(focus group study 2014)
Onika Tanya Maraj better known by her stage name Nicki Minaj has been the driving force in Hip Hop as a female rapper since her emergence in 2009. She has maintained a following since, and it continues to grow with every album, single, and feature she rips on with her lethal lyrical flow. People are drawn to her because of her colorful personality and crazy punchlines that give listeners a jaw-dropping experience.
Nicki Minaj infectious lyrics and attitudes are a huge part of the reason why she has and still maintains a huge following. This brings to question the effects her music has on her female fans who are avid listeners. Listening to her music is more than just a hobby to her super fans it’s a lifestyle. Research has been conducted to decipher her music but not on discovering the influence she has on her fans. This study will answer the question of how are Harajuku Barbiez influenced by Nicki Minaj? Fans already know how to decipher her music but can they decipher between Nicki Minaj and Onika? The purpose of this study is to identify the influence Minaj has on her female fans in their everyday lives.
This study uses the focus group method to provide an in-depth view of how fans perceive Nicki Minaj. This method was used because it allows participants to express their preferences, attitudes, motivations, and beliefs freely while providing researchers insightful information. (Brennen, 2012) Conducting a focus group with super fans commonly called “Harajuku Barbiez” of Minaj gives each person a commonality they could speak freely about regardless of their various demographics. This study was chosen because it will inform what fans perceive about Nicki Minaj through her music in an organic conversation between fellow fans.
To provide insight on what Harajuku Barbiez perceive about Nicki Minaj a focus group was conducted with five African American college women between the ages of 20 and 23. Each participant identified themselves as major fans of Nicki Minaj’s music. This was a sample of convenience between women who are residents of Middle Tennessee State University campus housing Womack Lane.
Nicki Minaj named her dedicated fan base “Harajuku Barbiez” after the Harajuku culture in Tokyo, Japan. Harajuku refers to the area around Tokyo’s Harajuku Station which is the center of extreme teenage culture and fashion styles. (Nicki Minaj Explains “Harajuku Barbie,” 2009) Minaj said, “I love the Harajuku culture,” she continued, “the way they dress, is the way I am on the inside. Free-spirited, girls that just wanna have fun, kick-ass… pop, rock-n-roll, whatever the f*ck you want to do, Hip-Hop. That’s how I feel, and that’s what my music is gonna feel like when I do my album.” (Nicki Minaj Explains “Harajuku Barbie,” 2009) Minaj said she added the Barbie to the word “because all girls are Barbie’s we all want to play dress up, we all want to put on lipstick, look cute and sexy.” (Nicki Minaj Explains “Harajuku Barbie,” 2009)
Minaj isn’t the first female rapper to use the term “bad bitch” but she has made the term popular since her 2009 emergence. There has not been a clear definition of what exactly is a “bad bitch” until celebrity model, personality, author, and mother Amber Rose names her upcoming book How To Be A Bad Bitch after the famous phrase. Rose defines “bad bitch” as “a self-respecting, strong female who has everything together. This consists of body, mind, finances, and swagger; a woman who gets her way by any means necessary.” (Rose, 2015)
The focus group was conducted in the Womack Lane clubhouse where residents are allowed to congregate freely. This clubhouse was chosen as the setting because it has easy access and it was convenient for each participant. Participants were greeted on arrival then they were directed towards a round table. When all the participants were sitting at the roundtable, they were allowed to introduce themselves to the group to help them achieve comfort within the setting.
After introductions, these are the questions that were asked to determine their influence of Nicki Minaj: What are three of your favorite Nicki Minaj songs? Why do you like those songs? How do you feel when you listen to it? When do you listen to Nicki Minaj? What’s your favorite lyric? Why is that your favorite lyric? Why are you a Nicki Minaj fan? Some of these questions created another dimension of conversation which led to these questions being asked What does “bad bitch” mean to you? How do you feel about the usage of “bitch”? How do you feel about her expression of sex in her music? The length of the study was 45 minutes and 39 seconds.
