Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" was the graceful, bangin' balance between the pop and rap sides of her coin, a track with perfect peace with current top 40. Now with "The Boys," the Young Money artist yet again achieves that yin and yang, for urban radio. On top of that, we get a -- gasp -- feminine view into Minaj's songcraft.
After so many songs adopting the common male hip-hop vernacular, Minaj puts Roman aside for the moment to talk about "The Boys," featuring rising R&B vocalist Cassie. These hip-hop guys are "always spending all their money on love," an assertion that's notable for a couple of reasons. First, the chorus arrives on the heels rumors flying about Cassie and notable money-and-love lover Diddy.
Second, it's the counter-argument to "the boys" going broke because of their girlfriends: it's not the girls asking for money, it's the boys blowing it themselves. Kanye, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, crew boss Lil Wayne and others all have verses insisting on outfitting their women in the very brand names they endorse... or worse, call out the bitches, hoes and other pet names for "taking" rappers' cash for money for purses, shoes, whatever.
Third, it removes the female from general equation, and simply points the cashflow toward "love," here as a service rendered, or a simple commodity. "They want to touch it, taste it, see it, pet it, bone it, own it," the auto-tuned voice sings, defining "love" as less than a woman and more of an object. You know: money, cash, hoes, money, cash, chicks, what.
That sentiment goes hand-in-hand with the big, soupy-sweet hook of the chorus, which could also be read a couple of ways. "You get high / Love a bunch of girls / And then cry / on top of the world" may read with the last line as a quote "And then cry, 'On top of the world'" or it could simply be the rapper whining or crying when he's at the top of his game. Either way, "loving" a bunch of girls is the prerequisite to the rapper's successful business model.
It's worth noting that at least three big named-rappers have released tracks with exactly that name, "On Top of the World": Rick Ross, T.I. and J. Cole. A legion of others have written exactly that lyric. And that Minaj's own labelmate Drake took a little fire with the release of his emo-riffic "Take Care" last year, with him pouting on its front cover as he's surrounded by gold.
Since this single is new and obviously open to interpretation, it furthermore made me think of it as a retort to Wale, Rick Ross, Meek Mill and T-Pain's immensely popular "Bag of Money," which has and always will bug the sh*t out of me.
"My bitch bad, lookin' like a bag of money / I go and get it and I let her count it for me," Rozay rhymes. "Hoes on my line, most of 'em 9′s / Couple of 'em dimes, but all my hoes is hard to find," Wale says, pulling out the pocket change. "Ev'ry time she f*ck me she say, 'Can I have some money?' / And I say, 'Can I get a threesome?' / She say, 'Boy, you funny,'" recalls Mill.
It's a direct correlation between women and money, and at times, women worth less than money, the "paper before hoes" classification system. It's dehumanization, and a repeated theme nonetheless.
So the diamond watches and gold chains (or is it Chainz?) won't get her or her girlfriend to "turn around," "The Boys" continues, as Minaj has "the time of her life" blazing through wordless syllables and funky wordplay over two verses. She does a number on reducing other rappers "swag" to mere rags as she turns the spotlight back on her own feminine identity during the minimally nasty beat. "Man, I'm stingy with my puddy-cat," she declares, while also taking aim at girls who "put out" due to dudes' riches.
That part starts with her mocking Train's left-side brain busting hit "Hey, Soul Sister," turning that male gaze into what the female sees. "Your lipstick stain," she sings, "smells like a cheap motel," that "the boys'" love is cheap or even bought. Another soft-rock mockery can be unearthed in the wafting acoustic guitar line in the refrain. Sound familiar? "I hope you / have the time of your life" was the hook from the decidedly un-punk track from Green Day back in the '90s, "Good Riddance." At the time, Mike Dirnt from Green Day said it was the "most punk" thing they could have released at the time. Just like "The Boys" is the most punk Nicki Minaj has gotten to date. It earns those points for being snotty, unabashedly female in a boys' club, mocking, razor sharp and the most forward-thinking thing she could do while quoting Stevie J and pushing a "Blossom" joke. "Losing it" here isn't "putting out." It's starting a fight with The Boys, and how.
"The Boys" is the leading single from "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded" re-release, the even-more-confoundingly titled "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded - The Re-Up." It's due this fall.