As much potential as there is for female empowerment in hardcore rap through women rappers’ embrace of the erotic, given the restrictive conventions of the genre, which force female artists to straddle identities of heterosexist sexiness and simultaneous masculinity, its full potential is rarely ever realized. In Minaj’s embrace of Lil Kim’s pussy power politics, she is also inevitably embracing, regardless of her actual intent and/or acceptance of rejection of the label, a controversial and rather contradictory ideology of feminism. [...]
Implicit in Minaj’s Signification onto the male narrative is a strategic process of identity construction, relying primarily on the male narrative and male voice to help shape the hardcore female rapper’s public image. Essentially, by engaging in dialogue with the male narrative, Minaj is aligning herself with male rappers and creating her identity as one of (pseudo)masculinity, an asset valuable to her role as a hardcore female rapper. It is within this genre that femcees operate as performers of gender and are most harshly judged by an injurious rubric of masculinity. These women are forced to negotiate “androgynous” identities as visually feminine, yet rhetorically masculine artists. [...]
In hardcore female rap, femcees are constant performers of masculinity who, between their Signifyin(g) on male [sexual] discourse and (re) appropriating sexist and misogynistic language, negotiate a treacherous space where a thin line exists between the subversion of male dominance via gender performance and affirmation of its patriarchal norms. [...]
If Minaj were genuinely interested in ascribing true power to her role as a woman and rejecting female rappers’ traditional dependence on the male voice for expression and validation, she would have drawn parallels between herself and powerful public female figures to construct her version of the new-age around the way girl. Grammy-winning female rap legend Lauryn Hill does just that. In The Fugees’ “Ready or Not” she likens herself to Grammy-Award nominated singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist Nina Simone: “So while you imitatin’ Al Capone/I be Nina Simone and defecating on your microphone.” (The Score, 1996) Essentially, “Hill champions a notion of…hip hop that is not rooted in the Mafioso fantasy of the day, but that goes back to the risky aesthetic and political choices of [Nina Simone]…Hill’s lyrical phrase represents a legitimate critique of the hypermasculinity and phallocentrism that pervades hip hop – a critique that is clearly gendered in its intent.” (Neal 247) Plainly put, Hill is a rare exception to the rule(s) as defined within the patriarchy of Hip Hop.
Within Minaj’s musical repertoire, her constant Signification onto the male narrative symbolizes her dependence on the male voice as a means by which to construct her identity. [...] The female body is rarely a site of empowerment except when it is being objectified to define female strength through heterosexist sexiness, which, displayed for male satisfaction, creates little power for women. (Azikwe 354) Because female rappers’ values lies in their ability to perform masculinity as well as be sexually objectified, when a femcee is not performing the role of the sexually available coquette nor the female thug, her power and agency are non-existent.
— From “Step Your Pussy Up: Nicki Minaji and the Signifyin(g) Tropes of Hardcore Female Rap,” by Menda Francois (Senior Thesis)