Weekend Picks: "Black Panther," Nicki Minaj, Cardi B
Friday and Saturday at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, 7 p.m.
In light of the failure of “A Wrinkle in Time,” the cultural importance of “Black Panther” has become all the more evident. Both films were monumental for black representation in front of and behind the camera, yet the latter succeeded where the former failed by engaging an eager audience with the most thoughtful story and well-developed characters yet seen in a Marvel film. After a second viewing, I reveled in the maturity and boldness of director Ryan Coogler’s work. Is the commentary in “Black Panther” about racism, slavery and colonialism revolutionary? Perhaps not. But for a populist piece of superhero entertainment to make over a billion dollars while still incorporating these themes exemplifies the genuinely positive impact cinema can have in our society. If nothing else, it should hopefully force both Marvel and its fans to reconsider what kinds of stories can be told in their shared Cinematic Universe. -Sebastian Wurzrainer
“Chun-Li” and “Barbie Tingz”
Rap music has missed Nicki Minaj. It’s been four years since the world’s most successful female rapper dropped her 2014 album, “The Pinkprint,” and while Minaj’s features have been sprinkled throughout the music charts, her voice has been largely absent in recent months as she took a hiatus from social media. On April 12, the Queens rapper broke her silence on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 radio show, where she released two new singles, “Chun-Li” and “Barbie Tingz.” Each track feels like a battle cry, the roar of a warrior. “Chun-Li,” a track alluding to the Street Fighter character of the same name, emerges as a song for the disgraced “bad guy.” Invoking the video game character, Minaj rejects the villainy she argues has been imposed upon her. On “Barbie Tingz,” Minaj embraces her character of choice, calling on the Barbie motif she’d abandoned in recent features. Pristine and braggadocious, Minaj is at her best in “Barbie Tingz.” The Queen has returned. -Jordan McDonald
"Invasion of Privacy"
The rise of Bronx-born star Cardi B has been astounding. Emerging as a figure of Instagram fame, Cardi’s infectious personality, comedic energy and hip-hop ambitions propelled her into the spotlight. With two mixtapes, a stint on VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop: New York,” hit single “Bodak Yellow” and the April 6 release of her highly-anticipated debut album, “Invasion of Privacy,” Cardi has made it clear that she is here to stay. Going gold in a matter of days, the album has been well-received by many and is thoroughly unimpressed with Cardi’s haters. Her independence anthem “I Do,” which features singer SZA, Cardi addresses non-believers flippantly: “My little 15 minutes lasted long as hell, huh?” Balancing emotional tracks like “Be Careful” and “Thru Your Phone” with club-ready hits like “Bickenhead,” “Money Bag” and “I Like It,” the album offers some of Cardi’s best and most creative work thus far. -Jordan McDonald