is a ruthless approach to male deprecation that is only one-upped by its visuals and by the futility of those trying to fire back at its stark truth. The louder the cries of the opposition become, the more proudly she stands at the summit, deflecting them triumphantly.
Men are deeply threatened by Nicki Minaj. Some won’t say it, but they are. Their fear is a byproduct of Nicki’s unwillingness to subscribe to female subordination, which is a scary concept for archaic men who have been conditioned to believe male privilege is an intrinsic right. She stands as a flag bearer for social reconstruction in the genre and beyond: she is a high profile, fully-emancipated woman that is self-sufficient and vocal. Nicki Minaj is probably the most powerful feminist in the known pop universe, edging out the incomparable Beyoncé Knowles simply because Nicki so unabashedly touts her superiority to her male contemporaries. It’s key that she treats her female contemporaries the same way. She ignores gender, rapping in the abstract—all these bitches are her sons.
The Young Money MC so belittles and objectifies men the way men do women that her conservative male critics, recognizing an obvious threat to the stability of their institution, and mark her lyrics as tasteless or even worse: not hip-hop. (The notion of Nicki not being hip-hop, even on her poppy sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, is ludicrous seeing as that record gave us “Come On A Cone,” “I Am Your Leader,” and “Champion.”) She destroys male power tropes by adopting masculine colloquialisms and flipping them: she sons her competition, she puts her dick in their faces, and she, now famously, rapes them.
Nicki, much like Kendrick Lamar on the other side of the aisle–who conveniently neglected to name drop her in “Control” in favor of the much more “formidable” Mac Miller, is not set on infighting with her presupposed sub-category, but is instead interested in conquering the entire genre. She may very well get her wish: she is figuratively castrating her male peers at such a high clip that soon only the cream of the crop will be around to rise to her challenge.