“Everybody loves Raymond.” Nicki Minaj, you lie.
Watching Minaj’s cameo in Usher’s “Lil Freak” video, it’s hard not to have a Joe Wilson outburst. Besides the tragic display of a mid life crisis, the four minute clip is the latest example of hip hop’s complicated relationship with bisexuality.
Rocking split colored bangs and screaming the names of Santa’s reindeers into a stranger’s ear, Nicki scouts the bevy of video girls to bring back to Usher. The threesome fantasy is not new to hip-hop, but with her newfound fame, Nicki Minaj has given the bisexual woman a space on the track. Even with the additional voice, the portrayal of the lady is, well, a tramp.
Necessary components of the rapper’s lifestyle, the bisexual women have been simplified between lines and over beats. She is a gorgeous woman who could have any man she wants and also happens to go both ways. She is promiscuous and insatiable. Unabashedly bold, she radiates sexual energy from the moment she walks through the room. She is a less complicated version of Alice Walker’s jazz singer from The Color Purple, Shug Avery.
Looking at picture painted by hip-hop, you would be hard pressed to see any dimension to the bisexual woman. Her life and choices are what Shug Avery was on stage- a simply tantalizing display. She is deliciously uncomplicated and purposely one dimensional. How else would she fit into sixteen bars?
For hip-hop, the bisexual woman is a means to an ends. In the case of the average rapper, she is one third of a threesome and for the rising Minaj, it has been the distinguishing feature to set her apart on her road to fame. None of the speakers are much interested in exploring or fleshing out the character and most listeners won’t press them to do so. The fantasy works better when it is not challenged. And after all who really cares? This is how hits are made.
The simplification of the bisexual woman in hip-hop is not just an issue for the LGBT community; it is an embarrassment to us all. The very fabric of contemporary hip-hop culture is deconstruction. It is an art form that rose from young people who saw discrepancies between what was happening in their streets and what was presented on the national stage. At its best, it asked questions that unnerved a nation and affected people’s way of thinking. To say that the art form should not be subjected to intellectual scrutiny, is to discredit its power as a cultural force. The less complicated approach has never been authentic to hip-hop. Despite the varying definitions and stages of growth, the one qualification was that the music be real.
Like Miss Nicki’s backside, hair, lashes and nails there is nothing real about the woman called a “Lil Freak.” She is a video extra that makes for a great one time hit, but can hardly be considered a classic. The shallow depiction is a far cry from what made Walker’s Shug Avery so great. Despite her stage act, she was a real woman with complex emotions and relationships. She was beautiful but hardly perfect, a heroine in some moments and lost in others. She was a rich character whose range went far beyond her raspy alto. You may not have wanted to love her like Celie did, but you had to appreciate the woman she was.
As a heterosexual woman, I find this message particularly troubling. Using sexuality to convince a man that you’re “really f*cking with me” is not the message we should be promoting to younger girls (or boys for that matter).
For sure, Alice Walker, a Pulitzer Prize winning author had more room to delve into the nuances of Shug. But so-called high art is not only attainable by novelists, it can be achieved by anyone who makes a commitment to create. Old Tribe Called Quest records makes me yearn for the days when emcess used their pens to make observations, not just dance tracks. Lost in the pulsating bass of Usher’s hit are less than educated impressions of bisexuality.
The first of these assumptions: they’re all uber femme and uber hot. That may be the standard requirement for music videos but I am positive there are some bisexual women somewhere in the world that do not look like video honeys. The second: a bisexual woman is defunct when it comes to emotional relationships. Attempting to give explanation for her sexuality, hip-hop has pushed the narrative of the bisexual woman as one who can’t choose because she can’t commit. Third: one that should be personally offensive to all women regardless of their sexual preference- the promotion of bisexuality as a tool to lure and attract attention. As a heterosexual woman, I find this message particularly troubling. Using sexuality to convince a man that you’re “really f*cking with me” is not the message we should be promoting to younger girls (or boys for that matter). But as the camera rolls, both Usher and Nicki have continued to play their roles as willing participants in perpetuating the myth of the sexually starved bisexual woman who is always ready for a threesome.
The selection of her stage name alone makes Miss Minaj (hood version of “ménage à troi”) suspect, but her willingness to comply solidifies her role in this mess as well. Even though she has a voice on the track, she puts salt on the wound by playing along as the subservient female who chooses to engage with women at the request of the alpha male in her life. Not only is it sexist, it is a missed opportunity for the rapper who claims to look forward to a gay friendly hip-hop culture.
Hip-hop’s bisexual woman is nothing more than a sexual toy, an incarnation of late night vulgar thoughts. When men and women holding pens choose to conceive of her beyond her body, we will be able to get a better picture of the woman outside the bedroom. But in her current state as a on call hoe, I have to conjure up Shug’s famous line and say to hip-hop, “You sho is ugly.”