by Keely Parker
My job today, and every day, is to convince you that Nicki Minaj is a huge power for good in this world. I want to talk specifically about her new song “Anaconda,” and how it just might be the most important piece of art produced by the modern world.
If you’ve heard the self-proclaimed Queen of Rap’s latest bump, you’ve probably noticed that it borrows heavily from what might be everyone’s favorite song about the female derriere, Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” The concept of sampling in music is not a revolutionary one, but the way in which Nicki manages to take a classic anthem of objectification and turn it into a symbol of her own confidence and power is really something special.
I am in no way trying to negate the important political undertones of “Baby Got Back.” Our culture’s Euro-centric (read: white) beauty standards can leave black women feeling unattractive and undesirable, and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s timeless ode to the prominent booty was his way of, in his own words, letting “the world know that we think these women are beautiful, not just objects.”
Still, the song tells curvy women that they should embrace their beauty and their sexuality just because men like big butts. It doesn’t encourage women to take agency of their own sexuality as much as it says, “rest assured, some dude somewhere might think you’re worth ogling.”
Enter Nicki Minaj. As Tumblr user rotatingfloor (http://rotatingfloor.tumblr.com) so eloquently put it:
“no really im serious nicki minaj repurposing a song about the male view of sexual climate into a destigmatized anthem of championing your own sexuality is the biggest thing to happen in the world of music in this century. im not joking this is the best song made in like hundreds of years
In the lyrics of anaconda, nicki brags about her sexual conquests in a way that girls rarely do. We’re used to hearing about sex, but the explicit stuff tends to come from a male perspective, so just the fact that Nicki is going into so much gory detail about her sex life without inviting any kind of feedback or hinting at shame is really different from what we usually hear from female artists.”
If the song itself is the greatest of the last few centuries, then its accompanying music video is undeniably the most magnificent work of art since the Sistine Chapel.
Nicki Minaj proves, time and time again, that she is having absolutely none of the male gaze. We see her chop a banana in half with a knife and throw it over her shoulder. Drake reaches out to grab her and she smacks his hand away. Nicki is telling you that she is not there for you to ogle at. She has ambition beyond being a pretty face to plaster on records, and she dares to define her own image (think all those crazy wigs and costumes she sported at the beginning of her career).
Still don’t believe that Nicki is actually kind of cool? Google “Nicki Minaj bossing up” and see if her speech about double standards in the music industry doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies. This is a woman who knows what societal pressure can do to a girl’s self-esteem. She is someone who, as she so perfectly puts it in the aforementioned rant, is a HUMAN BEEEEEING who can’t possibly fit into every single box that girls in the public eye are expected to fit into.
“When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. No negative connotation behind bossed up. But lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch,” Nicki slams while applying her eyeliner, leaving me wondering if she was a women’s studies professor in a past life.
So what is Nicki trying to teach us? In another of her songs (my personal favorite), “I’m the Best,” Nicki spits the rhyme, “I’m fighting for the girls who never thought they could win.” She knows that what she is doing is powerful. She knows that young girls will look up to her. With that in mind, I believe that her message is one of self-love and self-confidence. Forge your own image, she tells us, don’t let sexism and cultural beauty standards allow you to feel ashamed of who and what you are.
Be yourself, and be unapologetic about it—whether you got buns, hun, or not.