Nicki Minaj and the Changing Politics of Hip-Hop: Real Blackness, Real Bodies, Real Feminism?

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2017


John Hopkins University Press


Nicki Minaj, the best-selling female rapper in history, rose to fame at the same time that the hip-hop industry changed in dramatic ways. Over the past two decades, hip-hop minimized the presence of women rappers, shifted toward a business model of merchandising, and marketed to larger and whiter audiences. How, then, did Minaj rise to fame and become one of the most visible African American women in popular culture in recent decades? Using Collins's (2006) "new black body politics," we find that Minaj pushes the boundaries of blackness through her use of alter egos and her "Black Barbie" persona. She creates her body as a "body-product" for mass consumption by fans through social media. Finally, we find that Minaj offers a "brand" of feminism that is highly marketable because it merges a language of critique and oppression. Her strategy of accommodationist politics appeals to the broadest possible audience because for some, her music is feminist, while for others, it fits comfortably into existing controlling narratives of black womanhood.