Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tea with the Queen - Minaj in London and hip hop's future.

Can't help but marvel this week as the UK press slather to get a glimpse of Nicki Minaj's weave-on-weave majesty. Semtex talked about being "in the presence of greatness" when she guested on his show, the UK urban Twittersphere has had her trending, and her legions of boob-baring fans are so frenzied she's been kicked out of The Dorchester. It's rad that a female MC can generate this much hype and respect, especially when our homegrown rap talents are so woefully discouraged, and I've been thinking a lot about whether Nicki's shock waves will have a lasting, game-changing impact on the hip hop community worldwide.

It would be a travesty to have Minaj co-opted as a token - that mighty female rapper of the Noughties, the proof that the gal dem have broken the glass ceiling. I don't think female rappers are that rare, endangered breed that music historians, patronizing rap fans and even well-meaning hip hop heads have consistently cast them as. Lack of permission and encouragement are certainly determining factors in the number of women that are bold enough to step up to the plate, but it's more about that closed drawbridge that the round table of white, hetero male record execs have set up, filtering the talent and maintaining a one-in-one-out revolving door policy for the sistren.

Notice also how the very few female rappers that do get shine with the majors are ultimately denied the commitment to brand longevity that is afforded to their male peers. Labels, as a rule, are uninterested in building solid, lasting careers for their leading ladies - DESPITE the fact, as Minaj continues to prove, that there is A/ a crazy wide demographic who are desperate to see/hear talented female MCs, and B/ that it would profit them financially. They refuse to let their female MCs be anything more then disposable, ancillary investments, and it stinks.

The UK hip hop community has often taken cues from the US, frequently to its detriment, and I know I'm not alone in hoping that Minaj will offer a more productive and radical import value, a catalyst for positive industry disruption. Her feminist and queer values were initially clumsy, frequently buffeted by media politics and systematic class/race/gender restrictions, but radical and exciting all the same, and clearly striving to voice a pro-woman, pro-queer rhetoric. I like to think her neon pink power will be a laser beam, Batman-style symbol in the sky for female hip hop talent everywhere.

1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring Charlotte - thanks for staying in and writing this! Looking forward to our first Beats Workin' night.