Your guide to the apparent Nazi symbolism in Nicki Minaj’s ‘Only’ video

Shock value or anti-Semitism? The Internet can’t decide.

 

Michelle Jaworski

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Published Nov 9, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 6:05 am CDT

Nicki Minaj’s latest single is the talk of the Internet, but not because of the song itself.

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The lyric video for “Only,” which features Drake, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown, made its way to YouTube Friday. For once, no one wanted to talk about Minaj’s butt. All anyone saw was the Nazi symbolism.

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The animation—black and white with some splashes of red—paints Minaj as a dictator, Drake as the pope, Brown as a military leader, and Lil Wayne as a business-mogul type. Behind them is some very clear Nazi imagery. The military wears red bands. The red tapestry showcases a logo for Young Money (the record label Lil Wayne founded) that looks eerily similar to the swastika. It’s jarring. The intro looks like it comes straight out of Looney Tunes.

If the video’s intention was to shock, it’s doing a great job of it.

It’s got a lot of people online riled up. Many have accused Minaj of anti-Semitism. Others want Minaj to take the video down. Some of the people who have issue with it are descendants of Holocaust survivors.

hey @NICKIMINAJ thanks for the blatant nazi imagery in your new video! really great allusion to persecution &genocide pic.twitter.com/prjM58hhMQ

— Melissa Morgan (@melissamorgs) November 8, 2014

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@NICKIMINAJ i <3 you. but making a nazi themed video, w/yourself as a sexy Hitler & your initials looking like a swastika? disrespectful :(

— Troye Sivan (@troyesivan) November 8, 2014

But the symbolism, whether intentional or not, goes further beyond the obvious allusion to Nuremberg and Nazism. There are tanks and soldiers, bombs dropped from planes, and propaganda shown on screens.

“You may also have missed that later in the video the words ‘CHAMBER’ are shown over a gas mask,” redditor stanfordy wrote in a thread about the video. “I don’t care if that was accidental, put that in the same video as Nazi imagery and it’s fucking alluding to genocide.”

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“I could see them applying the Nazi regime imagery if the whole song pertained to the same ideas presented in the hook,” marknobs wrote. “Chris Brown’s part somewhat fits the video theme, involving the exclusivity of a group of people. But the verses are about fucking each other.”

Some redditors were quick to point out that white artists such as Pink Floyd have used Nazi symbolism in music videos in the past and haven’t gotten the criticism that Minaj is receiving now for “Only.” Others dismiss the video as nothing but shock value to get people talking about it.

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“Nothing was intentionally made or forced to make Hitler references,” nickitellem wrote. “It’s literally just a dictatorship being depicted to show how Nicki, Lil Wayne and Drake run the country (that is rap music) with an iron fist.”

As some have noted, Nazism is still an issue some countries are dealing with today. Far-right, Nazi-affiliated politicians in Japan, Greece, Hungary, and other European countries are being elected into office.

In the most bizarre maybe-coincidence of all, the release of “Only” came just two days before the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Update 7:22am CT, Nov. 11: After staying silent about the “Only” lyric video over the weekend, Minaj sent out a series of tweets apologizing for it “if it has offended anyone.”

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The artist who made the lyric video for “Only” was influenced by a cartoon on Cartoon Network called “Metalocalypse” & Sin City.

— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) November 11, 2014

Both the producer, & person in charge of over seeing the lyric video (one of my best friends & videographer: A. Loucas), happen to be Jewish

— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) November 11, 2014

I didn’t come up w/the concept, but I’m very sorry & take full responsibility if it has offended anyone. I’d never condone Nazism in my art.

— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) November 11, 2014

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H/T Jezebel | Screengrabs via NickiMinajAtVEVO/YouTube

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*First Published: Nov 9, 2014, 4:26 pm CST