Do you remember when “Stupid Hoe” dropped?
It was early 2012. I had just begun the second semester of my sophomore year in high school. Former President Barack Obama was running for his second term. There were widespread conversations about Mayan calendars and the end of the world being close. Tim Tebow had just led the underdog Denver Broncos to a stunning upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game, which only added fuel to all the doomsday chatter.
Oh, yeah, and Nicki Minaj was seemingly on top of the music world.
Despite me not being as avid a music junkie at the time as I am now, it was still almost impossible not to know who Nicki Minaj was. She was virtually omnipresent — on the radio, on TV, on billboards, on posters. She was talked about on Facebook, and trending on YouTube. She was one of the most requested features of the time, and almost every song she was on was a hit. “Bedrock” by Young Money, “Where Them Girls At” by Flo Rida, “Dance (A$$)” by Big Sean, “Turn Me On” by David Guetta — a hit song during that time was almost certain to Nicki on it.
It was hard not to like Nicki. I, for one, was mesmerized by her. Beyond the fact that she was glorious eye candy for virtually every teen my age, I really dug her style, her swagger, her colorful aesthetic, and of course, her hit songs — songs from her debut album Pink Friday, like “Moment 4 Life,” “Your Love,” “Super Bass,” and “Fly,” as well the aforementioned songs that she featured on, which all served as the soundtrack to my bus rides to and from school.
On January 20th of that year, in the buildup to the *delayed* release of her highly anticipated sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, she released the music video for “Stupid Hoe” on her Vevo page. Naturally, it created a giant buzz, but I noticed that something about the chatter felt different. I didn’t watch it the exact day it came out, but when I finally decided to click the YouTube link and check out Nicki’s latest single, I was surprised to find a stunning like-to-dislike ratio — heavily-skewed in the direction of dislikes.
“Stupid Hoe,” at the time, was one of the most disliked YouTube videos of all time.
The song was widely panned, based off of the reviews I was reading and the comments directly under the video. “Stupid Hoe” was compared by many to the songs “Baby” by Justin Bieber and “Friday” by Rebecca Black, both of which were (and still are) two of the Top 5 most disliked videos in YouTube history.
Many listeners within the hip-hop sphere viewed “Stupid Hoe” as an unimpressive shot at Lil’ Kim (who I actually didn’t know was entangled in public disputes with Nicki at the time). Overprotective mothers complained about the amount of language in the song, arguing that it had no business being on the airwaves. Music “aficionados” described “Stupid Hoe” using countless synonyms for “thoughtless garbage.” And pretentious old-heads thought it was a sign that the world really was going to end in 2012.
This was all really perplexing to me at the time, mainly because…I actually thought that both the song and the video were fantastic.
The song was absolutely manic; the beat (courtesy of DJ Diamond Kuts) was fast-paced and frantic, fusing the sonic energies of hyphy and New Orleans bounce. Nicki’s signature cartoonish cadence and breathless flow were on full display and dialed up to ten, as she rode this frenzied, highly percussive instrumental in a way that very few other rappers in the mainstream could have. And while there may have been a few stale punchlines, like the Brangelina line, the song was chock-full of quippy, playful one-liners.
The music video was even zanier than the song, and actually helped elevate it. The stark color juxtapositions of blue and pink, the rapid intercuts, and Nicki’s deadpan, doll-like stares away from the camera all supplemented the hyperactive, psychoactive nature of the song. Makeup-wise and stylistically, this Hype Williams-directed video just had so much flavor and vibrance, with numerous references to other icons like Grace Jones, Shakira, and Jessie J.
There was just this inexplicable level of captivation I felt as I watched the video. Nicki was so hypnotic, outlandish, and humorous. I felt a rush watching the seizure-inducing video, almost like I had just ridden a roller coaster without any safety restraints. And while I don’t mean to sound like a Barb, because I certainly don’t consider myself one, I can’t lie and say that “Stupid Hoe,” at least at the time, wasn’t one of my favorite Nicki Minaj songs.
Of course, the rest of the world didn’t seem to feel the same way.
It’s weird to think that a song could get so much hate, especially when, looking back at it seven years later, many of its maligned characteristics are frequently praised throughout modern music. (I suppose that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about contemporary music.)
“Stupid Hoe” was heavily maligned for its experimental nature, but it was only a year removed from the release of Kanye West’s album Yeezus: a similarly experimental and divisive that seemed to receive much more critical praise. Minaj’s single was also looked at as “depraved” — a particularly un-unique, unimpressive critique given the inherent nature of pop music as well as the overt suggestivity of artists like Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga — again, all of whom were receiving acclaim. And the lyrics, which admittedly weren’t anything Shakespearean, were almost poetic compared to some of the *cough* *cough* whack rhymers we’ve witnessed rise up from the bowels of the SoundCloud/trap era.
Even though I don’t hold this song quite as highly as I once did, I’m probably still in the minority of people who think that “Stupid Hoe” was/is a very good song. And honestly, I’m not here to convert you; if you hated the song then, you’ll probably still hate it now. However, I do often wonder how the time period in which it was released might have affected how it was received; I don’t think this song would’ve received the same level of abhorrence if it had dropped in, say, 2016 or 2017.
In that regard, “Stupid Hoe” was a song that was ahead of its time. Had she released it even just a couple of years later, it may have benefited from a more conducive musical climate, and therefore, might’ve received a much warmer reception. Unfortunately, “Stupid Hoe” will more than likely remain one of the more underrated songs in the Queens rapper’s catalog.