Almost two years ago, a photo of Nicki Minaj along with an mp3 hit my inbox and I refused to listen. My first impression was that she was just another female rapper with no talent that would use her sex appeal to get by. Over a year later, Nicki Minaj’s “Beam Me Up Scotty” mixtape landed in my inbox atleast three times before I finally took a listen…And surprisingly, I liked what I heard. I then attended a few of her shows, and I liked what I saw. Her energy was insane!
In the industry today, female emcees almost fail to exist and the ones that have acquired success seem to be rated on sex appeal more than lyrical talent. Nicki Minaj definitely has “required” sex appeal but she also has undeniable talent to back it up. Of course, having ties to one of the most respected lyricist in the game (Lil Wayne) does boost her rating. However, its Nicki’s likeable persona and consistent grind that will keep her at the forefront of the movement to bring female rappers back.
I had the opportunity to chat with the newly signed Young Money artist this past weekend and she opened up to me about the politics of the industry, her sexuality, and the hurdles she had to overcome as a female rapper. We also talked about Maino, Lil Kim, Gucci Mane and Amber Rose. Peep the in-depth interview and introduction to Nicki Minaj below:
In your lyrics, I notice you often refer to yourself as the Black Hanna Montana or Nicki Lewinski, Why is that? I will not address being Lewinski since I do not go by that anymore. But, as Hanna Montana I have been able to optimize everyone of her talents and become a business woman and artist, that is why I use the Hannah Montana reference. I think of myself as a real girly girl and the kids like me now for some weird reason. Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) is really young and making lots of money and I don’t think we ever see that in the black community, with black artists. We saw it with Raven Symone but I decided I wanted to take it to another level.
My first time ever posting you on my site was when Sickamore brought me your mixtape and sent the promo pic where you emulated one of Lil Kim’s poses when she first came out. Do you think that is where the Lil Kim comparisons stems from? Of course, that picture played a huge role. I do say my little freaky shit in raps but everyone does. Every dude I listen to reference sex somewhere in their rap.
Have you met Lil Kim and how does she feel about you as an artist? I do not know. I did meet her when I was with Lil Wayne during the I AM Music tour. We chopped it up and I gave her props, but we haven’t spoken since. I got nothing but love for her, I think she is one of the key players in this female rap thing, so you can not do nothing but salute Kim.
In one of your records you were talking about the different labels that passed on you. I know you mentioned Sylvia Rhone and just some of things that they may have said such as “She wants to be the next Lil Kim or Lauryn Hill” and they also told you that you could not sing and rhyme on a record. What were some of the major concerns for the labels when you were taking your record to them? I never took my project to anybody, they always came looking for me. I think their perception of me was something that already been done before. My goal was to say , “no there has never been a Nicki Minaj this is brand new, a breath of fresh air. You either get it now or get it later but I am going to take over. They had concerns about me singing and rapping. Not Sylvia, just in general. I always heard great things from Sylvia. There were a few people who mention you are going to confuse the listeners so i think that I waited to sign because I felt I needed to solidify Nicki Minaj. I wanted people to know and understand her before I signed to a label. Because, once you sign to a label, that label has the power to change or create you. But, Nicki Minaj has already been created. So now its just time to go!
A few months ago, The music editor at XXL wrote you a cute little lettersaying, “the ball is in your court to bring female rap back” and that you are going to take over, How did you feel when you first read that letter? I was astonished (laughs). I have not used that word in a few years. That was an honor and I think it’s time. I think everybody feel as though it’s time to usher in a new wave of girls and to be talked about as the chosen one from such influential people, that makes me happy. Necole, when you first wrote about me on your blog, you did not get me yet. You had the lollipop picture up but that is the only thing you saw but you didn’t give me a chance. The thing is, everyday is a new accomplishment for me so talking to you is an accomplishment. Because one step at a time I change people’s perceptions of Nicki Minaj. So to have that written about me on XXL, that is a blessing.
I do not expect everyone to like me I know there is going to people that are going to hate me. I’m the same way, there are some artist who I love and there are some artist who I do not like. You have to at least give artists a chance but, I think with the girls a lot of people do not give us a chance because they might see us wearing a sexy outfit and they say, “this is a gimmick, blah, blah blah…” But, some of us actually have talent. That is a big part on why I decided to tone down my image because I want people to think about the talent first. I’m still going to be dressing and being crazy because I feel all girls should feel sexy. I’m not going to be over the top because it takes away from my talent. I do not want that any more.
The XXL editor was saying that as a male, what he expects out of a female artist is for their flows to be crazy and for them to have sex appeal. He said that the ladies needs someone they can relate to and the men needs someone they can lust over? Do you agree?
Of course. Everything in that letter was right on point. For people to say that is not true, they are in denial. I’m booked every weekend. Everywhere I go there are 90% girls with the pink hair and the pink lipstick and the pink this and that. The point is girls want to be like someone they think is cute. Young girls, college girls want to have fun. “Word, Nicki is wearing those bangs, the pink weave, oh I want to try that.” Dudes want to look at someone they can lust over that looks a particular way. The girl they are forbidden to have. And when you put those together, you have a lot of angry female rappers cause they can not put it together.
So do you think that some females rappers are more focused on appealing to men and they should be appealing to women? Of course, women buy records and are loyal supporters period. That is why Mary J. Blige still has a career. Women love Mary, they listen to her records and they can laugh with her and cry with her. That is what my girls do with me.
Back in the days, Ladies Night had all the hot female rappers. If you could create a 2009 version, what female rappers would you have on there? I got love for all the girls. I wish I could get all the females on there and do a thousand bars and wild out.
