Monday, December 10, 2012

Creative Like Nicki Minaj (Yes, that is an Eponym)

The Music Video for "Your Love" can be found HERE. Click HERE for the lyrics to the song. 

Love her or hate her, Nicki Minaj and her popularity are at an all-time high. She has worked with artists like Madonna, Eminem, Bon Iver, Christina Aguilera, Drake, and even Justin Bieber. She can be seen- and her songs can be heard- in ads for Pepsi, Casio, and Nokia. Nicki will be making her debut as a judge on American Idol in 2013. Her popularity may seem questionable to some, but her appeal to certain audiences is undeniable. Nicki’s audience is a young, “hip”, more urban listener. Nicki is branding herself to this group not only in her image and music style, but also within the lyrics of her songs. She uses creative style to play to her target audience and increase her legitimacy as a hip-hop artist. She utilizes the rhetorical elements of Eponymn, Allusion, and Antisthecon to specifically appeal to certain groups and listeners.
            Nicki’s hit “Your Love” was released in June of 2010 and was on the Billboard top 100 songs chart and the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs Chart in the United States. She wrote the song with the help of writers Joseph Hughes, David Freedman, and Andrew "Pop" Wansel
. The song has classic Nicki hip-hop style with pop elements- appealing to her target audience.
            The first notable element of “Your Love”, and many Nicki Minaj songs, is that she uses Eponyms (using a person's name to refer to something they are known for). Often Eponyms are used so that most people would understand who is being talked about (i.e. “He is a real Einstein). Nicki, however, uses this creative device to reference people famous in pop-culture and hip-hop. This is taken to such an extent that the meaning of her song may be lost to those who are not up-to-date on these references. In the refrain of “Your Love” she uses the phrase, “For your lovin’ I would Die Hard like Bruce Willis.” If one does not know who Bruce Willis is (actor) and that he was in the movie series ‘Die Hard’ this phrase would not have meaning. Using an Eponym like this in the refrain is risky, because the listener may not understand a large portion of the song. She uses Eponym again when stating ‘I’m the one like I’m Tracy McGrady.’ Tracy McGrady is a basketball player whose number was ‘1’ for a large part of his career. If a reader does not know who McGrady is, let alone this information about his number, the pun Nicki is making would be rendered meaningless. Using such specific references to people in the song may seem like a questionable decision on the part of Minaj, but she trusts her audience not only knows what she is expressing but will also find the humor in the reference as a draw to the song.

Nicki Minaj uses another creative technique, Allusion (making a passing reference to a known person, object or event) similarly to how she used Eponym. The phrase ‘S on my Chest’ is used twice in “Your Love”. Here she is insinuating that she is like Superman, who famously wears the S on his chest. This reference may be understood by more listeners given Superman’s history in comics, television, and movies for a considerable period of time, while still being incredibly relevant to her normal audience. Allusion, as opposed to Eponym, allows Minaj to make references to pop-culture and the hip-hop/urban world outside of just people. The lyric “just left Moneygram in the Lemon Lam” may sound like a foreign language to many Americans because she is making two very hip-hop/urban driven references. Moneygram is a money transferring company and “Lemon Lam” is slang for a yellow Lamborghini. One may wonder why Nicki and the other writers of this song included a reference that would likely be lost on most listeners. The street terminology only helps build Nicki’s hip-hop image if heard, but the line takes place in a fast section and rhymes, so listeners less knowledgeable in this terminology may not notice or be bothered by the mystery Eponym. Urban listeners may understand her reference, “The Ave” which is referring to New York City. If one does not understand this nickname they may just think of “The Ave” as an alternate name for ‘the street.’ Her use of Allusion in the verses may confuse some fans, but her placement of them in the faster sections allow for her creativity to be appreciated by her target audience while still appealing to a wider fan base.
            Another major creative device Nicki Minaj utilizes in “Your Love” is antisthecon (changing the sound of a word). Often times songwriters use this technique to create rhyming patterns that make sense (changing ‘love’ to ‘lurve’ so it could rhyme with ‘serve’ or ‘nerve’). This song, however, uses antisthecon for a different purpose; the word’s sounds are changed to more sound like the way that people actually talk. Several times, instead of using ‘because’, she uses ‘cuz’. ‘Cuz’ is a syllable less than ‘because’ but this extra syllable is not the reason she changed the sound of the word. ‘Cuz’ is an extremely common shorthand used by younger people in America. The use of this word makes the song seem more conversational, like it is written for a group specifically and the way they talk. Another way she uses antisthecon is by taking the ‘g’ off of certain words like “loving” and “wanting”- turning them into “lovin” and “wantin”- another common mispronunciation among young people. The phrase, “Where tha certificate that I change my name on?” is a great example of this. She applies the antisthecon to the word “the.” If we were to write this in proper English most people would say, “Where is the certificate...” Nicki and the editors of her song were well aware of this, but chose not to change it. This is because ‘tha’ more accurately captures the way the fans they are trying to target would speak, or at least be a form of speech they are familiar with.   
            Nicki Minaj’s creative style uses rhetorical devices to appeal to her target audience, only increasing her popularity among them. While many can appreciate her rhymes and beats, only those she is truly trying to relate to will grasp the full meaning and influence of her songs. 
By: Emily Scheife

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