Nicki Minaj's rap on Rosa Parks: 'disrespectful' or 'double entendre'?

Some interpreted a "Yikes" lyric as making light of Parks' activism, while others said it is Minaj calling for people to fight for causes that matter to them.
Image: Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards.Evan Agostini / AP file

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By Gwen Aviles

Rosa Parks trended on social media Monday night as listeners of Nicki Minaj's new song debated whether lyrics referencing the civil rights icon could be interpreted as "disrespectful" or a "double entendre."

The artist posted a 51-second snippet to Instagram on Monday of herself performing a track titled "Yikes," and one particular line in which Minaj raps, "All you b------ Rosa Parks, get your a-- up," drew social media attention. Some interpreted the lyrics as making light of Parks' activism, while others interpreted it as Minaj calling on others to fight for causes that matter to them.

"I hope @NICKIMINAJ take that line about Rosa Parks out of her song. Hella disrespectful," one listener tweeted. "Nothing funny about a black woman being told to get up and move to the back of the bus and it’s black history month. Some s--- you just don’t say. That was a defining moment in our history."

Others noted that the lyrics didn't appear to be historically accurate.

"Rosa Parks would have been 107 years old if she was still living to see her birthday today. Y'all go remind Nicki Minaj that," cultural critic Ernest Owens tweeted Tuesday. "Quick history lesson: She never got up, she stayed seated. The lyric makes no sense."

Yet, some argued that Minaj's lyrics were being misinterpreted, stating that the rapper is actually pushing others to take action, rather than downplaying Parks' central role in the civil rights movement.

"The bar was a double entendre ... Basically she's talking about how everyone want to act like they’re in for a movement, or for the culture, but they’re not doing anything about it," The State of Hip Hop, an account that interprets lyrics of hip hop and rap songs, tweeted. "So it’s sorta of like an indirect meaning to what Rosa stood for. Although Rosa Parks was sitting down, she made an impact."

The account added that it was important to contextualize the Rosa Parks line with the other lyrics in the song. Following the controversial line, Minaj raps "you a clown/you do it for likes,” which the account interprets as Minaj criticizing half-baked attempts at activism.

Parks may be best known for the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, but her civil rights work began long before her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on an Alabama bus. She joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1943, and as its secretary, investigated allegations of sexual assault. From 1965 to 1988, she served as the secretary and receptionist to longtime Michigan Congressman John Conyers and earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other accolades, for her work.

This is not the first time Minaj has been criticized for lyrics some have deemed offensive. A line from a 2012 song, "Roman Reloaded," in which she raps "take b------ to school, then I Columbine these hoes," referencing the deadly school shooting, sparked outrage. Minaj was also lambasted for lyrics from her 2018 album "Queen," which some interpreted as homophobic.