In some of your records you kind of reference certain things that would make the average person assume that you are a lesbian or bi-sexual. However I noticed in interviews you will dodge questions about your sexual orientation. There are some people that feel as though you gave black women who were afraid to be “free” with their sexuality a voice (especially in Hip Hop) but then you sort of pulled back. How do you feel about that? I pulled back on a lot of things so to specify that is kind of unfair. When I started to see how influential I was, I toned a lot of things down. I want to think more before I speak, I want to think about every message I’m sending. I did not realize I had 10 year old fans. When you are in that position its your job to be responsible. I say what I say in my rap.
I believe that rap is art. Its like people want art and life to coincide. Sometimes it doesn’t and some times you do not want it to. Sometimes you want to have an interview and not discuss anything about sex. That’s how i feel sometimes. I do put the block up because I feel like all people want to talk about is sex. I give you enough in my record. You know who I am and you can hear what I’m saying. It’s just too much.
I saw a video of Maino trying to get at you, why wouldn’t you give him a chance? Maino is crazy. If you are from New York you would understand. I love Maino but we were just having fun that day. Maino is very aggressive and he did a lot of time in jail. if you deal with a dude who did a lot of time in jail there is a certain aggression that they have. Its kind of sexy and scary at the same time….
Is it hard for you as Nick Minaj to date? Do you find it harder as you grow as an artist?
I can not date. I do not date anybody. I’m too busy and so focused on getting the prize. I go weeks without speaking to my best friends and it hurts me. But, I know that in a couple of years when I’m buying them houses and cars they will understand. Right now its not about me dating. I sign boobs at my shows and I kiss the girls and all . That is the closest I get to dating.
On day I was on twitter and a DJ stated “It’s cool that young minority females look up to Nicki Minaj but I wish they would look up to someone else like Michelle Obama. How do you feel about that statement? I don’t take any disrespect for that comment. I would love my girls to look up to the first lady, she is a black powerful woman. I’m glad Obama is in office its monumental and good for black people. The point is when you discipline or teach children you have to do it in a way that is realistic or you are just wasting your time. To tell a 13 year old girl to go and listen to every one of Michelle Obama speeches, you are being illogical. No, 13 year is going to do that. She might love Michelle Obama, as we all do but she is also going to want to listen to some female rappers and some singers. She is going to do what all 13 year old girls do. My job is to balance reality with advice. And, I think I do a great job with that. When ever I do my my shows I might do the freakiest song and stop it and let them know, “yeah this is all in fun, go to school, get your own money, pay your own bills and be a boss.” I always do that and I always promote keep your cookies exclusive. I never been loose in my life. The last thing I want a little girl to take away from my record is to be loose with a thousand dudes. I never been like that. So I always say that. Again, a lot of people do not come to my shows and do not witness these things. But, the girls that know Nicki Minaj and follow me know that. So I do not feel guilty because I know I’m balancing it with positive stuff. I have tons of positive records that no one talks about.
What does it takes to be a Barbie?, You call most of your girls Barbies. Its like a term of endearment for me. I use to call people “sweetie” and honey now I say Barbies. A lot of girls call themselves Barbies. Nicki Minaj did not invent that. People always add something to their Barbie name and because I love the Harajuku culture I made my Barbie the Harajuku Barbie, I thought it was unique and no one has ever said that kind of Barbie before. The girls ran with it, they gave it a life of its own. I never set out to be on no Barbie Movement. My Barbies made the barbie movement.
How do you feel about Amber Rose and seeing her “come up” when 6 months ago no one knew who she was? Now, she’s beginning to develop herself as a recognizable brand…
Stuff like that excites me because it goes to show some people lose hope in life.
Amber will be the first one to tell you that she was a stripper for years. I meet so many girls that has giving up hope and it goes to show you never know what God has in store for you or when its your time to shine. The only thing you can do is grind it out and believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Amber is dope, sexy and fashionable. She is also a humble person.
There were rumors that you had to dissociate yourself with Gucci Mane when you signed with Young Money. Are you still on good terms …
Of course. Me, Gucci and Bobby V just did a record and we are about to work on something tonight. Gucci is my baby and anybody who questions that is a hater and needs to sit down. Gucci will always be my baby. He’s like my big brother. Me and Gucci have a relationship that is behind this fake sh*t. Most people do not know that when I first came to Atlanta, Gucci embraced me and we did song after song, after song. At that time, my buzz was no where near where it is now and he just rode it out with me. I’m very grateful to Gucci. Me signing with Young Money did nothing to change my relationship with Gucci. We still have the same manager so we will always have a special tie to one another, no matter what.
As a female in the industry, do you think there is a false perception that you have to sleep your way to the top?
I think you can tell who is a smart person and who would sleep with someone to get to the top. I think if you have talent, you do not have to sleep with anybody. I never slept with anybody in the business and I do not plan to. I think people mistake sexual power with something nasty and sleazy. I do what the boys do. The boys take their shirts off , they work out, they feel on their crotch. Why don’t people talk about that? Did they sleep their way to the top? There are tons of gay executives in hip-hop, people aren’t talking about the fact that these dudes may be sleeping their way to the top, because I know a couple.
If you could pick one record that could be your introduction to Nicki Minaj to a new audience, what song would it be?
The song, “Can Anybody Hear Me” is a song that I show my vulnerable side and I explain my low point. Only if you are a real Nicki Minaj fan you will know of it. All the other songs get so watered down and everyone knows it. Itty Bitty Piggy is like the biggest thing I ever done. When I do that song at my shows its like Elvis is back home. Those two songs are a good contrast of my personality because I’m playful on one and serious on the other.
If you weren’t rapping what do you think you’d be doing? I went to school for acting so I probably be acting. I also love law and i watch forensic files all the time and I’m interested in how people solve crimes. I would probably be a criminal defense lawyer or something crazy.