She’s your favorite rappers’ favorite female rapper
Let’s get something straight. Nicki Minaj is more than just “Not Bad for a Girl.” She’ll straight embarrass some of your favorite same testosterone-fueled MCs. The Queens, N.Y., rhymer born Onika Maraj made a splash with her 2008 mixtape Sucka Free—that was a then-23-year-old Nicki getting her Lil’ Kim on in a raunchy butterfly pose while licking a lollipop. Now the first lady of Young Money has a new mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, that’s making noise, and the cinnamon head-turner is now working on her much-anticipated major label debut. Will Nicki Minaj save female rap? She certainly has the goods.
Do you get a little intimidated when people call you the savior of female rap?
I don’t think intimidated is the word. I definitely get excited by it. I don’t want to let anybody down. I’ve always been the type of person to make everybody happy and get things done. I want everything to be 100 percent perfect. I do feel it when people hold me to high expectations.
On your latest mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, you covered a diverse range of musical genres from dancehall to club music to hardcore hip hop. Will we see that type of production range on your major studio debut?
I think that the album will be a little bit more focused on one type of sound. But you know, I definitely want to be one of those artists that continue to do their mixtapes. The people that just really love the ‘Street Nicki’ can still get a dose of that; but I think that when the album comes out, it will be more focused on things that you would hear on the radio. It will be more radio-friendly because honestly, those are the type of records that I like to write. I don’t think people know that about me. Records like “Kill da DJ” and stuff like that, I have fun writing that; I have fun singing. Those songs make me happy. So I think I want to make my album more like that. But whatever I do, I always will have those real songs where I talk about real things.
Do you have a specific story you want to get out to the fans?
I have a song I wrote called “Autobiography.” I came from a very intense living situation, with having a parent on drugs and not having a lot of money. So I always want to talk about the real things. But I think 90 percent of my music, I want it to be ‘feel-good music’. I’m already recording tracks for my album, but when it comes time to actually say, ‘this is the album,’ I may be in a completely different space than I’m in right now.
Now as far as the label situation goes, everybody’s been asking the $64,000 question: “What label is Nicki Minaj going to sign with?”
People will know within 30 days. I don’t think I want to wait too much longer than that. In another interview I was basically talking about the other deals that I had seen that other female rappers had signed. I felt like they weren’t treated like a star. I feel like before you sign anything in this business, you have to truly believe that you’re not only a star, but a superstar. When you think of yourself like that, you won’t really just go ahead and sign the first thing that comes your way because you’ll know that all the fame and fortune stuff will happen. Like right now, I’m not concerned with people asking, ‘When are you going to be mainstream?’ I’m not concerned with those things because I know that it’s destined to happen for me. What I’m concerned about is being a female and getting my business in order. Those are things I think a lot of females didn’t think about before. I hope that girls that come after me will remember that Nicki Minaj said, “Get your business in order first and then do what you love to do.” You’ll then be happy on both sides of the spectrum. So that’s what I’m doing. I was being a little hesitant, but we’re looking at contracts right now. You know, we’ll see what happens. I’m just gonna put it in God’s hands and leave it there.
Talk about the experience of being on Lil Wayne’s I Am Music tour. You’re still a relatively new artist and you get to see a superstar on stage sell out every night and have thousands of fans scream his name. That has to be eye-opening, right?
That tour made something inside of me say, Oh my God, I want this! I know that I have this in me, and I want this! It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me really kick in into that next gear and say, I’m about to go hard or go home! I have one more chance to prove to the underground world and prove that I am who I say I am. And I did it. I did it with Beam Me Up Scotty. I put out music, it wasn’t just freestyles. It was music; it was talking about a lot of different things like you said. It was showing versatility and showing rap skill, and singing and all of that.
What type of influence has Wayne had on your career?
Wayne has always been my biggest influence. It’s weird because I sit down and talk to Wayne like he’s just a regular human being, and then I walk on stage with him and there’s 20,000 people screaming for him. I think it puts it into perspective for me like, Wait a minute, this is actually attainable. I could have this; I just need to focus and remember that my grind is just beginning. I always say that that’s what I learned from Wayne the most; he never stops grinding. It showed me, Yo, this dude is the truth, and I’m going to follow in his footsteps.
I know you’ve recorded a couple of freestyles with Drake, who seems to be on everybody’s mind these days. What are your thoughts on what’s happening with him right now?
I’m just excited for him. I’m rooting for him. It’s so funny because I feel like out of all of Young Money, me and Drake are real, real close. I remember when this was just a dream of ours. We would literally sit down and talk and pour our hearts out to each other. To see this happening, it just makes me feel like a proud sister almost when it comes to him. I know that he’s talented and he’s been there to really motivate me when a lot of people weren’t there. I feel like I was able to do the same thing for him. Since we’ve met each other, we’ve been each other’s biggest fan. It’s like seeing your brother shine; it’s like the best feeling in the world.
Who are some of the producers and artists you’ve been working with in the studio?
I’ve been in the studio with Wayne for the last couple of days. I did some joints for his new album, Rebirth. It’s one joint on there that I think people are going to absolutely fall in love with. I’ve been using a lot of new producers because I just don’t feel like I have to spend a million dollars to get a hot beat. I feel like the beat is going to ultimately be what I make it and I’ve had the pleasure of just meeting some freakin’ geniuses. Producers that are like 17 years old. We’re gonna start our movement together. As far as the artists, I did a song with Trina. I think Keri Hilson is gonna be on there. I did a song with Eric Benét and a record with Teairra Mari. I do songs with Lil Wayne all of the time and Gucci Mane all of the time. Next year, you’re going to start hearing Nicki Minaj on everything because I’m planting my seeds now. I’m also recording tracks for the Young Money album.
You seem to be the one MC that all the other female MCs go after to battle.
Well, first of all, I haven’t gone at anyone. I’ve never gone at anybody. I’m not even trying to be sarcastic. I know people go at me everyday. I have tons of YouTube videos where fans just make their own videos of themselves reciting Nicki Minaj raps. So, I do it for them. I do it for all of my Barbie Dolls. On Beam Me Up Scotty, I didn’t write one thing directed to anybody. People were talking about my “Grindin’” freestyle, which was done over two years ago. That’s bullshit.
What part of the game is that?
It’s the wack-ass, corny-ass part of the game! People never want to see females shine. They want to keep you bobbed down and keep you in a box where all you do is fight. Like little freakin’ mice in a little freakin’ experiment. I’m Nicki Minaj, bitch! It’s Barbie, bitch! That’s my catchphrase, “It’s Barbie, bitch!” Nothing else matters. Niggas know. I let everybody else promote Nicki Minaj. You can talk about me in every interview you do. I won’t talk about you in shit I do.
How does it feel to go back to your old neighborhood in Queens, N.Y., with the success that you have had?
When I shot my MTV mixtape footage in Jamaica, Queens, like a couple weeks ago, people we’re so shocked and excited for me. They were like, Wow! These were people that saw me as a little freakin’ kid; as a little dusty girl in elementary school! Then they see me in the park with an MTV mic in my hand, and a Ferrari and cameras all around. Most of them were guys that rapped as well. It was kind of interesting to see them look at me. I almost felt guilty; sometimes you feel guilty for your success because it’s like I know how many people have worked so hard to be recognized as a rapper. They were looking at me like, Damn! Why didn’t I get that chance? Why did it happen to her? That’s why I have to be thankful for my situation because while it’s not where I want it to be, I’m still better off than a lot of people. As far as me going back to Queens, it’s like a great homecoming. My people are always proud of me and playing my music. It’s just dope! Southside, Jamaica, Queens, all day!