Day 28: Nicki Minaj
In less than five years, Nicki Minaj has taken over. She's transcended genres while planting her flag as one of rap's leading MCs—gender aside—as well as firming her brand as an entrepreneur with a flourishing empire. And for Nicki, paying the cost has no doubt made her a boss.
Nicki Minaj: "I would get on everybody's nerves [around] the house when singing the Star-Spangled Banner all the time and singing in weird voices. I would make up names for people. I still don't know why I did that. I remember going to high school, and I decided that I only wanted to put a 'B' in front of people's name. And I didn't care what your name was, I thought you should have a 'B' in front of your name. It was always there but hip-hop, in the early stages, made me feel I had to suppress [it]. Now I'm like, love it or hate it, this is me." (2010)
"When I started rapping, people were trying to make me like the typical New York rapper, but I'm not that. No disrespect to New York rappers, but I don't want people to hear me and know exactly where I'm from. (2010)
"People definitely gave me a hard time... ridiculed, laughed at me, expected and wanted me to fail. It only made me better." (2011)
DJ Holiday (2011): "Back then, I tended to shy away from female rappers because you don't know what they're going to be about, but in the studio Nicki was totally confident. She was writing to beats right in front of me, and there were a million things going on, but Nicki was totally focused. I would look at her with headphones on and think, 'Damn, that girl is super focused.' Her musical ideas for 'Beam Me Up' blew me away. I knew that with a lot of focus and a push she would become something special."
Nicki Minaj (2010): "I was rapping on a DVD ("Come Up"). He saw the DVD and said he wanted to meet with me to discuss being a part of Young Money. I always liked him, Juve, B.G.… I never thought when watching their videos that I'd be a part of them."
"He's (Lil Wayne) been such a major part of my career, I can't imagine it without him. He brought that spotlight on me sooner than I could ever imagine… Young Money keeps my street edge. I can't get to up in the sky [because] then Wayne is like, 'I need you to be Nick.' It keeps me grounded and what drew people to me in the first place."
Birdman: "We were in LA and Wayne came into my room and played me a DVD that she was on. He was so hyped about it. We were just in awe of her delivery, her swag and her confidence. He flew her in the next day to meet us. When we first saw her, we knew she'd be the female rapper of Young Money. Wayne had been looking for a female rapper to be a part of the team and when he'd seen that it was a wrap. It was how she was saying what she was saying. It inspired me.
Nicki Minaj (2010): "I like to write early in the morning when no one's up. Like 6'o-clock in morning is when my brain is at its peak. I haven't been indignated with emails or phone calls or deal with the world yet. That's my only ritual."
"I listen to beats and whatever emotion the beat ignites, that's what I write.I write in my notebook, and sometimes come up with ideas in my head. But if it's stuff that I'm singing, I don't write it at all. I just record it in the studio."
"I'm so critical of my own stuff that I take a lot longer. I psych myself out, thinking it's not good enough so I wind up doing it over and over. But with features, I let the magic happen and it's a lot quicker." (2010)
The Making of "Pink Friday"
Nicki Minaj (2010): "Mixtapes were saying I can rap and the album [was] saying I can make a song - that's a big difference in the real world."
"I'm inspired by the beat. When a beat comes on, I am either going to sing on it or rap on it. To be honest, I was doing it (singing) as a reference for singers. At times when I would do it, people on my team would say, 'You should leave it. It sounds good.' I left a lot of [my] vocals on the album because it's more personal to me and what I'm speaking about. The album happened to be more personal so I didn't want to get 10 R&B singers on it."
"I went in really not knowing what it is I wanted to say and I didn't know if I was going to give all my different characters life in the album. At one point I was afraid, thinking, 'Can every one of my characters be on the same album? And if I do that, can this album still be authentic, exciting [and] real?" (2010)
"She (Taylor Swift) was doing a radio interview, and they asked what song she liked. And she asked, 'Can it be a song that hasn't came out yet?' She started rapping 'Super Bass.' Then she tweeted that she liked 'Super Bass' and all her fans who had never heard of Nicki Minaj went and purchased it. I think after she tweeted that, 'Super Bass' climbed up like 80 spots, the same day on iTunes. That's why people don't understand why I keep thanking Taylor Swift. This is real." (2011)
Birdman: "Working with Nicki and watching her work [on 'Pink Friday'] was magical to me. I wanted to see it all come out of her. I wanted her to do what she wanted to do and tend to that."
The Making of "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded"
Birdman: "For what she did, to explore that side of music, is hard. It's not easy. Coming where we come from and where she comes from, I don't find what she did easy at all. It worked and it did what it ended to do."
Birdman: "For the new album, she's doing what she feels like doing and we're supporting her. You hear a lot of growth in her music. She's coming confident and hard. We expect for this to be one of the biggest [albums] from her. It's more rap. This album is going to have a little bit of everything but more rap. I am sure some of the team will be on it. She's still doing her thing, then getting features on it. She's definitely coming this year. She hasn't picked a date yet. What she did for Young Money is totally different then what she's doing for her album. She's more girlier. 'Tha Carter V' will definitely come before Nicki's [album]."
Nicki Minaj (2010): "Life is about growth and I don't want to remain the same my whole life -- I want to be able to change. I have to be true to me -- I started seeing different things, going to different places, eating different things. It would be fraudulent to rap the same way and look the same way, because I'm not the same. Period."
Birdman: "She's still eager to learn. She never acts like she knows everything. She loves to learn and that's the thing I respect the most about her."