samuel l jackson

Celebrity Jury: Nicki Minaj

You even have a day that just feels like a Monday?

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But let’s chat.  As you all may remember, when the blog first started, we would take a look at some celebrities and judge them.  You know like these:

Justin Timberlake
Justin Bieber
Ray J
Bow Wow Shad Moss D-Pimpin

Well since we haven’t had a lady be judged, it’s time to rectify that.  Step on down Nicki!

tre

 

Oh…that’s not you. Hi Tré!

actually nicki

 

There you are!  Let’s get this show on the road.

Pro: Nicki is a capable rapper.

Let’s flashback to 2009, when Nicki burst on the scene with a bunch of star-making features.  I remember thinking that she was nothing special.  Clever, but not that interesting.  This was the first verse that really made me sit up and take notice from a signed artist standpoint (more on the mixtapes later).

This is FANTASTIC.  Witty, interesting, lyrically sound.  There’s not a forced rhyme in the entire verse.  Effective use of her accents.  There is not a single flaw here.  It’s the best part of the song.

But what it showed me was that I had been too harsh in my initial judgment.  I may not have been a huge fan, but the lady can rap and rap well.

Con: These singles.

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Short Version: I don’t like these songs.

Long Version: These songs aren’t interesting.  Nicki doesn’t have a terrible singing voice, but it’s not one that we need to hear when she’s capable of Monster style verses.  The rapping here defaults to L’il Wayne style broken similes and metaphors that feel lazy to me.  I just don’t get excited about Nicki Minaj music 90% of the time.  I feel like I’m going to get something dull and plodding (Your Love, Pills and Potions) or something zany yet bland (Starships, Super Bass).

Pro: Nicki’s Makeunder

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For the first few years, Nicki ran around looking a clown’s ass and we just let it happen.  Her wigs were always bright and colorful but sat too low on her forehead or were plagued by tragic wig glue.  Her make-up…was frightening.  In the wake of Lady Gaga’s “style,” Nicki’s felt try-hard and uninspiring.  no

Like this?  This is dumb.  This isn’t interesting.  There is no message.  It’s just stupid.

However in 2013, Nicki Minaj started looking like a human and dressing in a more toned-down manner.  I hate to seem like I’m discouraging her creativity, but she looks amazing.

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Like look at this person.  Look at this woman.  How stunning is she?

Not only did it let us see what she looks like, but it had the effect of pressing “Reset” for those of us who were non-fans and others who loved mixtape Nicki.  It’s one of the most effective image makeovers in history.  I’m reminded of Dorothy Dandridge.  Some of you may or may not know, but Dorothy Dandridge had a very sweet and “apple pie” appeal when she first broke in Hollywood with the Nicolas Brothers.

She’s obviously a dynamic performer and talent, but she’s miles away from becoming Carmen Jones.

SO. HOT. RIGHT. NOW.  She’s like sex personified in the role.  It was this role that would infuse her nightclub acts with sensuality and become her lasting image rather than her earlier roles.

It’s my hope that this is the route Nicki is taking.  I’m open to liking her and her music more now because I think she looks amazing.  Had she started out this way, I would think that she had nothing more to offer, but now I feel like she deserves another shot, if that makes sense.

Con: Petty Betty is Petty.

Let’s flashback to the BET Awards.  I said this,

But back to Nicki coming for Iggy’s writing credits and authenticity.  Girl. Good. Bye. I don’t say that because I’m some huge Iggy fan or anything.  But to come for someone who is having career success when you’ve just beaten her for an award is petty.  It doesn’t make you look good.  It doesn’t speak well for your belief in YOUR career.  And to have Nicki Minaj come for anyone on the grounds of authenticity when she has run around for a good 5 years wearing multi-colored quick weaves, speaking in tragic accents, and calling herself a Barbie just reeks of a lack of self-awareness.  Writing all of those lyrics gave us Stupid Hoe and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  So good for you?

