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Track Review

Nuance isn't really Nicki Minaj's thing.

No, she's much more interested in straight-up shock. And her latest hit, Anaconda, handily delivers exactly such a jolt as she raps about the glory of having a big backside … and all the sexy-crazy things it equips her to do.

Such songs, of course, are hardly new. They practically have their own genre category, starting (at least in a, ahem, big way) with Sir Mix-a-Lot asserting back in 1992, "I like big butts and I cannot lie!" A lyric you might not remember from that hit alludes to a different part of the male anatomy: "My anaconda don't want none unless you got big buns, hon."

And so it's no surprise that Minaj now pays homage to that famous ode to booties by opening her own rap hit with a repeated sample of those flippantly foul words.

From there she spits rapid-fire verses full of drug use, drug dealing, obscenities and allusions to various sex acts in a car. Honestly, there's hardly an outrage box Nicki doesn't tick off the list here, content-wise—not that we should (or can) talk too much about it, since much of what she sings is too explicit to print. About the only thing she doesn't do is stuff a corpse in the trunk, vintage Eminem style.

And yet, after I got done listening to Minaj delivering her signature brand of shock rap with both barrels, I found myself rather … bored. And sad. But not much shocked, really. Not anymore. And that just made me even sadder.

I suppose lines like, "He can tell I ain't missing no meals/Come through and f--- him in my automobile" might still trigger a squirm or two. Then again, Minaj has built her career on turning the crudity tables on her ogling male counterparts, as if she's participating in a contest to objectify herself faster and nastier than anyone else.

And so I suppose she's "succeeded."

What does such success sound like? After she gets done bragging about all manner of bad behavior, she concludes by telling those who don't have "much back" (another sampled Sir Mix-a-Lot line), "F--- the skinny b--ches! F--- the skinny b--ches in the club/I wanna see all the big fat a-- b--ches in the m---af---ing club!"

We hear a lot these days about being sex positive—never suggesting that there's anything wrong with any consensual sexual choice made by adults in any circumstance—and being body positive. Nicki's sometimes held up as an example of someone who is both.

But I guess I can't help but wonder where this mélange of postmodern "positivity" ends up. Is it really empowering to tell a young woman struggling with self-image issues, "And he telling me it's real, that he love my sex appeal/He say he don't like 'em bony, he want something he can grab"? Is that a message that's ultimately going to help her?

The obvious answer to that all but rhetorical question is a resounding no. And the song's video isn't going to help either. Put simply, it's got a lot of shots of Nicki's backside (and other women's, too) gyrating, thrusting and twerking—sometimes almost completely bare and often in sexual contexts. It's every bit as intentionally shocking as the song's lyrics, and perhaps all the more as Minaj looks for ways to pair her verbal self-objectification with similarly objectifying imagery.

Spelling things out any more than that feels weirdly like extending the blatant objectification that's going on here. So let's just repeat the mantra that Nicki Minaj "succeeded" … at enormous cost to herself and to those who let this idea that she's somehow an empowering role model snake its way into their hearts.

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