Nicki Minaj - "Check It Out - We Speak Korean!" (edited)
Okay, Nicki Minaj and Will.i.am. I love Nicki - she's extremely talented, and is probably one of the few quirky black women in the American music industry to have the amount of success she's had in her short career - I think she can open up doors for other black female performers with new ideas to move up in the industry. I find her constant quoting of Asian cultures interesting, but I was confused when everything in this video was in Korean. I thought, Isn't she a fan of Japanese, not Korean culture? This intrigued me enough to do some research on the video and the inspiration behind it, and I found some pretty cool stuff. Check it out after the jump.
Reading about the video on Omona! They Didn't, I got the impression that Nicki thought they were using Japanese in the video when it's actually Korean. But, what she actually said was, "We're doing an ode almost to Japanese anime and Japanese manga," which makes more sense to me. The styling and crazy visuals in the video are definitely anime-inspired - Nicki has always gone for a cartoony aesthetic that I love. Plus the hangul text popping up everywhere makes every frame look like a panel from a manga. The hangul popping up is all literal translations of what they're singing into Korean (and apparently, the effect is hilarious - I wouldn't know, unfortunately). In light of this, they probably chose the Korean language instead of Japanese because it requires less characters to write the words. (Also - I'm letting my inner design geek kick in for a second, but the typeface is AWESOME!) Not only that, but on Korean variety shows, reality and documentaries, you often have little comments from the PDs or sound effects popping up on the screen the same way the words pop up in this video. It's a pretty cool linkage of all of these different pop culture elements.
I snooped around, and after looking through countless blogs and music sites, finally found a video interview with the other creative minds who worked on the video. Check it out below (source: AOL via First Up)
(Fangirl moment: It's Baby (Mayuko Kitayama) from the Harajuku Girls! She's my favorite HG along with Rino [Nakasone-Razalan, k-pop choreographer and Pussycat Doll]. I've been wondering what she's been up to recently.)
They cite Korean TV shows, futuristic elements and anime and comic books as sources of inspiration. So I was right! I'm giving myself a gold star for calling the Korean TV shows. Maybe Will.I.Am working with 2NE1 did have something to do with it (at first I thought it was because Rich Lee was Asian, but he's white). I think all the elements (and the different cultural influences) come together quite nicely. They wanted a futuristic feel, and since Nicki has a very cartoony style, it made sense that they were inspired by anime and manga because that's one of the most prominent pop culture examples of where those two things meet. AND I wouldn't be surprised if Korean TV shows started doing those little speech bubble things because of the influence of Japanese manga and anime. That in itself could be "an ode to Japanese manga and anime" and therefore Nicki's statement is actually pretty accurate, and she's not just pulling whatever Asian country she can think of out of her ass. I will definitely say that the coverage of the video has made it difficult for people to realize that, as the most popular source, MTV, only features Nicki's Japanese quote and no information about the director's influences or vision.
I have a hard time finding anything wrong with it, personally; Nicki has always called back to Asian culture in her videos and raps, and I think it's just a part of who she is. She's an otaku like the rest of us :D This video is definitely the most interesting crossing of global pop cultures I've seen this year - and it's made for a mainly American audience! I wonder if it'll have any effect on US pop culture - will people be more knowledgeable about Asian cultures? Will they recognize the writing as they walk around Koreatown? Will they be less averse to listening to Asian pop music? We'll just have to wait and see.