Don’t call it a re-release. On a recent Sunday night, Nicki Minaj descended a staircase in one of San Antonio’s luxury resorts, dressed in sweats and Hello Kitty slippers and visibly beating back sleep — “My brain, it winds down like a computer,” she laughed as she struggled to put her first few thoughts together. The MC-cum-judge had just wrapped a grueling day of shooting “American Idol” at the city’s historic Sunset Station but when talk turned to her new album, Minaj was having none of this “re-release” talk.
Sure, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded the Re-Up includes seven tracks from her April disc, Roman Reloaded, but the multiplatinum rapper-cum-TV judge wanted to make it clear that sometime in between concocting her own fragrance, walking in MJ’s loafers and throwing diva shade at Mariah, she’d managed to record eight brand-new tracks … that have nothing to do with starships.
“I am in a stage right now, where that’s just how I feel,” she told MTV News, turning the word feel to “fill” in that Southside Jamaica, Queens way. “I’m on my rap sh– — that’s just how I feel right now. But I’m [also] saying that there’s nothing wrong with being diverse. [But] where I am right now? I’m back to my popping sh–!” she declared before cracking up into a contagious fit of laughter.
It turns out Young Money’s reigning first lady may have something to prove. Though she was adamant that she doesn’t “approval” or “limit” herself, Minaj sounded like an MC eager to remind fans that first and foremost, she’s, well, an MC. “The Re-Up is what I do naturally. It’s what I came into the game doing,” she emphasized. “So I actually don’t have the fears about it being critiqued. I guess when I started doing dance songs, then there was more like a question mark there, ’cause I had never done it.
“But the songs I’m doing on the Re-Up,” she continued, “I haven’t even gone into it thinking about criticism. I’ve already mastered [rap].” Now speaking in hushed tones, she softly scolded, “When people hear it, they will hear stuff that Nicki Minaj has already mastered. I don’t need approval on that.”
She may not need an OK from you, but there’s no doubt Minaj has heard the complaints from her O.G. Barbz who argue that she’s been swimming too many laps in the pop pool and needs to dive back into rapping. On Friday, Nicki dropped “High School,” a breezy track that finds her trading bars with her YMCMB boss, Lil Wayne. And on the introspective, low-tempo “Freedom,” she insists that her rap-and-radio domination was always written. “Oh sh–, my commercial’s on/ Did I really body bitches with commercial songs?/ Did I really prophesy everything I do?” she spits.
So while Minaj seems to have crafted the Re-Up for her hip-hop contingent, she won’t be forced into a box like some Barbie. “You wanna know what’s crazy about people who take risks?” she asked. “They don’t always get the praise but in the long run, they get the respect because most artists in this business are so petrified of thinking outside of the box that they will remain in one little box for their whole careers. And to each his own, but I feel like as women, we gotta dare to be different.”