Nicki Minaj Talks Equal Pay, Being A Black Woman In Pop Culture, & Working With Beyonce

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If there’s one artist who we can always count on to push the boundaries and not be afraid to raise her voice, it’s Nicki Minaj. She has become one of the most controversial voices in the rap/hip hop genre, and part of that is simply because of her gender. But don’t ever qualify her as a “female rapper” because she hates that moniker, and for good reason.

Think what you want about her artistry, because when it comes to the business side of her career, she is no wallflower. Given that hip hop is such a male-dominated genre, she is adamant that the female adjective before her title of rapper not be used because it only serves to perpetuate the idea that men are in charge.

She has also given some pretty darn good reasons for her in-your-face imagery and called out the media for their double standards. Why is it OK for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition to continually parade half-naked women’s behinds on their covers, but Nicki’s cover for ‘Anaconda’ featuring her derriere front and center is deemed “inappropriate”?

Nicki is no manufactured pop product and her album sales, awards and continual dominance in the genre is part of the proof of her ability to compete with the rest. In a new interview with Time magazine’s ‘TIME 100’ video series, she talks about issues like demanding equal pay along with the male rappers from the very start and not settling for less just because she is a woman.

“One thing I learned along the way in business is the necessity for you to be unapologetic about asking for how much money you deserve,” she said.

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“At a very early stage in my rap career, I was making six figures for shows…If I heard there was another rapper making that, I thought, ‘you know what? I get out there and demand or command a crowd. I get out there and make my fans happy. I get out there and give a real show. I want that, too.’ And I pushed myself to be better with my showmanship, but I also decided, you know what? I want to be compensated well,” she said.

If nothing else, her unapologetic voice is going to encourage other women to demand the same and speak up in situations where they perhaps feel they are getting a raw deal.

“I would tell women starting out in business, if you know you’re great at what you do, don’t ever be ashamed to ask for the top dollar in your field,. If I’m great at what I do, I can’t be denied. Some things may be overlooked but no one can deny my brand, and that’s the words of wisdom I would give to other young women,” she said.

Unfortunately equal pay is still a huge issue in the United States. With figures showing women get paid 79c for every $1 a man makes for doing the same job, it should be a no-brainer to implement laws that prevent such gendered wage discrimination, right? Apparently not so. The US has never ratified the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution, which is something Meryl Streep and many other advocates are fighting for today.

Although we have various laws such as Equal Pay Act signed by President Kennedy in 1963, and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama in 2009 which both offer incremental provisions, they are not comprehensive enough to ensure every single employer in the United States, not matter what type of employment or industry, is paid fairly.

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The Paycheck Fairness Act is one law which would improve upon the aforementioned laws, but Senate Republicans have voted against implementing this 4 times, because they believe is encourages frivolous lawsuits and makes it easier to sue employers over pay discrimination. With equal pay being a major part of the current presidential election, there is a chance we may yet see some forward momentum on this law.

In the meantime, it is up to women to support one another and tap into various resources which give them the confidence to know what they are worth, and be able to ask their employees to be paid equally. One of these resources is hearing encouragement from people like Nicki Minaj, who despite her massive success, has had to ensure she fights for equal footing in an industry and genre that is run by the men.

“Two things I wanted to leave behind: I write my own raps. A man doesn’t have to write down your thoughts you’re intelligent enough to write down your own thoughts. And number two, I would become a mogul. I exceeded every expectation people had for a ‘rapper’,” she said.

But it’s not just equal pay that concerns the artist, it is also the way black culture is often appropriated in mainstream music and pop culture without necessarily giving recognition or respect to the community it is taken from.

“I think black women are held to higher standards,” she said, going on to describe some of the more common areas cultural appropriation is seen.

“A lot of the times magazines are acting like this is being done for the first time because it’s on a white woman’s head or a white woman’s body. You have to get used to living in a world which doesn’t even acknowledge that you did certain things,” she explained.

The uproar over Kylie Jenner getting corn rows was a major topic of conversation regarding racism and cultural appropriation, but a more recent example of this was actress Lupita Nyong’o and her Met Gala hair style and the way it was reported on by one media outlet. She sported an up-do inspired by Nina Simone and common African sculptural hair styles, but Vogue magazine compared her to Audrey Hepburn, which the actress did not like. She expertly pointed out their major cultural faux pas in an Instagram video (above).

Nicki Minaj pointing out the issues around black women in music led to her talking about working with Beyonce and why that collaboration was so important to her and the image she is trying to give to females.

“Whenever I do something with her I can feel the impact. It just feels like young women are being empowered and inspired. I think it says a lot when you see two young women at the top of their field, whether they are black or white, it just means a lot to see them owning who they are, owning the business and not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” she said.

You may not love everything she does or says, but you cannot deny that with her head-turning presence, her message has managed to disrupt the music industry in a powerful way and position women as moguls and entrepreneurs, not just sexualized products for consumption. Take a look at the Time interview below:


 

 

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