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Sound Off: The Problem (or Not) with Nicki Minaj

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Over the weekend, a spoken-word performance of "The Miss-Education of a Barbie"went viral, and added to a growing anti-Nicki Minaj sentiment in the blogosphere. Jasmine Mans, the poetess behind the three-minute "dare" challenged Minaj to step her game up. "You turned your g-spot into a land mine," Mans' accuses to the only mainstream female MC. "There is nothing pedal bike pretty about being broken." An onslaught of responses accusing Mans of "dissing" Minaj prompted the sophomore University of Wisconsin-Madison student, to clarify on her personal website:
I do not want Nicki Minaj to be the next Lauryn Hill or MC Lyte, I want her to rap as if women like Assata Shakur and Toni Morrison exist... The Miss-Education of a Barbie" is a call to action not only for Nicki Minaj but to all women in the entertainment industry...If we, as an audience, do not hold up a mirror to our artists, then who will?
On one hand, I'm co-signing every impassioned line Mans' spits, but on the other? Eh... I like Minaj. A lot. But I've avoided writing about her here (and on my personal blog, abelleinbrooklyn.com) for months because I couldn't make sense of my feelings. But I think I've figured it out. Because Minaj is the singular female voice in hip-hop, she carries the burden of being everything to everyone, including those of us who still haven't gotten over Hill chucking deuces. (As much as we all say we don't want the "next Lauryn" we do. Problem is, there's only one Hill, and in the decade Hill's been gone, she's been hyped up to a diety of Greco-Roman proportions beyond what any mortal or modern goddess can fill, including Hill.) Minaj's critics get doubly upset that she, as the only woman in her lane, chooses playful and provocative over actual depth. (And yes, Minaj is capable of greater depth as any video of her reveals to be a self-possessed, self-aware woman.) We've put the pressure on Minaj of being Badu-deep, but filling our voids is not an obligation for Minaj to shoulder. Her duty is to create her version of art, whatever that is and even if it's all pink everything. We can love Minaj or we can hate her, but it's fruitless to think we can change her into something she's not (or someone we still miss) in order to embrace her. Demetria L. Lucas is ESSENCE's Relationships Editor and the author of the upcoming dating advice guide, A Belle in Brooklyn: Advice for Living Your Single Life & Enjoying Mr. Right Now (Atria, June 2011) Follow her on Twitter at @ABelleinBK
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