FEATURE: Ms. Minaj probably had good intentions, but the message here is damaging and dangerous.
On Friday, Doja Cat released a remix of her undeniable bop “Say So” featuring the Queen of Rap Nicki Minaj herself. But what should have been a sure hit within the queer community quickly became contentious as people began discussing one specific lyric from Nicki’s first verse.
“Used to be bi,” she says. “But now I’m just hetero”. Okay, yikes.
The response was swift. On Twitter, many fans quickly called out the lyrics as homophobic. But others felt that Nicki was just expressing her personal experience, and the line was therefore unproblematic.
it makes bi people look like clowns dude. people already think that they dont exist. the fuss isn’t really about nicki herself but the way that the verse was conveyed.— 🖤sharow🤍 (@sharow_exe) May 1, 2020
Okay, but here’s the thing. This lyric is for sure – undeniably, there is no doubt – homophobic. Let’s lay it all out.
First, bisexuals – and especially bisexual women – face a unique challenge even among queer people. Regularly, bisexual identities are questioned, forgotten and misrepresented in a way other sexual orientations are not. Bisexual individuals in same-sex partnerships are thought of as gay. Bisexual individuals in opposite-sex partnerships are thought of as straight. Bisexual individuals in any partnership (or no partnership at all) are so often characterized as selfish, confused, or just going through a phase. For Nicki to use her significant platform to further this incorrect and damaging narrative is disappointing at best.
Secondly, the lyric is a misrepresentation of how sexual orientations even work. It is true that sexuality (and gender identity etc.) can be very fluid. Most individuals experience a range of attractions throughout the course of their lives and that is normal. It is very possible that Nicki’s sexual attractions have a fluidity to them. Her sexuality is no one’s business but her own to explore, speculate about, or share with the public. Regardless of what may or may not be Nicki’s personal experience, though, sexual fluidity is not – and should not be characterized as – a shift from bisexuality to heterosexuality. Sexual fluidity is a complicated subject deserving of a longer examination than it can be given here, but to reduce it to a conversion from queerness to straightness is incorrect and dangerous.
It is worth acknowledging as well that individuals to change and mature over time. Perhaps Nicki identified as bisexual at one time but has grown to feel that it is inappropriate for her to claim that identity. However, a change of heart of that nature has no place being the punchline of a joke in a pop song. Additionally, Nicki has a history of problematic explanations of her own sexuality. According to Rolling Stone, Nicki herself claimed that she initially identified as bisexual ‘for the attention’. Again, yikes.
Over the years, Nicki has spoken out as an LGBTQIA+ ally. She cancelled a concert in Saudi Arabia out of solidarity for the queer community of that country. She has often acknowledged the important role that gay men in particular play in her fanbase. She was a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
It seems like too great of a leap to say that Nicki herself is homophobic because of this line. Rather than being malicious, it is more likely that rhyme comes from a place of miseducation and misunderstanding. That does not mean that it does not deserve to be called out for the dangerous rhetoric that it is.
What do you think? Does the lyric strike you as problematic too? As always, the comment section is open, so share your thoughts below.
As a postscript: It should also be mentioned that both the original and the remix versions of ‘Say So’ carry a production credit for ‘TYSON TRAX’ – a new pseudonym used by alleged-Kesha-Abuser Dr. Luke. The purpose of this article is not to debate the morality (or lack thereof) of consuming Dr. Luke’s content, but it is a point worth making regardless.