"This is my moment, I just feel so alive..." ~Nicki Minaj
Like her or not, you can't deny that this is an historical moment in time for female MCs, hip hop music, and the music industry in general. Rapper Nicki Minaj is making so many statements right now in the entertainment world both visually and lyrically, that her importance in this moment is one worth mentioning.
With the release of her debut album Pink Friday in November of 2010, Nicki ended her first year "officially" on the scene as the first artist EVER to have 7 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts simultaneously. With the help of Trey Songz, Jay Sean, Sean Kingston, Lil' Wayne, and her 3 solo tracks, she managed to break this record at the beginning of her career.
Not only have her collaborations been consistently hot, but the album is dope, too! It carries a feeling of growth, of fun, and a renewed sense of musicality as Nicki confidently takes her place as the next best thing.
Onika Tanya Maraj, a Trinidadian-American, has been an artist for years. A singer, an actress, a clarinet player, and of course an MC. Since high school she has been heavily involved in entertaining others, and at the age of 26 she has already been acclaimed one of the best.
The controversy has been ongoing as to who is "truly" the best female MC. There have been so many over the past decards...yet the ladies have recently been lacking overall in airplay, visibility, and originality. Eve, Da Brat, Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim, Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah, and Lauryn Hill often top the lists of the "greatest female MCs of all times..." but these are artists who dominated in the 80s and 90s. The presence of chart-topping influential female rappers in the 2000s has been slim to none.
We loved Lauryn for her deep spirit and versatility. She was a mainstream hit with an underground soul. We gave Missy props for being crazy and extremely original: she made us laugh, she made us dance, and her music just sounded like nothing we'd ever heard before. MC Lyte had that classic voice: she was hard, she was street, and her sound is still so captivating that it's been used constantly for voice-overs and narration, and heard regularly on BET and other programming. Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown had their sex appeal: they were funky, they were confident, and they brought overt feminity to the hip-hop scene.
There have been MANY (Trina, Eternia, Charli Baltimore, Bahamadia, Queen Pen, Lisa Lopes, Lumidee, The Real Roxane, Ms Dynamite, Remy Ma, Lil' Mama (wait, does she count?!?), Masia One, M.I.A., Ms Melodie, Roxanne Shante, Sister Souljah, Monie Love, Yo-Yo, JJ Fad, Sha-Rock, and Jean Grae, etc.)...but as much as we've loved and honoured them...there haven't been many female rappers worth talking about, lately.
Enter Ms Minaj.
I think she's cool. And the reason I think she's cool is because I've realized how REFRESHING it is to hear a female MC on so many tracks. And because I've heard her voice pop up on so many songs in so many places, and I'm not yet sick of her. I like her style. Yes, she's kinda crazy with the split-personality thing, but I believe it's all in good fun. It's different, and she's talented enough to carry it.
I loved reading about her first trip to Trinidad in years, and how she felt about the warm reception she received. She was born on the island, and moved to Queens, NY at the age of 5; yet she talked about how she can't wine...and how she's planning to take her first trip to Trinidad Carnival this year. The West Indian connection is definitely a bonus, and her ability to flip from lyrics to the occasional patois, is definitely something I can appreciate.
And she's been recognized by her peers. To date, BET has awarded her at their Hip Hop show as well as overall awards shows. Notable are accolades for Best Female Hip Hop Artist, and Best New Artist.
Everyone seems to recognize that her presence is necessary. Despite Lil' Kim and a few others who are openly discrediting her and pointing fingers...the numbers have spoken, and Nicki is definitely making movements on the charts and on the airwaves, regardless of anyone's opinion of her.
The question on the minds of many music lovers and scholars is...will Nicki's place in music right now initiatiate a wave of more up-and-coming female MCs? Will her success dictate the future of other female rappers who have been hustling and grinding on the underground circuits, yet haven't received the love or recognition they deserve, due to the saturation of male MCs, R&B, and the new pop/dance music crave that has taken over?
While Salt N Pepa's and Lauyrn's easily charted during the 1980s and 1990s, this past decade has not had any significant presence by female rappers with record sales and airplay.
Fortunately, urban music still greatly outsells its counterparts in pop/rock/country/etc. on the charts, but within the urban demographic, the respect and attention is still largely given to male rappers, and vocalists.
During the 2000s, of the top 20 artists on Billboard (based on record sales and airplay), there were no female MCs. The list is as follows:
01. Eminem / 02. Usher / 03. Nelly / 04. Beyonce / 05. Alicia Keys / 06. 50 Cent / 07. Nickelback / 08. Britney Spears / 09. Destiny's Child / 10. Jay-Z / 11. Mariah Carey / 12. Black Eyed Peas / 13. Pink / 14. Kelly Clarkson / 15. Kanye West / 16. Ludacris / 17. Rihanna / 18. Creed / 19. Linkin Park / 20. Christina Aguilera.
And that's the entire DECADE.
I'm hoping that by already breaking a Billboard record with her 7 concurrent hits on the 100 charts, that Nicki Minaj will bring in a change to the role of the female MC in the overall music landscape.
I believe she has the talent to do it, and also the fanbase. I think her music is strong enough, and I hope that the industry is prepared to support her, as well as the numerous other female rappers who are probably motivated and preparing for their time in the spotlight, as a result of Nicki's advances.
This is Nicki Minaj's moment in history to prove that a female MC can sustain a career, and produce quality music.
This is a new decade, with new expectations. I expect that this moment does not occur in vain. Historically, Nicki has already made her mark. She has people talking. She has people listening. She has the ability to take this momentum and run with it.
This is her chance to change history for the female MC, and sustain the impact that this under-represented group of rappers have in the entertainment spectrum for life. I hate to say we're depending on Nicki Minaj to move mountains....BUT history has shown that if changes don't take place now...we might have to wait a long time for another female ambassador (with the same power) to step up and try to lead the movement forward.
Let's hope she can do it. For the sake of the music, and for the sake of the other lady-MCs-in-waiting who deserve a chance to shine.
"Best believe that when we done this moment will be syndicated." ~Nicki Minaj