This is just one part of the mini-documentary that MTV has been re-running about Nikki Minaj during the Christmas break. Along with the fact that Nikki has put on blast the “Bitches v. Bosses” double standard that occurs in the rap industry, Nikki Minaj: My Time Now, also lets us in to Nikki’s most emotional self, her most human self when she discusses her family life. Her recent album Pink Friday touches on this a little in a track “I’m the Best,” but as I watch her interviews I can’t help but want to see more of Onika Tanya Maraj, the real Nikki, in her music.
The disclosures in this mini-documentary might be a perfect transition into her next album where she can seize the opportunity to take on a persona she has yet to fully embody in her music: the storyteller. Rap giants that have told stories don’t just tell personal stories, they call upon what Phillip Lopate once called “the shiver of self-recognition” the moment where people can see themselves in her music, allowing her to push beyond the sex symbol label and convey her most human self. So, after watching the documentary twice over the break, here are three suggested tracks:
1. Dear Grandma – Yes, this is a riff on the late Tupac’s “Dear Mama.” A rap song in the form a letter to her late grandmother is fitting considering the rapper has an emotional breakdown on camera over her grandmother that never got to see her success. All I could think about when I saw her was President Barack Obama’s famous speech where he breaks down after his grandmother dies on the eve of his presidency. While Minaj is no leader of the free world, she has something in common with the most powerful black man in the world and many Americans whose hour of recognition comes after their grandmother passes. A song that tells the story of her and her grandmother would really convey a sense of her human story.
2. The Crack Chronicles – Perhaps the most moving part of the documentary is when she talks about the cycle of crack addiction her father faces when she is a child. She explains that when someone is addicted to crack, they can’t keep a job, then they don’t have money, then they steal from their kids. The irony of Nikki’s story is that while most of her male counterparts in the rap business where selling crack, her family was on the receiving end of the effects of the substance. This is another opportunity where she can tell stories chronicling how crack addiction affected her family while drawing on the tensions she might have experienced as a woman in the rap business.
3. Castles – While Nikki Minaj spends two years in Trinidad waiting for her immigrant parents to raise enough money to bring her to America, she dreams of her parents living in a castle. When she arrives, she is greeted with a small living space with disheveled furniture. It isn’t until her rap career takes off that she is able to build her mother a large house. While it may not be a castle of The Brothers Grimm variety, it is a colossal beast with 8 bedrooms. A song that allows her to speak in the voice of her 2-year-old self and her 26-year-old self would be an interesting take on how great it is to make your dream a reality. But it would also expose the story behind why many immigrants come to America: economic mobility.
In the end, these are just suggestions drawing upon parts of her life that she is spoken about in public forums. But making art out of her human experience would surely allow her to take her game to the next level.
PS- Looked online for a transcript with no results. If you find one online, please post in comments.