And you know, I stand by this.  Most of Nicki’s first two years were plagued with dumb drama with L’il Kim over “not paying enough homage.”  It was petty and stupid then.  And Nicki’s reacting to Iggy’s success now is petty and stupid.  Nicki’s lane is secure and clear, despite any misgivings I may have about her.  Iggy being a part of two great summer songs has nothing to do with her.  She may not be a fan but just relax and know that you are and can do better.  People who are comfortable in their position don’t worry about what others are doing.

Pro: Lookin’ Ass N****

Yes.  Just yes.

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Con: Stupid Hoe

Now, I had to break this out separately.  What. The. Fuck.

Who approved this?

Who thought this would be a hit?

This is awful.

This is Nicki at her most indulgent and terrible.  Anybody who did not see it for her can point to this song & video and prove their point.

Pro: Nicki supports feminism.

Or at the very least, pays lip service to it.  I’m a big supporter of women standing up for themselves and their causes.  And I appreciate that Nicki does the same in her way.  Her response to Loyal at Super Jam was great.

And while I don’t care for the Anaconda cover, I don’t feel like there’s any reason for the uproar.  It’s just her ass cheeks.  This is Nicki Minaj we’re talking about. Her ass is her brand.

Con: Defensive, thy name is Onika.

Back to the point, I was making about the Anaconda cover and uproar.  Nicki went on a rant with images of other non-Black women with their booty butt cheeks out or half-dressed when people critiqued the cover.  While I agree that there is nothing particularly wrong with the cover, I feel like this is an Azealia Banks move.  It’s not that Nicki shouldn’t respond or that she can’t respond.  It’s that instead of managing her career in a way that an artist of her stature can, she’s still acting like a struggling artist whose record sales live and die by Twitter.

She’s more than that and I think that there’s two ways to respond.  Get you an interview with Jimmy Fallon or Chelsea Handler and state your case.  Or release a freestyle called “Unbothered” with several pictures of your ass in all of it’s glory.

Duh…

Going back a little bit, remember her “feud” with Mariah Carey?  Mariah Carey is a rude and shady bitch, but losing your cool isn’t how you fight someone operating at that level of mastery.  You do some digging

Pro: Parodies & Sophia Grace/Rosie

Without Nicki, these things wouldn’t be here to tickle me.

Those little girls are mega adorable.

 

Con: Her Live Performances Leave Much To Be Desired

 

I’ve said a couple of times that Pills And Potions is a boring song that really had no business coming out for the summer.  But the decision was made and Nicki performed it at the BET Awards with that cheap bunny costume, giant mushroom prop and one contemporary dancer.  It’s interesting that she pulled from Alice in Wonderland given Lewis Carroll’s thinly veiled drug references in the original, but there’s always something lacking in the execution.

I’ve never seen a Nicki performance that was “creative” that didn’t come across as juvenile.  To me, it feels like she has the idea first and does not think anything through until the day of the performance.  I’ve seen stans make the argument that she majored in Theatre in high school and that’s what I get from these performances.  High school spring musical.  At a struggling high school.

I’ve just sat through a few performances and I’m still bored.  It’s all lackluster booty popping (for the rap songs) or forced creativity.  Thanks but no thanks.

Pro: She gave Cassie a job!

You all know how I feel about the Original Queen of Music.

Overall: Meh…

You know, I was making this list and I was pretty sure that it would come out as a positive for Nicki.  While I can’t say I’m a huge fan or anything, I really do think there is something to be said for her career.  It had been years since we had any female rappers doing anything of note.  Remy Ma has the talent and flow, but went to jail.  Shawnna is also a great rapper, but her own singles never had much commercial appeal outside of hoodrat clubs and college parties.  Nicki was able to rise to the top with a slew of memorable verses and catchy songs.  She’s managed to keep control of her career in some ways and redirect it away from a sinking ship.  She’s got talent and spark.

But I’m still not convinced.  I’m just not moved by her own material enough to really be on her team.  For every triumph, there’s a complete flop.  For ever accurate point made, there’s something petty and insecure the next day.

I would like to see Nicki find a way to just truly own her star image and sound.  I think once she stops trying to “make hits” and relies on what got her signed in the first place, she’ll be golden.

But until then…

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What are your thoughts?  Let me know in the comments or over the twitter machine.

