Nicki Minaj Responds to Nazi Imagery Controversy

by Kadeen Griffiths

I am a big fan of Nicki Minaj. She and I go way back, all the way back to "BedRock" featuring all the Young Money artists. She and I have this on and off relationship where I love some of her songs and hate some of her songs, where I worry that Minaj has turned into a pop star rather than a rapper and where I embrace her refusal to be put in a box. But when it came to the controversy over Minaj using Nazi imagery in her "Only" lyric video, all I could do was say, "Oh, Nicki, why?" And then, after that mourning period, all I could do next was settle in to wait for her response to the backlash and hope — pray, even — that she wouldn't make an apology as problematic as her video. Luckily, when Minaj tweeted her response to the controversy on Tuesday she proved that I didn't have to worry. Well, not much.

The thing about the rapper is that she's pretty unapologetic about shocking people. Just look at her reaction to the backlash over the "Anaconda" single cover. She's not quite at Rihanna levels of not giving a crap, but she's pretty close. So I worried that her response to the controversy would be to dismiss the very real concerns of the Anti Defamation League and the fans that she had disappointed and offended with her video. However, Minaj's response was an apology and that goes a long way with me.

I have to admit that the way Minaj opened her apology was a little disappointing. When someone defends accidental racism or wildly offensive statements/images with the "some of the people involved were from the cultural group that I'm offending" defense, my eyes roll into the back of my head with boredom and exasperation. Ever since the "Hello Kitty" music video came out, I have been calling this the Avril Lavigne defense; it's a defense that doesn't change the fact that what you put out into the world was incredibly hurtful and damaging to an entire cultural group. Intent doesn't really matter in situations like that.

However, Minaj ended strongly with her statement that while she might not have come up with the concept she still takes full responsibility for this controversy. That's important because it shows that Minaj is also acknowledging that intent doesn't matter and playing the blame game doesn't matter. What matters is that her fans, that an entire group of people, were upset by the imagery used in her video. What matters is that she is clear that she does not condone the exact thing that they are complaining about. As far as apologies go, this ranks pretty high up there on the list for me.

Just getting an artist to take responsibility for a controversy is difficult enough sometimes. Of course, an apology like this should be followed by action — like perhaps pulling the "Only" lyric video and replacing it with a less controversial one (or, rather, controversial in a different way) — but for now this was a better response than even I was expecting.