It doesn’t speak well of your big summer concert when the highlight of show is someone not playing a set. Still, that’s what we have to contend with in the wake of Hot 97’s Summer Jam, which took place last week. Despite solid sets from the likes of Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Wocka Flocka, the buzz has focused foremost on the absence of the concert’s would-be headliner.
After some disparaging comments from Hot 97 DJ Pete Rosenberg, Nicki Minaj elected not to show up for her headlining slot at the New Jersey-based hip-hop festival. This constitutes a solid diss to Hot 97, as well as an interesting turning point for Minaj, whose post-debacle chatter has proven surprisingly devoid of contrition.
For the edification of those of you on the Left Coast, New York’s WQHT (97.1 FM, “Hot 97”) serves not only as the Big Apple’s preeminent hip-hop tastemaker, but also as one of the city’s best places to get shot in public.
When Pete Rosenberg takes to the airwaves to announce that your latest single robs you of the glorious nectar of hip-hop cred, it constitutes a big deal. Or at least Nicki Minaj considered it a big enough deal to pull out of Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam mere hours before the event went down.
The nature of Rosenberg’s insult and Minaj’s reaction reveal something about the conflicted character that Nicki Minaj has adopted since the release of Pink Friday…Roman Reloaded.
Rosenberg’s audacity involved the implication that “Starships”, the lead single from Roman Reloaded, was a pop song, rather than a hip-hop song. Anyone who has actually listened to “Starships” would most likely side with Rosenberg on this one. After touring with Madonna, playing nice with Ellen DeGeneres and releasing a song like “Starships”, you’d think Nicki herself would concede that, yes, she is at this point a pop star. But apparently not.
Other rappers have had this problem, and they’ve waltzed right through it without a care, or at least without such a public temper tantrum. Remember the revelations about Rick Ross’s past as a Miami County Corrections Officer? I’m pretty sure he chest-thumped those rumors into oblivion and just kept on going.
Minaj’s outrage has its roots in her ongoing quest to have her PR cake and eat it too. Even on her 2010 debut, she (or her handlers) insisted on sandwiching innocuous pop confections next to specimens of hard-bitten hip-hop, placing Minaj in the unenviable position of having to fight a war on two fronts.
Given the past two years of evidence, I think we can safely conjecture that Minaj’s star is aligned in the “pop” camp. Although she’s a talented MC, her fame relies on such a broad base that she has wound up belonging to the masses. It’s somewhat unfortunate that her rise has depended so heavily on her insistence that she’s a hip-hop artist. Minaj could have survived just fine as a pop star, but, as things stand, her marketing admixture guarantees the regular appearance of Hot 97-style debacles.