Monday, August 11th, 2014

Nicki Minaj – Anaconda

Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, and Jonathan Hyde…


Mallory O’Donnell: Twenty-two years of people sucking the joy out of this song somehow couldn’t do it so effectively as the miserable, grasping Minaj managed in under five minutes.

Jer Fairall: “He toss my salad like his name Romaine” is worth a chuckle, but not nearly enough to make up for belabouring Sir Mix-a-Lot’s greatest punchline over the course of four endless-seeming minutes. Hardly a single, this is the kind of slop that one typically finds buried in the final quarter of a mixtape.

David Turner: “Baby Got Back” is a trash song and I’ve never been a big fan of storytelling rap songs in the vein of “Freaky Tales.” Probably a generational issue, but that’s how the taste dice rolled — I can’t undo being born in ’92. So that “Anaconda” is a weird mix of the two is personally bleh — though it has great potential as a party song for the exact reasons I don’t enjoy it. People still fucking love “Baby Got Back.”  

Megan Harrington: Before I’d ever heard her rap a bar, I knew Nicki Minaj. After her Young Money signing she was on magazine covers posed spread eagle in her underwear and I’d never seen so much pussy. There was nothing coy about Nicki, she was no coquette and no flirt. That she started her career so aggressively exposed was nothing short of a revelation to the girl whose job it was to straighten magazines and hide her behind more “tasteful” lad rags. Going into “Anaconda,” my eyes are wide open. If Nicki sounds the siren using her be-thonged butt arranged in that same commanding pose, I know to expect her best work to follow. When Nicki’s in a low squat, her power is coiled tight like a spring. Her verses on “Anaconda” are filled with precise wordplay (“tossed my salad like his name was Romaine”) and then scribbled over with her laughter and helium-filled lines like “I’m on some dumb shiiiiiiiit.” Her best work has always dealt in Modernism and “Anaconda” is no different, melding the meter of nursery rhymes, the one rap song even the cave-people who still hate rap and country know all the words to, and a list of lovers longer than Casanova’s. And after all that, all the dicks, she dedicates the song to all her bitches in the club. Nicki gets my head and my heart. 

Crystal Leww: Nicki Minaj is revolutionary for a host a reasons, but an underrated and admirable aspect of her work is how she continually fucks up the game within the boundaries of hip hop. “Anaconda” takes back “Baby Got Back” in more than one way. There’s no doubt that “Anaconda” is a celebration of women with butts by a woman with a butt, made absolutely clear by the outro. But “Anaconda” is sneaky because it utilizes common rap tropes against men in the same way they’ve been used against women. Amidst all the controversy surrounding the album art for “Anaconda,” people forgot to pay attention to the actual song. This is a song about butts, but more importantly, it’s mostly a song about dick. The song is called “Anaconda,” for fuck’s sake! Nicki spends two verses explicitly focusing her attention on two dudes and being very explicit about sex. She even shouts out/shades Kendrick Lamar, who compared his dick to the Eiffel Tower, but “I ain’t talking about Eiffel’s” because no, that’d be ridiculous. I hope that “boy toy named Troy who used to live in Detroit” becomes as infamous as “Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree”; rap dudes have been doing this too long without consequences for males as a whole. Good thing Nicki Minaj exists as a rap superhero.

Anthony Easton: I mean, honestly, Minaj’s ass is not that fat, but her gorgeous, unhinged cackle is just amazing. Too bad it’s not crafted into a better track. 

Katherine St Asaph: Every instance of Mix and what his anaconda wants should’ve been replaced with Nicki Minaj cackling — better yet, cackling at it — and this would score higher.

Alfred Soto: An 8 for Nicki, a 5 for the obviousness of the “Baby Got Back” sample; she hasn’t imagined a scenario commensurate with its re-contextualized weirdness.

Jonathan Bradley: Minaj rescues “Baby Got Back” from VH1 magazine-show hell and cuts it with a dash of “Freaky Tales,” with the result being a Miami bass song built for 2014 — you know this will be getting them strip club royalties. It’s a throwback jam in the tradition of Jay’s “99 Problems” or Big’s “B.I.G. Interlude”; a rapper turning her attention to an outdated style to establish that her dominance extends even beyond temporal bounds. But as good as Mix’s original was — he deserves better than to be lumped in with Young MC and Skee-Lo — “Anaconda” transcends its elastic sample source, partly due to Da Internz and Polow da Don’s deft isolation of that tune’s most percussive blasts, but mostly due to Minaj’s rhymes-for-days spitting. “Boy toy named Troy, used to live in Detroit”; “He can tell I ain’t missing no meals”; “Pussy putting his ass to sleep; now he calling me NyQuil” — these are each as hooky as any of the thoroughly memeified “Baby Got Back” lyrics. Nicki could have piled eight more verses on to this and it would be equally addictive.

