Sapphic Salon: Nicki Minaj and the lesbian problem in hip-hop
Yesterday, one of hip-hop's rising stars, Nicki Minaj Tweeted something that caught my eye:
A rumored lesbian (or bisexual, depending on who you ask), Nicki is not "out," but took to Twitter for this random piece of knowledge, which only furthered my curiosity about her and how it relates to closeted women in the hip-hop community. As the "First Lady" of Lil' Wayne's Young Money record label, she recently admitted to feeling a lot of pressure, being a new artist.
On her 2009 mixtape, Beam Me Up Scott, she had songs like "Girls Kissing Girls," in which the first verse from Gucci Mane raps that you should beware of lesbians and bisexual women around your girlfriend. In "Still I Rise," she talks about haters spreading rumors about her, including:
You know her last name Minaj, she a lesbian
And she ain't neva comin' out, look at currency
And in "Go Hard," she says she "only stops for pedestrians, or real real bad lesbian."
So, is Nicki Minaj gay? Maybe. Will she come out of if she is? Probably not. So is her Tweet about not using the word "dyke" something that we should pay attention to? It's not that I think straight allies don't have the right to speak on gay rights — of course they do! But when it comes to someone that is somewhat closeted, does that change their statement's relevancy? It's a "consider the source" kind of ordeal for me, as I appreciate anytime that someone in the hip-hop community speaks out against homophobia; but I also wish that Nicki would push open the closet door.
There are several queer women in hip-hop, but many of them will never speak on their sexuality, despite making many gestures or comments or lyrical references to relationships with women. But there are others who do not see the same sort of success, perhaps largely due to the fact that they are so out and proud.
Nicki Minaj, or some of these others that I haven't named, would be risking their careers, I know, in coming out, but they are also the ones in the position of change. If someone who was successful first, gay second to the public came out as gay in the hip hop genre, it would benefit their fans, as many queer people (myself included) are listening to their music.
In regards to her actual statement, being called a dyke by someone who isn't queer is offensive. However, to many of us, reclaiming the word has given it a new meaning (i.e. Dykes On Bikes, Dykes to Watch Out For.) So does Nicki have the authority to decide what is offensive to our "community"? In my opinion, she can say what she'd like, but I'd respect it more if she was open about her supposed other-than-straight sexuality. In the meantime, I respect her being an ally and trying to put the word out.
Until Nicki says the word, I'll just be one of those fans looking for clues in Tweets and song lyrics.
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