Nicki Minaj has success on her mind. The 24-year old rapper has only been in the game for a few years, yet she's already gathered enough buzz to make her peers jealous. Lil Wayne signed Minaj to his Young Money Entertainment with the hopes of making her the next great femme fatale of hip-hop.
Minaj is comfortable in that position. Her goal is clear -- to take the baton from Wayne and run with it. I remind her that Weezy's last outing, Tha Carter III, sold a million units in its first week and ask if she's up for the challenge. She jokes that she can top that performance. "I have to knock him well out the park," she says. "I definitely gotta exceed him."
That's Nicki Minaj in a nutshell: buoyant, resilient, focused. So, how does a female rapper break through a predominantly male-dominated field like hip-hop? "I don't hear 'NO' and 'I can't'," says Minaj. "I live by the quote, 'Where there's a will there's a way'." Minaj may not be the greatest wordsmith in hip-hop history, but her dedication is undeniable.
Empire State of Mind
Nicki Minaj, born Onika Maraj, caught that never-say-die syndrome from the streets of Queens, New York, where she was born and bred. She grew up on the sound of fellow Big Apple natives Lil Kim and Jay-Z. She cites Jigga's Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life as one of her favorite hip-hop albums.
"I remember listening to a lot of Jay-Z. The first hip-hop album I bought was a Jay-Z album. I have horrible memory, but it might have been Hard Knock Life. It was definitely a Jay-Z album." Unlike most Jay-Z fans, though, Nicki Minaj is not a fan of Reasonable Doubt era Jay-Z. "I listen to it [Reasonable Doubt] but I can't get into it."
Recipe for Songwriting Success
Though Minaj is still considered a rap rookie, she's already devised a songwriting formula that yields results. She starts by picking a beat, decides on a topic, crafts a hook, and then proceeds to the recording booth. "Sometimes, I'll sit with a beat for days and not have anything to rap to it. Sometimes, I'll write an entire song in 15-20 minutes."
The self-proclaimed Harajuku Barbie has been hard at work on her full-length debut. Her coming out party is preceded by a new compilation LP designed to showcase the talent on Lil Wayne's Young Money imprint. As a result, Minaj occasionally finds herself caught between crafting verses for her solo album and hooks for the Young Money group album simultaneously. However, she insists there's no break in continuity when she's writing for different projects at the same time.
"It adds a different dynamic to the process. I have ideas in my head that may not fit with the Young Money compilation, so I might use that on my album. And vice-versa." Rehearsing lyrics on the go is a normal part of the routine, as she's constantly preoccupied with shows.
Nicki Minaj's Top 5 MCs of 2009:MTV's Hottest MCs of 2009 list raised plenty of eyebrows in the hip-hop community. So, I asked Nicki to bless us with her insight on the subject. Here's her *cough, cough* unbiased Top 5:
- Lil Wayne
- Nicki Minaj
- Gucci Mane
Nicki Minaj released her debut, Pink Friday, on November 22, 2010.Interview Date: October 2009