When Nicki Minaj came onto the scene in late 2008/early 2009 she really blew everyone away. You’ll recall that the then-26-year-old rapper made a huge impression on the Young Money track, “Bedrock,” dropping a line about receiving oral sex literally four seconds into her verse.
In the year or so after, Minaj continue to turn heads, dominating on Kanye West’s “Monster” and later receiving a coveted “Best New Track” award from Pitchfork for “Beez In The Trap.” As the stars of first and second wave rap feminists like Missy Elliot, Eve, Da Brat and Lauryn Hill faded, we were all riding high on her refreshing presence and outsized talent.
Then came “Starships,” “Super Bass” and “Pound The Alarm.”
These were three of the most annoying and borderline idiotic songs of 2011 and 2012, especially “Starships.” It was depressing to see one of the most promising female rappers we’d heard in the last ten years squawking over jaunty guitar chords and a mindless electro-beat. These songs may have earned her a pretty penny, but they were all a waste of the real talent we knew she had.
There was one shining light, though. While Nicki Minaj was out of commission, so to speak, a number of new female rappers stepped up to fill the huge gap she’d left and we met rappers like Azealia Banks, Angel Haze, Njena Reddd Foxxx and Iggy Azalea. Every one of them is funny, subversive and incredibly talented.
Some might say that the rise of the aforementioned lady rappers is proof that the female rap game didn’t need Minaj anyway, but that would be like saying that just because we had Whitney Houston, Madonna and Phil Collins, 1980s pop music didn’t need Michael Jackson. We all know that’s not true. Music simply isn’t worth it if one of the best in the game isn’t around to push its limits.
Lucky for us, Nicki Minaj announced last week that she won’t be making pop music anymore and in the last few months she’s given us plenty of proof that that’s true. Since January, Minaj has released three hard-hitting tracks that put her male counterparts to shame. There’s “Lookin Ass N***a” and “ChiRaq,” which decimate men with big egos and nothing to back it up. And recently, she made a Kendrick-Lamar-on-“Control”-level appearance on the remix of Young Thug’s “Danny Glover.” With every one of these tracks, Minaj’s delivery and flow have been rapid fire, precise and we’re reminded of why we needed her in the first place.
So, with everything in order again, here’s what we can expect from what I’m calling the now fully-underway Third Wave of rap feminism:
First, these women will be completely in control of their sexuality. I don’t just mean dropping the word “pussy” as often as possible or being sexually graphic (read: Azealia Banks’ “L8R”). I’m talking about true sexual freedom. Angel Haze is a self-described pansexual virgin. Azealia Banks and Nicki Minaj are both bisexual. Iggy Azealia has been in two well-publicized interracial relationships. We can even cite queer rapper Mykki Blanco since he regularly performs and at times, identifies as a woman. None of these women or their peers have had to hide their sexuality or sexual interests like their predecessors (i.e. Queen Latifah, Latina rapper Amanda Perez and possibly Da Brat) did.
Next, the third wave of feminist rap will be the most diverse and inclusive lineup we’ve ever seen. Banks, Haze and Minaj are all black, but Iggy Azealia is a white, Australian national and longtime indie rapper M.I.A. is a Sri Lankan Brit. Outside the upper echelons of the game, the range of racial and ethnic backgrounds continues with the likes of Kreayshawn, V Nasty, Kitty Pryde, Brooke Candy, Rye Rye, Lady Leshurr, Chippy Nonstop, Dev, Awkwafina and dozens more.
And finally, the third wave of rap feminists will put male rappers to shame not only for the way they degrade women both on and off the stage, but on a technical level as well. This new class of clever female rappers are well-versed enough in feminist thought to know what’s progressive and what crosses the gender bias line, but laid back enough to play with the Golddigger stereotype. And on a more technical level, many of these women are exhibiting a next-level understanding of rap music, creating songs with high production value and commanding lyrical prowess in their bedrooms and home studios.
We have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. There will boundary pushing, creativity and genre bending. And there won’t be a boring moment in sight.
Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk