Nicki Minaj: Mesmerizing, Outrageous, and Wonderfully Complex!

April 7th, 2012  |  Published in Culture, Education, Lesson Plan

Within a very short period rapper Nicki Minaj has earned the title as the most “influential female rapper of all time”. As her popularity continues to increase it appears as though she will keep this title for awhile. Although many female singers (including a couple from the Country and Western genre) are trying to imitate her style and her songs, they’re finding out that it is hard to emulate the ever changing style of Ms. Minaj.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Nicki Minaj. Photo credit Erik Lesser/NYT

Excerpt: A Singular Influence, By  Jon Caramanica,  The New York Times

“Barely a year and a half has passed since the release of “Pink Friday,” the platinum debut album by Nicki Minaj, but her style is well honed. She’s a sparkling rapper with a gift for comic accents and unexpected turns of phrase. She’s a walking exaggeration, outsize in sound, personality and look. And she’s a rapid evolver, discarding old modes as easily as adopting new ones. This hard and complex work has paid off: when she releases her second album, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” this week, it will be as the most influential female rapper of all time. What’s even more striking is how far her reach extends beyond hip-hop. When Madonna needed to tether her current comeback to the young female transgressors of the day, she chose Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.

Nicki Minaj. Photo credit Adam Taylor/ABC

At the Grammys in February she gave the most shocking performance, part exorcism and part Broadway spectacle. And in the lead-up to her new album, out on Tuesday from Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic, her new songs have shown that she has no intention of being hemmed in by the expectations of genre, dabbling in slithery R&B on “Right by My Side” and outright giddy dance-pop on “Starships.” When rapping on the songs of others, she’s often the most capable M.C. around — take Birdman’s “Y. U. Mad?” — but on her own material she’s often straddling a line between hip-hop and pop that no other rapper is capable of, or would even dare. A few years ago, before her rise began, there were hardly any female rappers of note; now, a new generation, including Azealia Banks, Brianna Perry and Angel Haze, is rising quickly, working territory that she carved out. This is a story about influence, to be sure, but also about the weakening of old walls, and the reshaping of the gates that the gatekeepers keep.

Thanks to Nicki Minaj and the possibilities she has laid bare, and to hip-hop’s stasis of masculinity it is, outrageously and unprecedentedly, a more exciting time to be a female rapper than a male one.

She did the obvious, and then more. She became a nimble, evocative rapper. She became an intricate lyricist. She became a thoughtful singer. She became a risky performer. She invented new personae.

More than any other rapper in the mainstream, she pushed hard against expectations, and won…”

Nicki Minja. Photo credit Sohh.

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level:  Intermediate

Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening, with vocabulary and grammar activities.

Time: approximately 1 hour.

Materials: student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and online video.
Objective: Students will review and discuss the article about a famous American rapper.

I. Pre-Reading Tasks

A. Prediction

1. Analyze headings and photos.

Directions: Have students read the title of the post, the title of the  article, and analyze the photos.  Next, have them  make a list of  words, and phrases they might find in this article.

B.  Stimulating Background Knowledge

1. Brainstorm

Directions: Have students brainstorm new vocabulary using the chart.

Brainstorming chart by UIE

2. Pre-reading Discussion Questions

Directions: Have students discuss the following questions.

  1. What is “rap” music?
  2. Why do you think it’s so popular in the U.S.?
  3. According to the media, rap music ( along with other genres of American music) is also popular in many other countries. Why is this?
  4. Do you like rap music? Explain why or why not.

II. While Reading Tasks

A. Vocabulary

1.  Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold (taken from the article) and use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.

    1. Barely  a year and a half has passed since the release of “Pink Friday,” the platinum debut album by Nicki Minaj, but her style is well honed.
    2. She’s a walking exaggeration, outsize in sound, personality and look.
    3. …when she releases her second album, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,”…it will be as the most influential female rapper of all time.
    4. What’s even more striking is how far her reach extends…
    5. …to tether her current comeback to the young female transgressors of the day…
    6. Thanks to Nicki Minaj… it is, outrageously and unprecedentedly, a more exciting time to be a female rapper than a male one.
    7. As much as anything, this reflects what a barren playing field Nicki Minaj, 29, arrived onto.
    8. She did the obvious, and then more. She became a nimble, evocative rapper.
    9. She invented new personae.
    10. In short, emulating Nicki Minaj isn’t hard, because there’s so much to play with.
    11. Many of her best songs have been one-off collaborations…
    12. The rapper who’s best taken advantage of the sound that Drake pioneered…
    13. She’s a wry, melodious and enunciative rapper…

B. Discussion Questions for Comprehension

1. True / False Statements

Directions: Place students in groups, have them read the article, then review the statements from the article.  If the statement is true, students write (T) if  the statement is false they  write (F)  and  provide the correct answer from the article.

      1. Nicki Minaj is a rapper.
      2. Her third album is entitled Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.
      3. At the Grammys in February she gave the most charming performance.
      4. A few years ago, before her rise began, there were hardly any female rappers of note.
      5. According to the article this is the best time to be a female rapper.
      6. On rare occasions she did  allow herself to appear secondary to her male counterparts.
      7. Nicki’s style can be described as avant-garde and edgy.
      8. She’s been on the covers of many magazines.
      9. One or two singers try to copy her style.
      10. Emulating Nicki Minaj  is hard.
      11. Iggy Azalea is the name of  a favorite plant of Nicki’s.
      12. Nicki Minaj’s influence is  most evident on artists who ordinarily have no business rapping.
      13. Many singers view Nicki as a role model.

C.  Grammar Focus

1. Identifying Adjectives.

Directions:  Students are to identify the adjectives  in the following paragraphs, then use as many of the terms as possible to write their own paragraph concerning rap music, and singers.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

“Barely a year and a half has passed since the release of “Pink Friday,” the platinum debut album by Nicki Minaj, but her style is well honed. She’s a sparkling rapper with a gift for comic accents and unexpected turns of phrase. She’s a walking exaggeration, outsize in sound, personality and look… This hard and complex work has paid off: when she releases her second album, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” this week, it will be as the most influential female rapper of all time… This is a story about influence, to be sure, but also about the weakening of old walls, and the reshaping of the gates that the gatekeepers keep. Thanks to Nicki Minaj and the possibilities she has laid bare, and to hip-hop’s stasis of masculinity it is, outrageously and unprecedentedly, a more exciting time to be a female rapper than a male one.”

III. Post Reading Tasks

A. Reading Comprehension Check

1. Graphic Organizer

Directions:  Have students use a graphic organizer to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article.

WH-organizer from Enchanted Learning.

IV. Listening Activity    Title of Video Clip: Nicki Minaj Interview with Ellen Degeneris

Nicki Minaj with Ellen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multiple choice

Directions: Students are to choose the correct response from the ones provided from the video.

1. After seeing what Nicji was wearing, Ellen stated that  she felt____

a. under dressed

b. over dressed

c. highly dressed

2. Nicki’s  first album went___

a. gold

b. silver

c. platinum

3. She officially started rapping at the age of___

a. 20

b. 17

c. 16

4. After seeing Ellen on TV for the first time, Nicki told her mother that Ellen would___

a. be on the air for a long time

b. be famous in a month

c. be very rich

5. Nicki is originally from___

a. Barbados

b. New York

c. Trinidad

6. Nicki told Ellen that she had a___childhood.

a. rough

b. happy

c. easy

7. Her dad battled____

a. alcohol

b. drugs

c.  drugs and alcohol

8. The family was afraid of her father’s___

a. violence

b. shouting

c. singing

9. Nicki would escape by___

a. running away

b. locking herself in her room

c. calling her friends

10. Her father tried to___

a. build the house up

b.  burn the house down

c. paint the house

11.  Nicki admitted that she had many different___

a. names

b. songs

c.  alter egos

12. Roman Barbie, and Martha are the names

a.  of her alter egos

b. her best friends

c. her dogs

13. Everyone in the audience received a free___

a. ticket to Nicki’s show

b. a copy of her cd

c. a photo of Nicki and Ellen together

2.  Post-Listening Tasks

Directions: Have students discuss the following:

1. After listening to this interview with Ellen, has their personal opinion of Nicki Minaj changed in any way? If so, explain how.

2.  Have students make up questions they would like to ask the speaker.

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