Nicki Minaj, Cheeky Genius: Photos
“But “Anaconda” samples a song that’s literally called “Baby Got Back.” There must be some thought given to this part of the body, considering all the attention it receives. Choreography points to it; she boosts it up and it receives applause. The song is a five-minute gender-studies symposium.
But Nicki shakes her head: “All it says is, ‘My anaconda don’t.’ “ Why are we talking about asses? she seems to be saying. Sure, there is a direct, not inferred, reference in her lyrics to “salad tossing”—which, to be clear, is the act of being anally probed by someone else’s tongue. But this is a song about reptiles. Don’t be such an intellectual!
Okay, fine. You can’t deny the video, though. You can’t pretend that there isn’t some extreme sexual commentary going on in the video, right? A steamy women’s-only jungle mecca, aerobic slithering, drumming on a dancer’s ass. There, in the video, Nicki is twerking and crawling across the floor to poor, hapless Drake, sitting in a puddle of his own anticipatory blue balls. She slaps him before he can touch her, and that has to mean something.
"I knew that I wanted a gym theme." Shrug. "And that’s that." That’s that, guys. That’s that.
She sees me grasping, and maybe she feels a little sorry for me, so she offers me this: “I think the video is about what girls do.” She is poking at a salad that hasn’t been tossed. (The dressing came on the side.) “Girls love being with other girls, and when you go back to us being younger, we would have slumber parties and we’d be dancing with our friends.” (I’ll take her word for it; the slumber parties were not jungle-themed in Canarsie.)
Okay, the “Anaconda” cover art, then. It was almost an afterthought, she says, the product of a photo shoot on the day that the “Anaconda” video was shot. “I just said I’ll put it out, never thought in a billion years that people would be putting [other] people’s heads on it. It’s the craziest shit.” I tell her that online I’d seen it as a rocket, jet fuel and fire being released from her undercarriage. “What hasn’t it been?” she says. “They’ve made it everything.”
You heard it here first. “Anaconda” is about a snake, and also about a woman’s ex-boyfriends, and the video is just one big slumber party. You can release a record cover into the atmosphere that makes all who see it so shocked and discomforted that their only way to metabolize it is to turn it into the world’s fastest-spreading meme, to the point where her squatting form ends up on a polo shirt, right where the little crocodile usually goes. You can do all this, and still you can look someone in the eye and say that it’s not cynical in the least, that it’s not a comment on gender or sex or the culture or anything. Double shrug. These are not the droids you’re looking for.
"I don’t know what there is to really talk about," she says. "I’m being serious. I just see the video as being a normal video." "
"The next night, at Fashion Rocks, J.Lo went on before Nicki. The song she performed was called "Booty," and the only lyrics I could discern were Big, big booty / what you got a big booty again and again, J.Lo marking her territory. If you could troll Nicki Minaj through a song, this was it. J.Lo wore a short dress and did a move you mostly see strippers do on cop shows—I’ll call it the squatted twerk: knees bent, up down up down up down, butt close to the ground but never touching it. We clapped loudly for this. A woman behind me who has no idea how the record-promotion business works panted to her companion, “I hope Nicki does ‘Anaconda.’ “
Right before I left her the previous night, Nicki had stopped me, and maybe because she felt bad for me and maybe because she, too, is generous, she had given me two things—a ticket to this show and this tiny morsel:
"I’m chopping up the banana. Did you realize that?"
What? What banana?
In the “Anaconda” video, she says. “At first I’m being sexual with the banana, and then it’s like, ‘Ha-ha, no.’ ” I ask if she’s referring to how the Drake scene immediately follows the kitchen scene. “Yeah, that was important for us to show in the kitchen scene, because it’s always about the female taking back the power, and if you want to be flirty and funny that’s fine, but always keeping the power and the control in everything.”
Maybe she had been messing with me all along.
Or maybe she was simply telling me that it is not her job to explain herself. I had been warned before the interview that I shouldn’t ask about her ass, that she finds it degrading, and I had chalked up her reticence to that. But maybe this is what she finds degrading: to work day and night to get those features down, to make actual magic and to make it come out in full articulation, every syllable, every accent, meticulously applied to save someone else’s song in the third act, to entertain you, only to have some asshole come down to the DeKalb dressing room in the two hours that she could have spent taking a real nap, not an upright one, and ask her what she means when she’s doing the thing she does. Must she do everything? She’s not hiding anything—look at her, she literally isn’t hiding anything. It’s all there for you to see. Do some of the work yourself, people. She’s busy running her brand. She’s inspiring a meme that will keep us busy for months. She is tasting the Moscato and smelling the Nicki Minaj perfume that comes in miniature busts of Nicki Minaj. She is not here for your gender-studies symposium. It is not her job to tell you who the eff she is. And she’s exhausted. She is only made of carbon after all, just like you and me.”