Eye on the Crown

In perhaps perfect timing, as we read Toni Morrison’s (1970) The Bluest Eye, Nikki Manaj came out with a new track “No Frauds.” The song is one of a few between the singer and one of her rivals, Remy Ma. The song features Nikki Manaj as royalty in London. She is seen wearing luxurious outfits and surrounded by decadence in the forms of jewels, drugs, and a party that appears to take place in a ballroom. The singer is known for her provocative and racy videos that have been criticized for adhering to stereotypes surrounding black beauty. The video for “Anaconda” in particular received a lot of negative attention because a significant amount of it takes place in an Amazon-like setting with Nikki and her all black backup dancers twerking and wearing very exposing outfits (see picture below.)

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However, “No Frauds” takes a different approach. Unlike “Anaconda,” which focuses on the female body as a recipient to the male gaze, this video proclaims Nikki as the queen of rap music. The setting of the video is in modern London and throughout the it, artifacts associated with the European monarchy are displayed. However, the most significant artifact are Nikki’s contacts. Every time Nikki is shown sitting on the throne, she is wearing bright blue contacts.

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Toni Morrison (1970) showed us in detail throughout her novel the significance of the association between white features and societal standards for class and superiority. In this video, Nikki adopts blue eyes as a symbol of her royalty and superiority over Remy Ma. The role of Drake and Lil’ Wayne on the track is also interesting. Both of their performances on the track are used to validate Nikki’s status. The use of these two men to validate Nikki’s claim to the “throne” feeds into gender roles surrounding the monarchy (how men were the true heirs to any power or titles over women) and who is validating whose claim to power. Nikki could have easily had a female artist on the song, but instead she chose Lil’ Wayne and Drake, who comments on how Nikki gets better with age in contrast to Remy Ma.

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Nikki Manaj is not new to being a controversial figure. However, as we become more critical of the ways the public consumes beauty standards, we can observe from this video the perceived need of a male authority to substantiate claims to power as well as the perseverance of European beauty standards in relation to what a ruler looks like.

 

Bibliography

Morrison, Toni. 1970. The Bluest Eye. London: Pan Books.

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