The headlines from big publications were brazenly clear this week: “Nicki Minaj endorses Mitt Romney in a rap song”. That’s from The Hill, a popular political publication; other news sites were reporting the same. The song in question was a remix to Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz’s “Mercy” off of Lil’ Wayne’s latest mixtape. At the 1:40 mark, Minaj raps:
I’m a Republican, voting for Mitt Romney / You lazy bitches is fucking up the economy
Taken out of context, this might seem like a clear-cut endorsement. However, Feministing contributer Syreeta McFadden comments:
Sometimes, rap lyrics are clear. Other times they’re just oblique disses drawing from zeitgeist. Many times they’re persona pieces, a metafictional voice that is easily conflated with the actual identity of the MC who spits them. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this: NICKI MINAJ IS NOT ENDORSING MITT ROMNEY.
That’s entirely true. From a reasoned perspective, Nicki is setting up a hypothetical. If we were to reword it, she might as well have said, “If I were a Republican who would vote for Mitt Romney, my ideology would make me see your laziness as an economic impediment.” Blogger Matt Yglaesias concurred, going on to note that this theoretical economic argument doesn’t actually work:
What’s interesting is that her satirized view of what a Republican would say about the macroeconomy is actually espoused by some people. University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan, in particular, has been using a perch at the New York Times to press for this kind of leisure shock view of the economy. The particular way this works is with the idea that by making social insurance programs more generous, the Obama administration has sapped the American worker’s desire to work preventing the economy from bouncing back.
Empirically speaking, I think this is pretty clearly wrong. An economy with adequate aggregate demand that suffers a policy-induced negative shock to its labor supply ought to see inflation—constant demand chasing fewer workers equals higher prices—which hasn’t been the American experience. But there are some nice mathematical models out there of worker preferences for leisure driving the business cycle, and that’s good enough for some people.
This faux controversy, however, seems to be the product of shoddy reporting. Taking a single line off of a single track on a newly released mixtape, so-called “journalists” attempt to gain notoriety by “reporting” a famous celebrity’s alleged “endorsement.” To put it bluntly, it’s nonsensical reporting. As Alyssa Rosenberg over at Think Progress put it:
It’s that the whole business of scooping out two lines from a just-released mixtape to make a political point is gross and misguided. It’s possible to say interesting things about the intersection of hiphop and politics, but this isn’t how it’s done.
I’d say that’s a fair point. Eminem constantly compares himself to Hannibal Lecter, but we wouldn’t exactly say that he’s endorsing cannibalism, would we? Hiphop artists just wouldn’t do that to make a relatively shallow point. In 2008, DJ Green Lantern and Russel Simmons released an entire pro-Obama mixtape, but Nicki Minaj would let a stray line on a fucking mixtape suffice? I doubt that.