 

 

Trash’s BET Awards Recap

What’s up, People?

So the BET Awards happened last night!  And you know what, it was an entertaining show!  I mean I’m clearly going to shade your faves, but there clearly was some real effort and intent into the production and decisions.  It showed and I’m honestly impressed.  But let’s go through some of the moments and performances!

But let’s first pay tribute to this diva who clearly got her life from every pre-show performance.  I was completely here for her.  Show out diva!

The show opened with Pharrell performing Come Get It Bae.  While I love Pharrell, his reticence leads to somewhat dull performances. Although I enjoyed him dropping it to the floor.  But then he brought out MISSY ELLIOTT and things became so important.  Listen, I’m going to address Nicki Minaj later but Missy Elliott is part of the reason that Nicki falls flat because she’s such a fun and engaging artist with a catalog of HITS!  She’s flawless and immediately brought energy into Pharrell’s show.  Fantastic.

Chris Rock hosted the show and did a fantastic job.  Full stop.  His opening monologue and bits during the show were funny, if a bit forced.  I loved the bit of him at the Monster Truck Rally and the play on Ellen’s pizza with Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.  While it was no Mo’nique slaying Beyoncé’s choreography, it was a lively show in part thanks to him.  Although, poor Rick Ross took the brunt of his jokes.  Oh well!

Nick Cannon continued his pursuit to become the lamest man on the planet.  Showing up with leather pants, a pick, and a thirsty afro, he appeared to make Zendaya uncomfortable.

John Legend then performed, singing beautifully and glowing because that’s just what he does.  But then, tragedy.

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If you recall, this is how Class & I both feel about Jhene’s supposed vocal talents.  She strutted out there swaying and bopping while missing all 6 notes of that “The Worst” song.  Like I just don’t understand why she’s so bad live.  And this is coming from someone who enjoys Cassie!  She’s seriously so blah and seeing people go up for her irritates me.  She was up there struggling and failing to impress the judges when John Legend jumped in to sing with her and scalped her in TWO lines.  TWO. He didn’t even break a sweat.  Goodbye girl.

Chris Brown performed Loyal and I just can’t be bothered.  I can’t remember if I mentioned it in my post, but he seriously comes across as dead.  The dance moves seemed lazy and he came out in red plaid which would be a theme for the night.  But his voice isn’t where it used to be and Loyal, while catchy, just isn’t a song that I’m ever going to see it for without several cocktails and a dance floor.  However, this tweet (Retweeted from MissJia took me out of the game)

But then, Usher came out to remind us that he has hits on hits on hits.  Although, that curious coon skin cap was not the business.  Seriously, the Confessions album by itself could have been a 20-minute performance.  We could have cut freaking Jhene for more Usher.  And just when I thought the performance couldn’t be more fun…

boots!

Listen.  This young diva hopped on stage with her boots and proceeded to herk and jerk about to my endless delight.  Love her.

Jennifer Hudson performed a song and I seriously always feel a little bad for her.  She can sing and she has style but her song choices either feel tedious or forced.  She was in a leather mini-dress that was not flattering and seemed to be going for Studio 54 meets Patti Labelle and it just didn’t work.  But she didn’t bring out David BaeIntosh in sheer panty-drawls.  So a win is a win.

This happened.

Okay, let’s talk about Nicki Minaj.  She came out to perform that “Pills & Potions” song with an Alice In Wonderland set.  The performance, like the song, was mediocre.  I say this, knowing that I actually don’t really mind her these days.  Her make-under is truly one of the best image reinventions in recent memory.  That plus Lookin Ass had me thinking that perhaps we could co-exist.  But I do feel like while Nicki has the ability to be a dope lyricist and certainly has some creativity, her performance come across very middle school play.  There’s a lack of polish in her “art” that makes it childish and less impressive when compared to her contemporaries.

Think back to her Catholic mess at the Grammy’s.  She felt like that was going to be shocking and say something, but really it was just off-putting and uninteresting.  With the childish set and the fact that Pills and Potions just isn’t an interesting summer song, it was blah and made her later comments seem even more petty.

