Last week, when Nicki Minaj released her new song, "Lookin' Ass Nigga," she got two completely different reactions. Her fans were excited by the prospect of a new rappity-rap song from their heroine, complete with a music video that trolled the rap patriarchy and ambitiously commented on hip-hop objectification. But her detractors quickly denounced the "unofficial" single art - a famous photo of Malcolm X with a rifle in his hands, peering out a window in his home - as deeply, unforgivably offensive.
The art was unwise - even the Malcolm X estate itself took issue - and Nicki apologized just one day after posting it, though on Hot 97 a few days later, she defended her use of the image, which she viewed as "a parallel" for the way women are attacked in hip-hop culture. She made the right decision to back off, and though it's easy to see why the photo caused controversy, her intent, along with the song's explicitly feminist music video, has been either ignored or grossly misread by her critics, and that's a problem.