The baddest rapper in the business checks in with Out to chat about her colossal new collaboration with DJ David Guetta, the possibility of writing the theme song for Ricki Lake’s new talk show, and how she felt about Eminem using a homophobic slur on her track “Roman’s Revenge.”
Last October, Out was one of the first magazines to try and contain the ferociousness of Nicki Minaj within its pages. Since then, she’s released her hugely successful debut album, Pink Friday, which broke a mess of records including the most consecutive weeks in the Top 10 by a female rapper. Nicki has also had the most appearances at one time by a female rapper on the Billboard Hot 100. In the last six months she’s also gone on tour with Lil’ Wayne, debuted a slew of videos, including her most recent for “Super Bass,” and guest starred on tracks by Britney Spears and, most recently, megawatt DJ David Guetta.
We caught up with Nicki to find out more about her collaboration with Guetta on the soon-to-be biggest jam of the summer, “Where Them Girls At,” which also features Flo Rida, her interest in writing a theme song for Ricki Lake’s new talk show, and how she felt about the homophobic slur Enimem unleashed on her track “Roman’s Revenge.”
Out: A couple of months ago you said you didn’t want to do any more guest spots on tracks — except perhaps for Britney Spears — so you could concentrate on your own music. What was it about David Guetta and “Where Them Girls At” that made you change your mind?
Nicki Minaj: When I heard it, I knew it was a smash. It’s one of those records. When something comes on and just makes you feel euphoric and you just get out of your seat and the second time they play it you already know all the words — that’s the feeling it gave me. So Flo Rida was on it and the hook was already on it. And David actually asked me to be on it, and I said, “No — if I’m going to do something with you, let it be just me.” But when I heard the record, it was so undeniable. I said, “You know what? This makes me happy. I can imagine girls in the club bucking out to this record. Let me get on it.” Because, honestly, I did want to minimize my guest appearances, but I’m no fool. [Laughs]
O: How do you come up with your lyrics? If someone reaches out to you to do a guest spot, do you already have a notebook full of lyrics to pull from or do you write rhymes specifically for each track?
N: Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m writing something specific to each track. Especially the busier I am, the less writing I’m doing. When I’m home, like when I was home working on Pink Friday, then I have some stuff already sitting there in my notebooks. But when I’m on the road, no. It’s like when someone sends me something, it’s brand new off the top of my head, whatever that beat makes me feel.
O: One of the lines from the remix of Britney Spears’s “Till The World Ends” that you’re featured on gives a shout-out to ’90s talk show host and Hairspray star Ricki Lake. As soon as the remix debuted, everyone was buzzing about Ricki again — “Ricki Lake” was even trending on Twitter. What does it feel to have that kind of influence?
N: I really love Ricki. Of course I was super young when I watched her show, but something about her demeanor just always came across as the girl next door, and she had this sweet smile. It was done as a joke but to know that someone I really like wound up getting a little bit of face time from it — it’s pretty cool. I mean people do that for me, and it’s good to return the favor.
O: She actually tweeted that she wants you to write the song for her new talk show. Would you ever consider that?
N: [Laughs] I’m sure. Yes, I would definitely consider that. I don’t know if I would perform it, but writing it is a different story. I’m sure I could think of something really cool and catchy.
O: Before Pink Friday came out you hinted that it wasn’t going to be a straightforward rap album, and it turned out to be more of a fusion of hip-hop and pop. Now you’re on these massive dance tracks with Britney and David Guetta. When you think about your position in the industry, how do you visualize yourself? Do you consider yourself primarily a rapper, or have distinctions between genres fallen out completely?
N: I’m an entertainer. I’m just an entertainer that is rooted in hip-hop. And of course I’m a rapper because when it comes to my skill, I don’t think anyone can deny that. I don’t think that you can deny that I’m sitting here writing my own lyrics and I’ve written my lyrics since the beginning of time, and I’m very proud of that. So, of course, I’m a rapper first and foremost, but I’m an entertainer. And I think that all of my favorite artists — in my head — they’re entertainers.
O: You’re going on the road with Britney this summer. Do you feel a particular kinship with her?
N: Absolutely. I feel like she has experienced life as an underdog, and I feel like my whole career I’ve been the underdog. I think that it just goes to show that when you are a strong woman, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. You bounce back from whatever. And I think she’s probably gone through 10 times whatever I’ve gone through. But the fact that she came back out with just so much fire inspires me, and it inspires young women and people all over the world. It just inspires you. A lot of my fans feel like they are the underdog and feel like they are the people who aren’t ever accepted for themselves, or who are laughed at or poked fun at forever. It just goes to show that once you keep at whatever it is you’re doing, people may not like you, people may not love you, but they will have to respect you at the end of the day. And that respect is all that matters.
O: I also think it’s your underdog persona that many of your gay fans relate to. Speaking of which, when Pink Friday came out last fall, a lot of people were upset about Eminem’s use of the word “faggot” on your track “Roman’s Revenge.” What’s your take on it?
N: You know, if I’m being honest, I didn’t like [him using it]. I spoke to everyone I knew about it. I spoke to my hairdresser, who’s one of my closest friends. I sat him down and said, “Terrence, what do you think about this? How does this make you feel?” And we had a long, long talk. And he said he didn’t feel like Eminem was talking about a gay person. He felt like it was a word being used to describe a straight man, and he didn’t take offense to it. It’s Eminem — I felt like we were creating a movie. And in the same way, I feel like if you were to watch your favorite actor or actress say “faggot” or say “nigger” in a movie, you don’t hate them because it’s like they’re playing a role. “Roman’s Revenge” was more like a theatrical piece. I was a character and [Eminem] was a character. This was Slim Shady and Roman. Of course, when it comes to creativity, there’s such a thin line between creativity and something being offensive. But one thing I knew for sure was that my gay fan base knows about how I feel about them, and I’ve embraced them from the beginning — since my mix-tape days. [Reaching out to gay fans wasn’t something I did] once I came into pop culture just to try and get some extra fans. So I felt like the positive would outweigh the negative, and we just kept moving with that.