Let me just start by saying that I really enjoy Nicki Minaj’s 'Anaconda' video.
Maybe even a little too much. I ran it back six times after the first watch. I credit that to some level of much-needed escapism with all that’s been going on in the news in the past few weeks. Like manna from heaven, Nicki blessed us with some absolutely mindless, pop culture junk food right at a time when my sugar levels were dropping. Hungrily, I ate it up and was restored.
Surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of #AnacondaThinkPieces cropping up after the video dropped; I think more of the ire had already been exhausted at the release of the song’s cover art, or perhaps the detractors weren’t as pissed off once they got to see her ass in motion. If anything, the complaint really should be that the video concept was a bit too predictable, as were the complaints and the mainstream side-by-sides about the rise of the ass in female celebrity (because surely nobody had a booty before Kim Kardashian or Jennifer Lopez).
We could go back and forth about the quality of the song itself; I find it enjoyable but she’s not reinventing the wheel here. There’s a JJ Fad flow for the throwaway raps with a Sir Mix-A-Lot sample, and that’s enough to make me pop something when I’m driving around running errands or put a little extra oomph in my routine when I get dressed in the morning. As for the video, the women look beautiful (really, everyone’s skin in the jungle scene is ***Flawless) and the shot of Nicki in Balmain was enough to make me pause the screen and zoom in to get a better look.
I don’t think the shot of Minaj in Balmain should be understated, by the way. Balmain is a premiere fashion house that outfitted some of the elite icons of mainstream beauty and sex, including Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot. To see a Black woman, fully dressed, head-to-toe in it, shows a degree of intent and purpose on the part of Minaj, who has been doing a great deal to push her brand beyond the crazy wigs and ridiculous voices.
In Sir Mix-A-Lot’s original, “Baby Got Back,” No-Name White Girl looks on disparagingly with a scoff, “Oh, my, God. Becky. Look at her butt. It is so big. She looks like, one of those rap guys' girlfriends. But, you know, who understands those rap guys? They only talk to her because she looks like a total prostitute. I mean, her butt is just so big. I can't believe it's just so round, it's like, out there, I mean, gross. Look! She's just so…Black!”
Minaj has already done a great job on her own in pointing out the inconsistencies of whose ass is considered coquettish and whose is symbolic of lascivious perversion, so I won’t do that here. But it’s worth noting that the sample Minaj chose to lead the bridge on her own revamp is repeated “Look at her butt,” over and over again, negating the whole thing about her being “one of those rap guys’ girlfriends” because she is the rapper.
So the source of the pushback? It seems to come from the fact that Minaj, like many of us is “so Black”…and is seemingly having a good time. She's the epitome of the carefree Black girl. It’s interesting to note that despite rapping about men, there aren’t any in this video (except Drake, which…why? That entire scene was awkward).
In 36 hours, the “Anaconda” video had been watched 21.7 million times, and I’d hazard a guess while some portion of those views were from Becky’s friends, the rest ate up what she fed us.
Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's 'The Philly Post' and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and EBONY.com. Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.