Nicki Minaj posted a comment on Instagram about the number of white rappers sitting comfortably atop the iTunes rap chart that became so “controversial,” she deleted it. Good thing the Internet lasts forever. Nicki’s post is below.
“It’s a great time to be a white rapper in America huh?”
In the screenshot, Eminem, Lil Pump, Post Malone, NF and G-Eazy round out the top five spots. Nicki’s 11 words may be controversial to some but to me, they are just the truth. These men have hit songs, yes? They are white or white passing (Lil Pump is actually of Mexican descent), yes? Then where did Onika Tanya Maraj lie to you? Why are you so outraged?
Even after she amended her post, many commentators hit back at Nicki Minaj calling her jealous (please), petty and even racist for pointing out a FACT. That’s a lot of white rappers. Again, WHY YOU MAD? Nicki’s critics have used the defense that the success of these rappers have nothing to do with race; that these songs are hits because that’s what fans want to hear. A friend e-mailed me yesterday with the same argument against Nicki’s post: “charts don’t rank people based on race. If you put out a catchy song, you’ll hit the top ten. Simple as that.”
I love this friend but I wholeheartedly disagree with them. It’s not simple. The artists who hit the Top 10 have largely been given the access and opportunity to be there. Whose songs get the most radio play before they land on those charts? Which powerful white label executive decided to sign and promote the sh-t out of certain artists? Who lands a record deal? Just because a song is played on the radio doesn’t mean it deserves to be there or that it’s there simply because audiences demanded it. If you think the pop charts truly reflect the best songs ever created then please explain the rise of Butterfly by Crazy Town.
And then there’s the whole issue of which artists, after the record deals and after the hit songs, get the most money and accolades. Eminem is the highest-selling rapper of all time. Em is quick to point out his privilege but that doesn’t mean he gets a pass from benefitting from it. When he first came along, the response to his music was like he invented rap and he went on to do better financially than any black rapper before him. Let’s not forget that time Macklemore won a Grammy over the greatest rapper of our generation, Kendrick Lamar. There can only be true meritocracy in a fair and equal system. The music industry is not rooted in equality for a lot of reasons but mainly because the system’s backdrop is America, one of the most racist and historically disenfranchised places in the free world.
Consider it like this: Nicki Minaj is a black female rapper in an industry that has consistently degraded and overlooked black women. She’s also a black woman herself living in a country that is designed to oppress black women. She’s had to work twice as hard to get everything these white dudes seemingly strolled in to get and she’s still only one of two black female rappers currently thriving on mainstream charts (shout out Cardi B). Then, imagine Nicki Minaj looking at those charts and they’re full of white men. She’s watching white men monopolize a genre that was created by black people as an expression of the frustration of being black while also being a celebration of blackness. Hip-hop was the safe space black Americans created when they had so few spaces of their own. At the very least, I don’t think it’s hard to understand why this screenshot and these specific rappers might make Nicki stop and say, “Huh.”
If the Twitter mentions of black writers are any indication, many people want to dismiss every observation that has the word “white” in it as racist. Nicki Minaj was making a commentary on the state of an industry and a culture she belongs to. She has every right to do that and she literally just stated FACTS. Black people are constantly called out for outrage culture but it’s the Beckys (men included) all up in Nicki’s comments who are the definitions of precious, little snowflakes.
Let’s also address the double standard of the reaction to Nicki’s comments. She linked to a J.Cole interview where he pointed out how white people have taken over jazz, a genre also invented by black people. Here are J.Cole’s comments:
“The entire page of iTunes Jazz is 99.7% white people... Mind you, anybody can do whatever music they want but you have to understand that Jazz is a black form of music in its origins. And not only is it a black form of music, it was the hip-hop of its day. It was that much of a rebellious music."
Last year, there was entire Oscar-winning movie about a white dude mansplaining jazz. What I think J.Cole is trying to say here is that he doesn’t want the 2054 equivalent of Ryan Gosling to star in a movie where he saves hip-hop.
In response to the backlash to Nicki’s comments, Wale (a rapper who would probably be WAY more successful if he was white in my opinion) came to her defense and pointed out how black artists are often relegated to “urban” or R&B sections while white artists get to be pop and thus, have more mass appeal. We’ve seen this happen to Beyoncé at the Grammys, for example. So, J.Cole and Wale essentially said the exact same things as Nicki and no one is forcing them to delete posts or calling them racists. To borrow a phrase my friend Allya says often, “ain’t that being a black woman?” In Nicki’s words:
“Whenever a black woman speaks on ANYTHING she’s labeled as “mad” “angry” “bitter.”
The rise of the white rapper was always inevitable. When hip-hop became the genre dominating mainstream music charts and rappers became the official arbiters of cool, it was only a matter of time before the white kids who grew up listening to them would want to rap too. None of the above points are saying that white guys shouldn’t rap. I’m not saying that. I want to make that very clear. The conversation here is about bringing attention to the privilege that comes with being a white rapper, especially one that’s mediocre. Eminem is not a mediocre rapper. You could argue that he’s the only name on this Top 10 who deserves to be there based on talent alone. I just tried to get through a Lil Pump song and I couldn’t make it. I hadn’t heard of NF until today. He’s not terrible but he sounds so much like a PG Slim Shady knockoff it’s eerie. G-Eazy is the WORST. Post Malone has put out a couple of catchy songs but he’s the dude who repeatedly disrespects the very industry he exploits to his advantage. I can’t imagine a black female rapper getting away with some of the ignorant sh-t Post Malone has said about hip-hop. And yet, these dudes get to enjoy a level of success that talented, legendary black female MCs like Rah Digga and Trina never did or that current overlooked voices like Young M.A and Noname have yet to achieve.
It used to be that if you were a white rapper, before you were accepted by hip-hop fans, you had to be anointed by a member of the black rap community. Think Dr. Dre for Eminem or Run DMC for The Beastie Boys. In one post, Nicki said she wanted to sign a white rapper. I don’t see anything wrong with that if it’s an MC Nicki Minaj believed in and she got a cut of that cheque when they hit the iTunes Top 10. A New York Times piece about G-Eazy last year called this moment in hip-hop the “post-accountability era of white rap, when white artists are flourishing almost wholly outside the established hip-hop industry,” and that, “the freedom afforded them by their success verges on entitlement.” Entitled white guys are dominating hip-hop and Nicki Minaj isn’t allowed to point this out?