Will Adams: The first two minutes are peak Nicki, showcasing her ability to switch on a dime from playful to menacing (but always engaging and high-energy). Meanwhile, Polow da Don and Da Internz whip up a clever flip of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s classic, adding heaps of bells and whistles on top of it; it bravely eschews booming bass in favor of frenetic high-end noises, and it achieves its goal. After two verses, though, “Anaconda” unravels, repeating various snippets of “Baby Got Back” and stumbling around aimlessly. Curious how the tightness of the first half just wasn’t applied to the second half.

Brad Shoup: A better base is banished to the final fifteen seconds: keyboards beef up a borrowed melody, Minaj chants “hey” at the end of every figure. It’s better than riding the “Baby Got Back” bassline, which now sounds like an impatiently tapping foot. But there’s so much to slog through: Nicki abandons the so-so sex raps with a manic (impromptu?) call to body-war.

Edward Okulicz: Not that the original is anti-woman at all, but the hordes of people decrying the single’s already-iconic cover (of Nicki’s iconic ass) as gross nicely demonstrate that maybe the world does need a gender-flipped version of one of the 1990s’ most iconic songs by a woman who’s not afraid to use her sexuality on her own terms. Not sure that this is the definitive article, though. At nearly four-and-a-half minutes there’s a lot of dead air surrounding Nicki, who’s at her horniest and most playful, objectifying men and delighting in it. Repurposing the beat from “Baby Got Back” makes for something recognisable and fun, and don’t worry about the skinny girls, they’ll jam to this just like they do the original. My real problem is that the use of Mix-a-Lot’s voice as the hook itself sits uneasily, like he’s intruding and stopping us getting even more Nicki, halting the song’s otherwise booty-blasting momentum. Cut that hook out (like Nicki Minaj even needs entryism) and you’ve got a [9]-level jam. Hopefully someone on Soundcloud does the job before I have to.

Andy Hutchins: As a song, “Anaconda” is a fun trifle: Nicki’s got some serviceable J.J. Fad/Run-DMC flows to kick over the skeletal grooves of “Baby Got Back” before hitting the shifter and racing through a pre-hook just to prove she can. There will be twerking to it. Cool. But the draw is Nicki’s swag on the outro, all intentionally obnoxious laughter and bragging about her ass. Sir Mix-a-Lot made a song about the virtue of liking fat asses without shame (and, also, being Sir Mix-a-Lot), and Nicki made one about the benefits of having one without shame (and, also, being Nicki): It’s a fine ouroboros.

Micha Cavaseno: There’s no greater joy in hearing Nicki and saying I don’t get it. What I mean is, she’s lost the invasive quality that made her so relentless and electrifying when on that initial come-up, and now everything’s so predictable. So instead we get this a little bit of a nonsensical journey through Nicki’s wonky sexual daydreams, in which Polow da Don might not be the Timbaland we expected in 2014, but Onika sure is our Missy, with equal splashes of L’Trimm and perhaps G-Dragon. As a song, I can’t see myself liking it for long, but I’m happy to see The Nickster hasn’t run out of tricks.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: In 2007, Nas released a series of remixes celebrating the oft-forgotten artists he rapped about on Hip Hop Is Dead‘s “Where Are They Now.” The three remixes remain fascinating listening experiences, containing acceptance of being outmoded — and just as much bitterness. For each Redhead Kingpin quipping about being mistaken for Eddie King from The Five Heartbeats or Ice-T calmly telling a fan that he’s not Ice Cube, there’s UTFO’s Kangol Kid refusing to let the Roxanne Wars go and Rob Base tearfully remembering his glory days (“‘It Takes Two’ — remember me?”). The happiest of all these rappers is Sir Mix-a-Lot — he acknowledges his past in the spotlight and gleefully collects Hollywood publishing cheques while polishing the fountain in his garden. He’s happy with his lot. That brings us to “Anaconda” — a gleeful mess of a song that belongs in the gleefully messy first half of Minaj’s Roman Reloaded LP, a song about butts and crack and buttcracks and A LOT OF LOUD NOISES. Sir Mix-a-Lot is most likely happy with Nicki running with his zany, R. Crumb-esque depiction of bigger-is-better hip-hop sexuality: remember, “Baby Got Back” is a crazy-sounding song, made evident by the cartoony elements that “Anaconda” samples. But more than anything, the Sir’s probably ecstatic with “Anaconda”‘s general existence, because it means that garden fountain is getting a real big water slide attached (or a golden butt). Like he said on that Nas remix: “Seven figure years keep comin’/who’s ya pimp?!”

