Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Nicki Minaj – Lookin’ Ass Nigga

“Super Bass” peaked in 2011. “Roman’s Lazarus-like Resurrection” will peak one higher in 2018…


Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: One of Nicki Minaj’s stylistic trademarks is a digital skip that’s incorporated into many of her verses, a space filler in place of where other rappers offer the time-honoured “uh”. It’s a moving glitch that turns words to wobbling syllabic effects and sounds something like HAL-9000 sneezing: on “Dance (A$$) Remix”, “you fucking little whores” turns into “ye-ye-YE-you fucking little whores”, “fucking” into “FUH-FUH-fucking” and so forth. Minaj’s main talent is in how relentlessly she toys with her voice, which is evident on the improvised-feeling “Lookin’ Ass Nigga”. On the song’s second verse, “I will” turns into “I wuh-wuh-wuh” but it’s a vocal skip without digital modulation, performed in the flow of the moment. That computerised affectation usually exists as a way to fill space; here, it becomes the flicking of a switch. Minaj’s voice immediately begins to raise, rage and contort free of will, clipping words and bending syllables like a woman possessed. She internalizes the familiar post-human effects on her voice but pushes herself to sounds more than human immediately afterwards. So: human bests digital version, becomes digital version, bests her human self. It’s damn near utopian.

Jer Fairall: A rapper of astonishing technical precision, Nicki has never sounded so joyless and mechanical on a straight-up rap track, finding little space for invention in what is essentially a tired riff on “No Scrubs.” More disappointing still is her sudden gender-conservatism: “I will never fuck a non-man ass nigga” is clearly meant as a character-specific diss, but coming from an artist a history of playing with sexuality in such fluid and non-judgemental ways, it strikes a sour note that couldn’t have slipped her awareness.

Crystal Leww: Forget a moment about the hip hop history that went into the making of this song for a moment and forget about the controversy about the single cover art (which isn’t even the real cover art? The situation is unclear) and let’s even forget about the music video because it’s entirely a discussion in and of itself. Let’s just talk about Nicki Minaj, who has been on a truly incredible lyrical run since she finished her last album cycle. “Lookin’ Ass N*gga” is a heart-pounding sprint in the middle of that run with Minaj’s flow wound so tightly over the most basic of concepts. Some moments: 1) “Looking at my ass ass n*ggas” is a stunning indictment of men and their tendency to leer as well as an oddly mind-boggling use of repetition. 2) “N*ggas want my time / call me Clinton / I’m billin’ these n*ggas” which is true because Minaj has made explicit reference to how much her verses cost more than once. 3) “Sharing one bottle in the club, one bottle full of bubb ass n*ggas” is amazing to me because it strikes at the heart of the classist foundation that bottle service and roped off VIP rooms rest on. I also reject the idea of spending that much money on cheap vodka and rum. 4) In one breath, Minaj confuses the gender implications of the word “pussy” with “pussy you dry/pussy ass n*gga you lie” which first makes explicit reference to the female body part and then the emasculating insult to a dude. It de-essentializes some weird fascination with genitalia in some regard, a blurring of the lines where words are given powerful meanings. With lines like these, who would doubt 5) “BITCH, I’M ME!”?

Josh Langhoff: This picks up where Lauryn Hill’s taxonomy of men in verse two of “Doo Wop” left off, only “Lookin'” is half as much fun. Not that Minaj’s men have done anything to deserve fun (he says, hastily scratching “Boost Mobile” off the cell phone pros and cons list). But where Hill’s words overflowed into new vistas of ridiculousness, a field of scorn-colored life, Minaj just sounds hard at the expense of anything else. Except tedium. For such a short song, “Lookin'” contains relatively long stretches of tedium. 

Anthony Easton: This is so beneath her, it must be some kind of situationist jape, right? 

Alfred Soto: She’s as angry as Q-Tip and Phife dissing sucka niggas in 1994 but she’s also a woman surrounded by venal assholes, and her flow actually gets slower as the recollections get angrier. An ideal head-clearing exercise.

David Sheffieck: Nicki rebuilding her image as a rapper after spending time in the pop world continues to thrill, though the straightforward beat here doesn’t support her as well as “Boss Ass Bitch” did. But it’s fierce and funny — “Frontin’ like they got a plan, Boost Mobile ass nigga” genuinely made me laugh — and at her best, Nicki does that better than anyone.

Brad Shoup: You know she’s serious cos Detail submits an impression of Kanye drowning in a well. And cos she’s stressing her words so carefully, even as lava heads for the village. Still, I want to find those guys sharing a chain and give ’em a hug. It gets triller.

Megan Harrington: Every day I wake up and hope to possess even half an ounce of the steel wool aggression Nicki Minaj uses to scrub the world. She will suffer no fool. She will suffer no rodeo clown, no basement dweller, no roaming eyeballs, no fetid breath on the back of her neck. She’s both pinpoint specific (“Look at you all sharing one bottle in the club”) and cunningly vague (“I don’t want sex, give a fuck about your ex / I don’t even want a text”) in order to indict not just one specific brand of loser but every single person who briefly thought she might cower. To hear Nicki free the rage that I gently sponge and stick in the cabinet is incredibly powerful. 

Reader average: [6.57] (14 votes)

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9 Responses to “Nicki Minaj – Lookin’ Ass Nigga”

  1. Wish I’d had time to throw in a [7] or [8]. The crescendo here is just amazing.

  2. “I will never fuck a non-man” bothered no one else?

  3. I really liked it, actually — probably my second favorite after the Boost Mobile line. It’s got a sense of liberating transgression, like stand up. The halting delivery is what sunk the song for me, and I never laughed out loud.

  4. (I also admire everything Crystal pointed out.)

  5. I’m confused as to how this is somehow positive or empowering for women, men, or even no-man men. It’s hardly about Nicki not suffering fools gladly–it’s clearly about how much money fools have and how that makes fools out of her league. Also, I’m pretty sure NO ONE is supposed to be using “rapin'” to mean something cool that they’re doing.

  6. @jer: http://femalerappers.tumblr.com/post/76486567757/homolingual-anfagistan-cumaddict72

  7. anyways this is not nearly as great as i wish it could be; woulda 6’d it.

  8. I did have problems with some of the lyrics (“no dick havin” particularly) but guessed other writers would take issue and chose a deliberately unconditionally positive stance. If I’m going to draw a line around where the boundaries of self expression in art, it would still include this song. Nicki has shown sensitivity outside of her work (here: http://thecrayonboxes.tumblr.com/post/51643323295/peroquevaina-allnicki-nicki-minaj-peter) and I think she meant to be provocative and offensive on this song, possibly with the hopes of inspiring this sort of discussion? I liked her spirit even when I didn’t agree with her lyrics. Also, ditto everything Crystal wrote. I think that along the lines of Kanye’s conflation of civil rights and rough sex on “I’m In It,” Nicki saw a chance to destabilize gender constructs and be completely alienating at the same time.

  9. The song itself is really boring, I find the sexism (minor-medium) and homophobia (minor-medium) and classism (major) involved to be more interesting. It’s telling, too, that almost everyone referred to other versions or documents in writing about it. If something needs accompanying explanation to expiate its’ own insensitivity it’s probably got some problems when it comes to direct interpretation. Bottom line : the song is dull, when you hear and/or read the lyrics it’s ignorant and offensive. Are we so sensitive we can’t see insensitivity when it comes from a source we don’t want to see it from?