Published on October 17th, 20120
Daniel Foster: The Rapper Barons
I’ll assume that Shawn Carter of Brooklyn, N.Y. — a.k.a. “Hova,” “Jiggaman,” and “Jay-Z” — has reached such a level of multi-platform cultural saturation that you are at least aware of his existence. As for Minaj . . . well, for the uninitiated, Minaj is a sort of extra-dimensional pop bombshell whose sartorial combinations can be viewed only at a distance and only with specially designed goggles.
Underneath the hot-pink wigs and Day-Glo lipstick is a 29-year-old Afro-Trinidadian by way of Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School who, after an Augie March–esque series of failed stints at chain restaurants and call centers and an abortive off-Broadway acting career, was plucked from New York’s underground hip-hop scene in 2007 by the CEO of one Dirty Money Entertainment. Nota bene: Dirty Money Entertainment is not to be confused with Young Money Entertainment, which eventually signed Minaj in 2009, or with Cash Money Records, which is Young Money’s parent label.
With the full marketing-and-distribution armature of Universal Music Group — which, despite owning the aforementioned labels, conspicuously fails to mention currency in its name — and the critical approval of Lil Wayne (a pint-sized, tattoo-festooned, drug-addled savant of figurative language who is hip-hop’s version of Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man), Minaj has been installed as a pop-cultural fixture.