David Lee: This is a really anaconda move but

Reader average: [6.4] (30 votes)

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21 Responses to “Nicki Minaj – Anaconda”

  1. I’m with Will and Edward: I’d like it better if it were tighter. But there’s a fair bit of charm in the verses. (Especially given that Mix originally wrote the song in honor of his then-girlfriend, who kept losing dancing roles to skinny white women.)

    It shows my age that I thought “the one rap song even the cave-people who still hate rap and country know all the words to” was “Bust a Move.”

  2. For a second, let’s appreciate just how great Biggie’s ‘B.I.G. Interlude’ is

  3. Yeah, I’m with Will. Nicki’s on point lyrically and the sample is fun and engaging but once Nicki stops the song kinda collapses.

  4. 1) Hey, Andy Hutchins. It’s really gross to read a male critic say “there will be twerking in it. Cool.”
    2) Hey, Anthony Easton. You really didn’t have to make everyone aware of your opinion of her ass in your review.
    3) Hey, Crystal Leww. “But ‘Anaconda’ is sneaky because it utilizes common rap tropes against men in the same way they’ve been used against women.” That’s impossible, because we live in a patriarchy. Women don’t have the power use those tropes against men. Nicki making a song in which she objectifies men in the same way men objectify women isn’t even a drop in the bucket – it’s nothing, because women are never able to use men in the way men use women. Also, Kendrick Lamar didn’t compare his dick to the Eiffel Tower. Also, please stop saying “shades”.
    4) Hey, Katherine St Asaph. That would be great, but it’s important to note that the entire song is doing just the opposite. She’s affirming Sir Mix-A-Lot’s (and any man’s) right to objectify women. The fact that it’s a big butt that’s being objectified isn’t nearly as revolutionary as you, Andy Hutchins, or anyone else seems to think.

    This is some lame, lame, lame sex positive feminist nonsense. Nicki Minaj is very talented and she’s one of the too few icons young black girls have because there’s just so little representation of black women in the pop music landscape. You can’t “reclaim” in a patriarchy, and “sex positivity” is a fucking toxic concept. No guy sees a woman flaunting her ass and thinks of it as a feminist statement. Nicki should do better and you should want her to.

  5. I’ll take the criticism on “shades”; that was pretty horrendous word choice on my part. But I think the rest of your criticism directed towards me, Katherine, and Nicki Minaj is mostly misplaced and boring. It’s the kind of argument that dismisses rap music and particularly the work that women in rap are doing in general. Read my review again. I’m not denying that the patriarchy exists and that “Baby Got Back” was a gross yet canonized song, but Minaj’s outro (the same one that so many of my fellow writers criticized smh) is important for informing my reading of the song as being FOR women BY a woman.

  6. Are you just mad because I made fun of Kendrick Lamar be honest

  7. The majority of guys do not see anything and think of it as a feminist statement. There is literally nothing a woman can do, say and/or wear without the potential to result in her objectification. (With apologies to Kacey Musgraves — you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, so you might as well just do whatever you want.) Given this, your options are to lock yourself inside your room forever and/or drop dead, or to disregard entirely what the aforementioned guys might make of what you’re doing — or even take what you want, what pays your rent and makes you not want to dissolve into vapor. It’s a trap, you will never win, and the most likely outcome is feeling like locking yourself inside your room forever and dropping dead don’t sound like such awful options after all. Which is a pretty sweet deal for the patriarchy in the end.


    a) We’re running something on “All About That Bass” and I eagerly await the same amount of concern about Meghan Trainor’s flaunting of her ass. Actually, “eagerly” is the wrong word, because I couldn’t be less thrilled, and “await” is probably also the wrong word because I’m pretty sure it won’t happen. You know, for some reason. But hey, that’s not fair to you, you don’t know our schedule, so I’ll instead direct you to “Bang Bang,” just down the first page, in which you didn’t care enough to comment about Role Model Jessie J singing about a girl’s “booty like a Cadillac.” Again, for some reason.

    b) There are 16 blurbs on those song and yet somehow you managed to single out every female writer as wrong/bad/deluded but one, and given the content I wouldn’t be surprised if you left out Megan just to save face. It would be a coincidence if, again, this wasn’t the usual pattern.

