The newly created Music and Culture Department of my blog is busy with this latest (because I have zero readers but multiple departments!).
First, a critical profile of the rapper by the New York Times Magazine trying to discern the meaning of Minaj’s self-objectification and need for control that concludes with Minaj giving her interviewer the boot:
‘‘Is there a part of you that thrives on drama, or is it no, just pain and unpleasantness—’’
The room went quiet, but only for an instant.
‘‘That’s disrespectful,’’ Minaj said, drawing herself up in the chair. ‘‘Why would a grown-ass woman thrive off drama?’’
As soon as I said the words, I wished I could dissolve them on my tongue. In pop-culture idiom, ‘‘drama’’ is the province of Real Housewives with nothing better to do than stick their noses where they don’t belong. I was more interested in a different kind of drama — the kind worthy of an HBO series, in which your labelmate is releasing endless dis tracks against your boyfriend and your mentor is suing your label president for a king’s ransom. But the phrase I used was offensive, and even as I tried to apologize, I only made matters worse.
‘‘What do the four men you just named have to do with me thriving off drama?’’ she asked. ‘‘Why would you even say that? That’s so peculiar. Four grown-ass men are having issues between themselves, and you’re asking me do I thrive off drama?’’
She pointed my way, her extended arm all I could see other than the diamonds glinting in her ears. This wasn’t over yet. ‘‘That’s the typical thing that women do. What did you putting me down right there do for you?’’ she asked. ‘‘Women blame women for things that have nothing to do with them. I really want to know why — as a matter of fact, I don’t. Can we move on, do you have anything else to ask?’’ she continued. ‘‘To put down a woman for something that men do, as if they’re children and I’m responsible, has nothing to do with you asking stupid questions, because you know that’s not just a stupid question. That’s a premeditated thing you just did.’’ She called me ‘‘rude’’ and ‘‘a troublemaker,’’ said ‘‘Do not speak to me like I’m stupid or beneath you in any way’’ and, at last, declared, ‘‘I don’t care to speak to you anymore.’’
Second, The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber tries to figure out why Minaj shut that shit down. Essentially, politeness isn’t top priority in the hip-hop world, and furthermore, Minaj is more concerned personally with standing up for herself than her image:
Oh, right: Minaj is a rapper. Grigoriadis’s article, to its credit, aptly traces how Minaj achieved stardom after working her way up in the hip-hop world. (An important part of the Minaj legend, and many legends in the field, is the selling-CDs-out-of-the-back-of-a-car phase, though Minaj apparently does not indulge questions about the specifics of that period in her life.) Her status as a rapper is not just a matter of biographical trivia, or even of how she delivers her lyrics. It’s a matter of her outlook. Hip-hop, which rose from and reflects a social condition characterized by constant peril, doesn’t fetishize go-along get-along niceness to settle disputes. The best rappers, from Ice Cube to Jay Z, have often proven themselves through straightforward but brutally clever verbal confrontation.
Perhaps more accurately, her image depends on standing up for herself. And I can’t blame her. It was a condescending question. Do reporters ever ask male rappers (or musicians of any genre) if they thrive on drama? Not so far as I’m aware. The question would irrelevant and condescending. So it was for Minaj.
My secondary reaction to these pieces is to attempt to empathize with celebrities who routiinely deal with this sort of thing. No one is trying to make any sort of story out of my life. But for Minaj or any pop star, every interaction has an angle of some sort – dissecting their romantic and career decisions, successes and failures, mainly. This inability to control or even react to the sheer volume of what is written about you as a person on the internet and in print in any given day must create some sense of powerlessness. If freedom means anything, it is the ability to fuck up once in a while in privacy, then move on and try better next time. But when every day of your life is on the record, who can blame you for fighting back on the record? Haters gonna hate anyway!