Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz Verizon Theatre Sunday, July 29
I would have been happy just hanging out in the ladies room of Verizon Theatre last night, peaking over the stall, David Attenborough-style, taking notes and observing the various plumage. It's this neon cult following that's made Nicki Minaj such a polarizing, galvanizing force. The mirror was lined with their rainbow of colors, as they readjusted tops and fluffed hair and generally made sure they looked presentable for their idol.
"Good business for bad bitches" is something a cohort of mine said last night. We were talking about Minaj's use of "bad bitch" to describe herself and, presumably, her cult. Do men want a bad bitch? Do we want to be a bad bitch? Can we own that term without all the chatter?
2 Chainz seemed to think so. The Atlanta rapper dropped a few tracks from his upcoming debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story, and a few words of encouragement. "I'd like to see more female millionaires," he said at one point. Make no mistake: 2 Chainz still wants to have sex with you, and expressed that in several different ways last night (Still absorbing the line, "If that pussy good then I'll put it in a verse"). Then he smashed all of our rap/baller culture stereotypes by leaving the stage on a Segway.
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Minaj's show was a bigger production, even though the set decoration was a little low budget for the star in question. She lead off with the bigger tracks from Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded - "Beez in the Trap," "Stupid Hoe," "Starships" - before indulging in a few more costume changes. The "ballad" part of the show, in which she came out dressed like Marilyn Monroe in a pink wig, was where the set started to lose steam, but I understand the evolve or die aspect. Minaj raps like a monster, but that's not all that pays the bills.
The second half was heavy on her guest verses ("My Chick Bad," "Slumber Party," "Make Me Proud"), and that's where Minaj really owned it. "Don't depend [on men] for a motherfucking thing," she said to the ladies in the audience, reminding us that while she had cameos on several rappers' songs, she's now the lead.
Many have commented on Minaj's appropriation of the cartoonish Barbie brand for herself and her fans as a setback for women, and seeing girls wearing Nicki Minaj shirts and "Barbie" necklaces certainly made me reconsider this argument. I've felt conflicted about her as a role model in the past, but then I think about her line in "Roman's Revenge," a song in which her alter ego is actually a man ("I am not Jasmine, I am Aladdin"), and think about the opportunity for transgression.
I think she's trying to tear down that image instead of just remodeling the Barbie Dream House, which is crowded with her different personae. She's not asking us to live in hers, necessarily, but to build up our own. She's asking us to own the bad bitch, and make it our business.