Nicki Manaj stuns, brings swagger to “SNL” performance

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It has been a bit longer than one week since rapper Nicki Minaj graced the stage at “Saturday Night Live.” The rapper brought a renewed energy, renewed vigor to her performances. This was especially true for the song “Chun-Li.” After her performance of that song, even audiences only vaguely familiar with Minaj’s songs and persona why she claims to be the baddest. Her swagger and word choice showed a fierceness and determination that could easily impress both longtime and new fans.

Nicki Minaj and Chun-Li

Minaj has developed an affinity for the video game character Chun-Li. So much so that she named a song after her. In the video game series, Chun-Li seeks to avenge her father’s death. Minaj seems to be channeling the character’s energy but for different purposes. To some, even her hairstyle is based on the character’s.

Minaj’s connection seems to have developed as early as 2011, when the rapper was a featured artist on Willow Smith’s “Fireball.” On that track, Minaj proclaims “I’m the street fighter/call me Chun-Li. ”

While the fictional character’s motivation is clear, some might wonder what Minaj’s motivation is. Who exactly is she fighting?

From the looks of things, Minaj has clashed famously with at least two other female rappers –  – Remy Ma and  Cardi B,

The coverage of Minaj’s alleged beef with Cardi B seems to be of the “are they or are they not beefing” variety. Yet there appears to be some lyrical proof to sustain the allegations. Sites like Vulture and CapitalXtra.com among others report that Minaj and Cardi B have been spotted talking, but how amicable were those conversations? Fans, too have gotten involved on social media.

On “Chun-Li ” it seems that Minaj is taking aim at both fans and the pregnant Cardi B.

The lyrical swagger of “Chun-Li”

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then Minaj is here to slay. As emotive as her lines are, the song never stops being an example of rap music. There are lines replete with brand names and metaphorical chest-thumping.

But there is more to “Chun-Li” than that. Minaj shines when she talks about fans and rap rivals who have come for her. “Oh, now she tryna be friends like I forgot/show off my diamonds like I’m signed by the Roc/ain’t pushing out his babies ’til he bite a rock.”

There is no love lost between Minaj and her intended target.

In a stanza that isn’t a bridge or a verse, Minaj explains: “…they need rappers like me/so they can get on their f—in’ keyboards and make me the bad guy.”

The “they” in this song could refer either to the listening public or other rappers, or both.

It isn’t just words that let Minaj make her point. Her body language, the look on her face, all illustrate a woman ready for battle. During her performance on the comedy show, Minaj literally looked angry and sounded fed up with  hearing the same old arguments from people.

Rap music has always been full of a certain amount of swagger. Minaj’s work as evidenced by “Chun-Li” shows that rap isn’t just about having material things; it is about proving how you have earned them.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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