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Monday, September 10, 2012

No, Nicki Minaj Did Not Endorse Mitt Romney


Lest there be any lingering confusion: sometimes performers say things in the context of their work that they do not mean literally â€" political endorsements included.

Following a convention week in which Mitt Romney learned that celebrity testimonials were not all they are cracked up to be â€" just ask Clint Eastwood and his chair â€" the Republican presidential nominee received an unexpected shout-out from the hip-hop musician Nicki Minaj.

In a guest appearance on the track “Mercy,” from the Lil Wayne mixtape “Dedication 4,” Ms. Minaj, an artist known for her garishly imaginative outfits and a range of cartoonish voices to rival Mel Blanc's, rapped, “I'm a Republican, voting for Mitt Romney.” She then completed the verse by rhyming it with a vulgar line about “lazy” people who were wreaking havoc on the economy.

While nothing about Ms. Minaj's music is as simple as it may seem, some listeners took “Mercy” (which started appearing online around Sept. 3) at face value. Music Web sites like rapdose.com reported on the lyric with headlines that read “Nicki Minaj Endorses Mitt Romney,” while the gossip blog Gawker hedged its bets, asking readers, “Did Nicki Minaj Really Endorse Mitt Romney?”

However, there were clues in the song that Ms. Minaj was not describing a factual set of circumstances. For example, in the very next line of the song, she raps: “Out in Miami I be chillin' with a zombie.”

There would also seem to be a general rule that applies to pop songs and other works of performance, under which artists are allowed to adopt fictional personae in the service of evoking an audience's emotions. (To date, there is no evidence that Johnny Cash ever shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.)

President Obama appeared to suggest as much in an interview with the Orlando, Fla., radio station Power 95.3. Asked whether he thought Ms. Minaj's lyric was an authentic endorsement of his rival, Mr. Obama said: “I'm not sure that's actually what happened. I think she had a song on there, that â€" a little rap that said that. But she likes to play different characters.”

Ms. Minaj gave credence to the president's interpretation of the song on Monday, writing in a post on her Twitter account: “Ha! Thank you for understanding my creative humor & sarcasm Mr. President, the smart ones always do…”