At midnight Wednesday, Nicki Minaj dropped the full video for “Anaconda,” an ode to bodacious booties with a heavily sampled shoutout to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 signature “thickums” jam “Baby Got Back.”
What’s endearing, in an “Oh, the ’90s” kind of way, is remembering how “Baby Got Back” and its video were highly controversial at the time—to the point that MTV only played it at night. But thanks to the Magic City-fication of rap videos, “Baby Got Back” and its papier-mâché butt prop seem fairly quaint by comparison. In Mix-A-Lot’s video, the women wear shorts that cover their cheeks with fishnet tights underneath. Minaj gets rid of all that and dives pants-less into what an Internet-porn-saturated culture wants—dat azz.
It’s titillating. It’s kind of boring. But it’s mostly adorable in how desperately familiar it all is.
You could roll your eyes and say this is “typical Nicki,” but I’d argue that this is actually “old Nicki.” This is 2009, “I’m my own video vixen and I might want you to think I’m bisexual, ha ha, I’m kidding, but maybe I’m not, buy my mixtape” Nicki.
Old Nicki pulled stunts like these all the time, from recreating classic Lil’ Kim poses, to bouncing around near naked for everyone’s scintillation, all while wearing some cotton-candy-hued Barbie wig for the kiddies. New Nicki, who went back to wearing her hair black, started to slowly put on a pair of pants and nasal-sing her way through “Pills N Potions,” was over these theatrics. She seemed like she wanted to return to her grimy roots. Like she could finally hang up her thongs and start spitting bars again.
And she could have, but then everything got all “Fancy,” and Iggy Azalea, someone who looked like Glowstick Malibu Barbie was coming for Minaj’s BET Award crown by using her own pilfered playbook.
For years, you see, Nicki has been the one and only queen of what was left of a decimated corpse called “commercial hip-hop.” Real hip-hop had returned to the underground from whence it came years ago. Today the modern rap artist gets the duty of being the best rapper to most artistically pick from hip-hop’s bones. Minaj thought she’d excavated as much as she could from the carcass, leaving nothing for any big-booty newcomers jocking her style, but along came a new bone collector, and Nicki had to twerk it out over 1992’s stripper anthem.
Depending on who you ask, Iggy is either a fake rap artist or a failed pop singer turned fake rap artist. Her name is not her own; nor is her hair and most certainly not her accent. But none of that matters. No one in hip-hop is really real. (Rick Ross’ story is like a grim version of the plot from CB4.)
But more egregious than the name/hair fakery—which is industry standard—is that people have questioned whether Iggy writes her own lyrics. But as someone who’s been listening to Iggy since 2011’s Ignorant Art, I believe she does. And it’s not like this is Rakim. Iggy is heir to the houses Trina and Master P built, the dirtiest of Dirty South, with none of the lyrical subtly of, say, UGK, Goodie Mob or OutKast. And since no one has ever put, say, Juvenile on their top 10 list of greatest rap anything, Iggy remains well within their league, believable in that one and only instance.
Which is why the tears being shed over something no one actually wants anymore is kind of humorous. Everyone in pop music steals. It’s how you stay ahead. “Appropriation” is just the word for pop thievery, now in “color.” Millie Jackson was old and couldn’t rap, so Eazy E tried to recreate her in a lab and made H.W.A. They sold no records, so Lil’ Kim stole their thongs and became the Hard Core gangster moll to the Notorious B.I.G. Nicki Minaj swagger-jacked Kim, but came with the bonus of writing her own lyrics.
Iggy took all that, sprinkled some white privilege on it and called it 3.3 million sold. But it’s all the same.
And coming in to mock the foolery in our commercial death drop over hip-hop’s grave, bizarrely, is country-pop star Taylor Swift, who this week borrowed a pair of Nicki’s acid-washed denim shorts and a pair of knee pads and tried to ironically twerk to her new pop overture “Shake It Off.” Taylor, who got flamed for appropriation, was actually appropriating an appropriator; politely dissing, in cutesy irony, Hannah-“Destiny Hope”-Not-Actually-Named-Miley-Montana.
Full circle: Miley isn’t Hottentot Venus. Taylor isn’t funny. Rick Ross is not Freeway. Azalea is not African, American or named Iggy. Nicki’s real name is Onika and, this week, she doubled-down on the winning strategy that made her a star by using a hilarious, so-bad-its-good hit from 22 years ago.
The more things change …
(Danielle C. Belton is a Washington, D.C.-based satirist and blogger. Follow her on Twitter.)