Rapping Reclamation

Among the other works of Nicki Minaj, “Here I Am,” from her debut 2010 album Pink Friday, is less energetic and poppy; its minor key contributes to the subdued nature of the song, in spite of the presence of a consistent beat.  However, even if it feels mellow sonically, its lyrics contain an immense sense of empowerment and rising up that is an essential piece of Minaj’s works.

Throughout, “Here I Am” samples from “Red Sky” by John B feat. Shaz Sparks, and the haunting piano riff sampled from it works perfectly with the song.  Furthermore, it samples the sound of an engine accelerating, which plays along well with the sense of lyrical empowerment and gives the song an extra drive (no pun intended).

What really makes the song so powerful, however, is the perfect lyrical balance that accompanies the instrumentals.  The song explores a subject of mistreatment and being devalued, struggling with the impact that that has.  Minaj begins the song by rapping, “Why is it that you could only see the worst in me? / I swear sometimes it feel like it nurtures me / but to keep it all real is kind of hurting me / I could say I’m done with it, but it lurks in me.”  The first verse maintains this theme of struggling with the hurt while attempting to push it below, but in the second verse, Minaj really works to reclaim herself and see her own value, rejecting the opinion of the other party.  She powerfully declares, “Even in the afterlife, Ima fight your soul / ‘Cause the second time around I’ll be twice as bold,” and goes on to give an ultimatum, saying that if they won’t take her as she is, then it’s best that they are apart.

“Here I Am” shows incredible vulnerability, particularly in her repeated singing of the lines, “I’m in pain, I’m ashamed,” but Minaj perfectly balances it with empowerment, following up with the line, “I’m a woman, hear me roar.”  She rejects emotionally manipulative tactics, like telling her that she won’t survive if she leaves, and in spite of the pain maintains her strength.

The fusion of vulnerability and reclamation perfectly expresses difficulty while also being an inspiring song, allowing for others to see themselves in the pain and feel able to reclaim themselves in the face of cruel and harmful actors.  It’s certainly not the kind of song you would dance to, but the power within its lyrics makes it just as uplifting and energizing as a catchy dance song.

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