You've heard of Nicki Minaj, right? She's the only female rapper anyone is talking about these days, signed to Young Money by Lil Wayne. Her gimmick includes nonexistent punchlines and rapping in a bad British accent. She also goes by the precious nickname, Harajuku Barbie, presumably inspired by Harajuku fashion made popular in the United States by Gwen Stefani. Please, hold your groans.
Is it worth going here? As a great blogger once said, "Attacking Nicki Minaj for not having substance is like attacking a green wig for being green." For starters, the Nicki Minaj schtick is so disjointed, we're probably not supposed to make any sense of her. Secondly, I don't know anybody who takes Nicki Minaj seriously as a rapper or entertainer. But I saw the video for "Your Love" and I had to bite.
I'm not going to pretend I know all there is to know about pan-Asian history, but something about this feels wrong, like Japanese culture threw up all over Hype Williams and he decided to shoot a video about it. She appears as a geisha, ninja, and samurai! In one video!
I get that it's supposed to be campy, and under regular circumstances (read: from an artist who didn't call herself the Harajuku Barbie) it'd only be mildly irritating. But something tells me we haven't seen the last of this type of cultural appropriation from Minaj, née Onika Maraj. I'm tempted to expect more from her, given her part-Indian background, but just check her explanation of her "Harajuku Barbie" moniker:
It seems to me more rooted in Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls rather than actual Harajuku fashion. The same Gwen Stefani who once toted around a group of silent Asian women as pets.
I have long been fascinated with the appropriation of Asian cultures in hip hop, but I try to check myself if I'm being unfair. Don't forget I once explored at length the implications of giving Murs and 9th Wonder a pass for "Asian Girl". So what makes me cringe at this and not, say, Wu-Tang Clan? Is it because Nicki Minaj is a female rap artist and therefore an easier target? Is it because Wu was very specifically fixated on a martial arts film, and not the entirety of Chinese history? Is it because Wu are just better rappers?
I want to believe there's no uproar about this because nobody is really checking for Nicki Minaj, but the likelier story is that there aren't a whole lot of people who think there's something wrong about this.
Addendum: Potential commenters, please note that "You're just a Nicki hater!" comments will be denied unless you have something to bring to the conversation.