One theme that was identified was listening to Nicki Minaj made these women feel like a “bad bitch.” P3 described her music as “the type of music that pumps you up and gets you live and in your element.” As stated previously, Nicki Minaj is not the first rapper to use the term “bad bitch” but she is the one who made the phrase popular. She is considered the spokeswoman for the popular phrase in today’s rap music that has influenced many especially male rappers. The once negative term Minaj has changed into a term of endearment and compliment to others or oneself.
This piqued interest in finding out when do they listen to Minaj music, P1 said: “Every day while I’m getting dressed eating just anything but most of the time while getting dressed getting ready for the day and get my early morning turn up on.” P2 said “at work in the bed early mornings to get my day started off” and P4 said, “Turn up time when it’s time to turn up Nicki Minaj is the first one on the list.” Most of the participants said moments that are vital to every woman’s day “in the morning while getting dressed and at work.” These women are starting their day off with Nicki Minaj’s music as a way to begin conquering their day. Instead of running to a mirror to say nice words to themselves Minaj is empowering them to start their day off feeling like a “bad bitch
Another vital part of a woman’s day is when she is getting ready to go out or commonly called “turn up” with her girls. Although it’s not recurring daily, it is a time where women can get dressed up, put lip stick on, look cute and sexy. This aspect is a direct connect with part of the reason why Minaj calls her female fans Barbiez. Referring to Amber Rose’s definition of a “bad bitch,” it “consists of body and mind”, these women are listening to Minaj while they are getting prepared for their day or night this is invoking them to get physically and mentally prepared for any obstacle life has to offer.
Another theme that was identified was its not crazy to have multiple personalities. P5 said, “I like her alter egos because she can show different aspects of her personality that’s where we are similar I like to show different parts of my personality and bring out different sides of me more.” P3 said, “Depending on what mood she’s in I can relate to it because I can see why she is Roman one time then she is Nicki then acts like herself I see why you can relate to it.” Then P1 said “I feel like she is my alter ego she is the complete opposite of me,” P4 said “she gives people the opportunity to speak through her.” These women are using Minaj to express the different aspects within themselves. Projecting Nicki Minaj lyrics and mood through themselves as another form of expression. Relating to her music is keeping them from having the mindset that they have to conform to the rules of society.
Female Empowerment (overcoming obstacles)
Finally, the last theme that was identified was that Nicki Minaj promotes female empowerment. P1 said “she is a role model to me as to women can pursue their dreams even with it being a male dominated genre.”P4 said, “She’s not the best role model but you can take her story and take something from it for women empowerment.”P2 said “She came from the worst background and she flipped it into the best way to make her coins a good opportunist she basically wrote out her struggle and is making money off it”
Minaj may not have been viewed as a role model to every participant but each identified that her story and her ability to stay the best female rapper is inspiration. It inspires them to know that if she achieve it they can as well. The aspect that anything is attainable as long as there is hard work and dedication. P2 said “she inspires me to be more self-confident in myself because it takes a lot of confidence to be the best female rapper in the game.” Self-confidence is something that a lot of women lack and do not know how to obtain. Listening to Minaj music can changes an entire mood from being low to being that “bad bitch” who can conquer any obstacles.
In conclusion, the purpose of this study was to identify how Harajuku Barbiez are influenced. Harajuku Barbiez listening to Minaj music changes an entire mood from being low to being that “bad bitch” who can conquer any obstacles, have multiple personalities all while feeling empowered. It was unique to find that all of these women did not perceive Nicki Minaj as a role model but were influenced by her music from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep.
It was odd to find that even though each participant identified how they felt like a “bad bitch” when they listened to Minaj but did not like the word “bitch.” This study could be stronger if there were more than one race of women to display what some women receive from Nicki Minaj. A wider range ages could have been used to see how many fans have experienced growth while listening to her music.
Brennen, B. S. (2012). Focus Groups. In B. S. Brennen, Qualitative Research Methods for Media Studies (pp. 59-74).
Nicki Minaj Explains “Harajuku Barbie”. (2009, August 9). Retrieved from Youtube.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkL2r2x6EFg
Rose, A. (2015). How To Be A Bad Bitch.