These are strange days we’re living in. This week, the Afro-Trinidadian rapper Nicki Minaj released a music video that seemed quite at odds with her heritage and music style. In the video for “Only,” Minaj presents herself as a fascist dictator surrounded by imagery straight out of a Nuremberg rally. There’s quasi-Nazi flags, red armbands, and marching stormtroopers—all at the will of a black artist with a black sound. This bizarre amalgamation is best represented by what replaces a swastika in the flags—a YM acronym standing for “Young Money,” Minaj’s record label.
Even though Minaj is black, and the other artists in the song are also black (with one even being a Jewish mulatto), this hasn’t stopped everyone’s favorite anti-anti-Semite organization from denouncing the video as insensitive (it was released oddly enough on the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht) and amounted to propaganda for the most hated regime of modern history.
Here’s our man, Abe Foxman, on the matter:
Nicki Minaj’s new video disturbingly evokes Third Reich propaganda and constitutes a new low for pop culture’s exploitation of Nazi symbolism. The irony should be lost on no one that this video debuted on the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” pogrom that signaled the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust.
It is troubling that no one among Minaj’s group of producers, publicists and managers raised a red flag about the use of such imagery before ushering the video into public release.
This video is insensitive to Holocaust survivors and a trivialization of the history of that era. The abuse of Nazi imagery is deeply disturbing and offensive to Jews and all those who can recall the sacrifices Americans and many others had to make as a result of Hitler’s Nazi juggernaut.
Minaj, while certainly making the most bizarre addition to the phenomenon, is not the first to play with Nazi themes. David Bowie adopted a Führer-like persona in the late 70s that catalyzed the creation of Rock Against Racism. (Which naturally led to the creation of Rock Against Communism.) The first wave of punk had no problem throwing around swastikas and declaring “Belsen Was a Gas.” Third Reich iconography has always featured prominently in heavy metal and industrial music—even for bands without any political affinity for National Socialism. Slayer, for example, designed a logo with a Germanic eagle as the back, wrote lyrics about Nazi figures, displayed iron crosses, and even called their fan club the “Slaytanic Wehrmacht.”
Most heavy metal and industrial acts have used this imagery for its inherent power and “evil” associations. Similar to why they utilize the occult, it’s to give off a sinister vibe that coincides with the violent musical style. Early punk bands used the swastika solely for shock value. Bowie adopted a fascist dictator pose because he doped out of his mind.
So why is Minaj utilizing the Third Reich? Probably just to get views and to engineer controversy. There’s absolutely no connection between the imagery and the music, and it makes absolutely no sense for a black female artist to glorify National Socialism. This was likely a decision not made by Minaj, but by her (probably Jewish) superiors at the record company who thought that it would draw attention to the song, while being able to get away with it since the rappers involved were all non-White. A smart bet on their part.
Increasingly pop music is willing to play with subjects previously verboten. “Only” has completely degenerate lyrics that try to play up how the “artist” is a character “not to be fucked wit’”. Minaj’s last video “Anaconda” was basically pornography. Besides the hyper-sexuality of pop music, there’s also a desire to pair shocking images with unrelated songs. The best example of this is Katy Perry’s performance at the 2014 Grammys. She performed a relatively unthreatening song with tame lyrics…surrounded by Baphomet statues and dancing around in an occult manner. This is also coming from a singer who began her career in Christian Contemporary Music.
What it reveals is not an actual engagement with the themes portrayed, but a simple desire to offend Middle America. There’s no chance Minaj has an interest in Fascism, and there’s a strong possibility Perry had no idea what she was dancing around. But the ones selling their records and managing their decisions do, and they just want to make a buck off of America’s decline.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Nazi themes start taking off in black music if Minaj’s video becomes a major success. It already has over a million views after being out for all of two days. Our managers of culture might’ve hit on another successful formula, but at what cost?