It seems like most of the Black Diaspora’s got cultural beef with each other, so why not the Caribbean Islands?
I’m talking about this essay in the Huffington Post about Nicki Minaj not representing her Trinidadian roots authentically.
According to Ayana Malaika Crichlow, “daughter of Trinidad and Tobago” and author of the piece Nicki Minaj Doesn’t Represent My Trinidad, Minaj has been faking the patois. More specifically, she has been using a distinctive Jamaican accent, even though she is from Trinidad and Tobago.
“I do love how direct she is about her opinion and how she evidently loves her fans. I admire how vocal she is if she doesn’t like something and speaks her mind instead of being timid, how she stands up for herself and her immediate family. And I really want to like how she represents for Trinidad — but I don’t. I know I have already heard the argument that she is reppin Trinidad in her own way, and not everyone reps the same way, blah, blah, blah. Oh, please. We aren’t talking about if what she is saying about Trinidad is negative but true; we are talking about her having a massive audience, opening for the VMAs with an even huger audience, and singing a song called “Trini Dem Girlz” in an accent from some other island, patting her pum pum which is not a Trini dance and doing so on a dancehall sounding rhythm. Give me a break, really..“
Crichlow points out the weirdness in Minaj’s ability to mimic anything from an English accent to a unclassified Spanish accent, while rarely if ever using her authentic Trinidadian voice. Likewise, she also takes issue with the rapper claiming Trinidad while not actually promoting anything culturally from the islands including its food, fashion, music or the world famous T&T carnival.
Crichlow further states:
“I know many Trinis could care less about what she does whether representing the island or not. In fact, the vast majority don’t care if she does or not. Personally, I don’t care whether she represents us, but if she is going to do so, as she seemingly has been, I think it’s irresponsible to do that dishonestly to the many fans that she has. If you must tell the marish and the parish that you are from Trinidad, please don’t do so and then behave in a manner that is obviously Jamaican culturally. We have a hard enough time letting people know we aren’t from Jamaica, or that Trinidad is not in Jamaica, so having a so-called Trini feel more comfortable performing her art in a Jamaican accent is unacceptable.”
It seems like such a trivial thing to be worried about. First off, Minaj did shout-out the T&T carnival in the Pound the Alarm video. So we have to give her credit for that. But more importantly, Black women have it hard enough in our global White supremacist and patriarchal societies without having to prove how culturally Black we are to our own folks.
With that said, Crichlow does have a point about how Minaj’s cross-cultural performances while representing Trini, offers little favor to those who are constantly trying to get folks to understand that the Caribbean Islands are more than Jamaica.
And although Crichlow doesn’t mention this in her essay, it does bare considering what responsibility Minaj has in giving back to the community for which she not only originates, but takes, at least, some part of her cultural identity from. I mean, is she donating to charities or helping to promote other musicians from the Island? Or is she just waving a red and black flag around and rocking carnival feathers? To me, that is much more important than whether or not she is using the accent correctly.
Honestly, I have always been of the belief that Minaj is more culturally African-American than she is African Islander. More specifically an African-American New Yorker, which has a large population of Black folks from the Islands and is generally a melting pot culturally. In my mind, it is certainly likely that Minaj’s mixed-island motif is a result of her Queens, New York upbringing and not just something that she is putting on, just for performance sake.
But what do folks think? Should Minaj rep her Trinidadian roots more authentically?