  8. this is dangerous water, but i think i was trying to say, that i sometimes feel uncomfortable in how minaj attempts femminist liberation while constructing narratives that might be seen to promote patrichal attitudes. this work is different when big freedia does it, for example

  9. Crystal: I’m not dismissing rap music, and especially not rap music made by women. I love rap; It’s my favorite genre of music in many ways. I love the work that many women are doing in hip hop. I’m sorry my criticism bored you. And no, I’m not mad about Kendrick Lamar. I liked R.A.P. Music better than GKMC, tbh. Are you just mad that I offered a feminist critique of your writing be honest

    Katherine: Thank you for a very well-thought out response. I agree wholeheartedly with your first sentence. You’re totally right about it being a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. I think, though, that given those two options, it’d be a much bigger deal if Nicki went for the one that didn’t perform for the gaze. I think my problem with so much of this isn’t what Nicki’s doing, but with the language that gets thrown around about what she’s doing. What she’s doing isn’t reclaiming her sexuality. It’s not revolutionary and she’s not a liberated woman. It’s not going to do much for women as a class, so I hesitate to call it feminist.

    I understand what you’re implying. I didn’t mean to single out Nicki! I don’t hesitate to call out white artists. To be completely honest, I’ve never heard of Meghan Trainor, and I’d hoped that Jessie J was no longer relevant. I like Nicki Minaj, and I think that’s where this is coming from. I think she’s a very sweet, very sincere person who cares a lot about other women. I just feel like there’s a disconnect between the Nicki who tells young girls to stay in school and the one that raps about being super fuckable.

    When your Meghan Trainor piece goes up, I will read it and offer my perspective.

  10. “I just feel like there’s a disconnect between the Nicki who tells young girls to stay in school and the one that raps about being super fuckable.” <– see, the thing I find most charming about Nicki Minaj, in my limited knowledge of her, is that she herself sees no disconnect.

  11. also, the section Jessica touched on kinda implies that both ideas are mutually exclusive, which is not only untrue, but also kinda oppressive when you think about it. the fact that nicki finds no disconnect and is putting this out as a single speaks volumes to the amount of women who relate to this larger idea. i don’t think she would’ve made this if she didn’t find it necessary.

  12. We’ve kind of cross-talked the idea that rap lyrics are oppressing their listeners via K-Camp and now Nicki. I don’t think that “Cut Her Off” oppresses women and I don’t think “Anaconda” oppresses men. Unless these songs are used as propaganda, they simply don’t have the influence necessary to oppress. She may not be able to use this song “against” men, but she can (and DID) use it “for” women. VSJ, you come perilously close to suggesting that feminism is defined by patriarchy, that because no man would see a woman flaunting her ass as a feminist statement there’s no feminist statement there. That is patently untrue. Men do not define feminist statements, ever. If women feel empowered by “Anaconda,” if women feel that “Anaconda” is equal to “Baby Got Back” then it’s a feminist statement. It’s a feminist statement if Nicki’s payday equals her male peers. What strikes me as anti-feminist is demanding that Nicki choose one persona. Every woman on Earth can be both an advocate for other women and super fuckable. There is no disconnect, not one that (in this case) Nicki Minaj sees and not one for you to impose.

  13. so what exactly again is this thing that keeps girls from staying in school if they’ve started to worry about The Sex? is it like the SAT? is there test prep for it? can you cheat by always bubbling in C (NOTE TO ANY READERS STUDYING FOR THE SAT: THIS ISN’T ACTUALLY TRUE)?

  14. This offers no positive value to the debate, but for the record, “R.A.P. MUSIC” is utterly worthless and is barely better than the last Schoolboy Q album. “GKMC” at least manages to be better than that.

  15. also that Jessie J song is something like No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, a chart feat “Anaconda” has yet to and probably never will achieve, so, you know, priorities.

  16. wait, are y’all talking about R.A.P. Music as in the Killer Mike album? that record was great! I definitely listen to it more in 2014 than GKMC.

  17. Meanwhile, my best friend pointed out that “I’d like it better if it were tighter” could be taken as a gross double entendre, which was absolutely not my intention, and now I am embarrassed. My apologies, y’all.

  18. It was obvious you were commenting on the mechanics of the song itself — I can’t imagine anyone could have possibly read it otherwise.

  19. This is not the first time that someone has offered a “feminist” critique of my stances, but a feminism that tries to prescribe what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior for women is not my feminism ¯\_(?)_/¯

  20. @Josh: she could’ve been teasing me — I am notoriously horrible at detecting teasing — but I figured better safe than sorry, or at least better sorry than sorrier

  21. The “dumb shit” references sort of take the edge off my reading of this song as an empowered / feminist text. But nonetheless, what Crystal said x50. Also, does anyone ever for a second question that many young males are able to contemplate and explore The Sex while also getting their shit done in school? Didn’t think so.

    @Jessica — she was teasing you. your brain is too fried to notice that right now, and that’s ok.