There might be only one thing we can say for certain about Nicki Minaj’s latest music video.
Freud would have had a field day with it.
Indeed, not even the word “raunchy” can do justice to the barrage of psychosexual excess present in “Anaconda.”
Various bikini-clad dancers shake their ample posteriors in a sultry jungle hideaway. Suggestively shaped tropical fruit whizzes around and around on an empty turntable. The artist herself dons a salacious maid’s outfit, smothers her cleavage in whipped cream and devours a banana.
“Dreams,” Freud wrote, “are often the most profound when they seem the most crazy.”
If this is true, then “Anaconda” must be some kind of masterpiece, which is more than one can usually say regarding booty-centric pop songs.
The song and music video pay homage to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s great one-hit wonder “Baby Got Back,” and Minaj repeatedly employs its most memorable line: “My anaconda don’t want none/ unless you got buns, hun.”
While it would be a stretch to call either “Anaconda” or “Baby Got Back” explicit political statements, both represent jubilant assertions of black culture that crop up from time to time in an otherwise white-dominated pop music mainstream.
Surprisingly (or maybe not), many of them have been songs about butts.
“Men like butts,” Sir Mix-a-lot said in a 2000 interview. “That’s the bottom line. The song (‘Baby Got Back’) is part of a tradition of 1970s-90s African American music celebrating the female posterior, including ‘Da Butt,’ ‘Rump Shaker’ and ‘Shake Your Groove Thang.’”
“Anaconda” is part of this tradition as well. But if Sir Mix-a-Lot consecrated black women’s curves as the ultimate object of male desire, Minaj goes a step further: she celebrates her own beauty, and does so with a vengeance.
Much of the time, “Anaconda” seems merely to serve as an excuse for Minaj and her cohort of dancers to flaunt their derrieres. That is, until the conclusion.
Toward the end of the video, Minaj adjourns to a smoky, blue-lighted room where a man (Drake, the doyen of contemporary hip-hop) waits expectantly. She teases him with a lap dance. Then, as described by Slate writer Dee Locket, “just when Drake thinks he might be able to cop a feel, she swats his hands back to remind him who’s really in control.”
It’s the perfect kiss-off, even if it doesn’t really make sense within the context of the rest of the video. But Minaj isn’t out to tell a coherent story – not even one governed by Freudian dream logic.
Indeed, “Anaconda” is something of a manifesto, which means that, by definition, it is loud, angry and hyperbolic, and yet, somehow, it makes a sensible point.
For Minaj, the point is that she can hold her own in the testosterone-driven world of hip-hop. In a pop music scene where timeworn songs about girls who want to please men are disguised as hip odes to “body positivity” (i.e. Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass”), there’s something admirable about this, even if the most memorable aspects of “Anaconda” are the infectious beat, the copious amount of booty-shaking and Minaj loudly declaring war against “all the skinny b***ches in the club.”