It’s why her Beez In The Trap performance from 2012 was so good.  Taking out all of the “art” forced her to rely on her rhymes and presence and the performance was better because of it.  Also, this.

We’ll come back to Nicki coming for Iggy later.

Okay, next August Alasia, Trey Songz, and Chris Brown came out to make the young ladies and gays of the world moist.  Asian Sensation, who you may remember from our NFL Draft post, loves her some August.  I don’t particularly mind him, but he’s so fun to laugh at.  With that said, his performance was fine.  He may have a limited vocal range, but he works what he has well.  He reminds me of a Lyfe Jennings, but for those who didn’t live through dial-up internet.  It’s also further proof that Trey Songz, fine as he is, sounds like shit live.  Chris still sounds like he’d rather be having a root canal.

We then got Trey Songz performing Na Na and yeah, the performance is better watched on mute.  OOOH, but do you remember when he sang for Prince????

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Prince’s pursed lips of judgement will continue to get us all through the day.

We then got to the Lionel Richie’s tribute.  Or should I say Ritchie?  Really, BET?? I just can’t with you.

But John Legend, Ledisi, and Yolanda Adams did a bang up job.  Especially Yolanda who brought the house down.  Lionel then gave an airy fairy speech before blessing us with All Night Long which by FAR my favorite solo song of his. (Zoom by the Commodores being my all-time favorite.)

AYYYYYYYYYYYE JAMBO JAMBO!

So T.I. and Iggy Brazilia performed “No Mediocre” which led to Iggy’s Fancy. T.I. has perfect teeth and wore a parka.  Iggy mumble rapped her way though and sat on a lawn chair.  It was fine for what it was.  But let’s talk Iggy.  She is the target of a lot of hatred a la Macklemore, for adopting a “blaccent” for her raps and some racist tweets earlier in her career.  Essentially, the running commentary is that she is a parody of hip hop who has been elevated because of her skin color.  I get not liking her because her catalog is mostly mediocre and the tweets, but her adopting a rap persona doesn’t phase me at all.  L’il Kim’s nor Foxy Brown’s natural voices were nearly as gruff as their songs.  And whether you like it or not, Fancy is one of the songs of the summer.  It’s catchy, it’s fun to sing/rap along to, and Iggy sells it.  The execution of her Clueless-inspired video is killer.

But back to Nicki coming for Iggy’s writing credits and authenticity.  Girl. Good. Bye. I don’t say that because I’m some huge Iggy fan or anything.  But to come for someone who is having career success when you’ve just beaten her for an award is petty.  It doesn’t make you look good.  It doesn’t speak well for your belief in YOUR career.  And to have Nicki Minaj come for anyone on the grounds of authenticity when she has run around for a good 5 years wearing multi-colored quick weaves, speaking in tragic accents, and calling herself a Barbie just reeks of a lack of self-awareness.  Writing all of those lyrics gave us Stupid Hoe and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  So good for you?

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The night became more flawless with a male R&B group reunion of sorts featuring Troop, Color Me Badd, and Silk!

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Listen.  I screamed.  I just wasn’t ready.  This was a huge win.  Of course, this led to me wanting a bunch of other groups for it.  All-4-One, Tony Toni Toné, Shai, Blackstreet, Jodeci…  I would have died.

A tribute to Ruby Dee and Maya Angelou orated by Phylicia Rashad was stunning and well done.  This is what I meant when I said that the awards did a much better job of paying real tribute to real people in a respectful way.  Medger Ever’s widow delivered a beautiful speech as well.

The show closed with a YouTube of Beyoncé & Jay-Z performing Partition at their tour.  This isn’t the first time they’ve done this and the disappointment of so many fans was hilarious.  I didn’t pay a ton of attention because I’m seeing them in 2 weeks.

And that’s that?  My favorite performances were Yolanda Adams and Usher.  Seeing Paris Hilton there was hilarious.  Robin Thicke’s “public” plea for Paula Patton is awkward and uncomfortable.

Here are some of my favorite tweets from the night.

https://twitter.com/JamalBillions/status/483439534135189504

Leave your favorite moments!