Over the past year and some change, Nicki Minaj has transformed from a female rapper on the rise into one of mainstream’s most captivating figures. The Queens bred starlet’s debut album Pink Friday broke records globally, changing the face (and sound) of women in Hip Hop forever. As Nicki Minaj has bid farewell to spit-talking in stairways and moved onto brighter pastures, she exclusively talks to DX about sacrificing her privacy in exchange for creative freedom and role model making fame. Her recent single “Super Bass” has a new video to match it, and the David Guetta-produced single “Where Them Girls At” with Flo Rida is set to ignite the clubs this summer. Eager to work on her Pink Friday follow-up, as well as a world tour next year, Nicki Minaj has no plans on stopping now.
HipHopDX: What’s been going on in the past week or so in the life of Nicki Minaj?
Nicki Minaj: Well, [announced as a performer] for the Billboard Awards, dance auditions for the Britney [Spears] Tour, the David Guetta video shoot coming up, and preparations for America’s Next Top Model.
DX: Did you have any idea last year that you were going to blow up like this? I’m sure you had an inkling.
Nicki Minaj: I think a little part of me deep down inside – the fantasy girl inside of me, always thought it would happen. But as far as knowing, I just always had faith. I believe that I had a calling in this thing that we call music business, and I just kept my faith. So I guess, yeah.
DX: It must be so rewarding to have evolved into a role model for young girls…and your Ken Barbz… It’s a beautiful thing.
Nicki Minaj: Thank you! I love my Barbz and my Ken Barbz, and it’s because of them that I’m able to do what I do and not make excuses for who I am anymore.
DX: There was this pivotal point in your career where you shifted and became the “real you” as you’ve said so many times. This is exactly who you wanted to be in the spotlight. As far as your team that surrounds you, as well as your label, do they give you free reign now? You went with your heart and the results worked out.
Nicki Minaj: Yes, absolutely. Young Money/Cash Money is already a hands-off type of label. So once they saw me being successful at my ideas, they were very very happy, proud, and supportive. They really really support all of my choices. I’ve never gone to them and had an idea or a suggestion and had them say “no”. You know? Even if they don’t understand it right away, they allow me to explain it. They really treat me like a boss. They treat me like the head of my own company, which, you know that’s what I am. I think every artist should carry themselves and act as if they are the CEO of their own company. Whether you have a label that you’re shouting out, it’s like you run you and your business.
DX: It can’t hurt that [Lil] Wayne is so abstract himself with his artistic approach to music…
Nicki Minaj: Absolutely. I never have to worry about Wayne thinking I’m going too far left because Wayne has been one of the pioneers in Hip Hop in terms of going too far left, you know? Whether he’s singing in Auto-Tune, whether he’s doing Rock or playing the guitar or he’s getting tats on his face, he kind of always does him. So yeah, it definitely helps.
DX: You’re a very private person and there’s nothing really too crazy out in the world about Nicki Minaj. Does it get increasingly harder to keep your privacy under wraps the more famous you get?
Nicki Minaj: Yeah, of course it gets harder, but it’s one of those things. It’s the price that you pay. Everyone knows when they get into this game, they kind of know that they’re bartering their privacy and they’re bartering peace of mind in order to win. None of this comes for free. It’s an exchange; you’re always exchanging one thing for the other. Obviously what I’ve gotten so far outweighs the things that I’ve had to trade in.
DX: In working with David Guetta, did you have any interest in European music? I know you do one hell of a British accent, but was Euro Dance music something you liked?
Nicki Minaj: You know what? I love all of David Guetta’s music, but I didn’t know that he was the man behind the music. So I would hear all of these songs on the radio and stuff and I’d be like, “Oh, that’s a dope song”, like the Flo Rida record ("Club Can't Handle Me") and the Black Eyed Peas record ("I Gotta Feeling"). When I met David and he started running down what he had been a part of and the records he produced, I was like, “Oh I’m definitely a fan of what you do!” The thing is, I really don’t discriminate when it comes to music. I love all kinds of music, and there’s really no exception with Dance music. I’ve never actually been in the clubs when “Where Them Girls At” came on – it’s still so early on – but I can’t wait to see how party people react to that song. It just feels like fun. When I think of that song, I think of Snooki and Ron from the Jersey Shore doing the fist-pump. You know, and Pauly D? [laughs] That’s what we thought of when we heard it. We were just cracking up in the studio. But at the end of the day it just goes to show you that music is a universal language. This record went Number One in countries that don’t even speak English. That means that music doesn’t have a language barrier. It’s its own language.
DX: So what’s next for you?
Nicki Minaj: Well, of course we’re going to do the tour with Britney; the Femme Fatale Tour. I’m super excited about that. Good Morning America in the summer as well, and just starting to work on my sophomore album. I’m really really excited about it. Of course we just put out “Super Bass”, which is the Number One record on Rap/Hip Hop on iTunes, and it got up to Number 12 on the Hot 100 on iTunes. So I’m just working on that and I’m super excited about continuing what I started with Pink Friday and then going all over the world next year. You know, I think the United States has had enough of me for a little bit, and I think I can now pack my bags and go to France and the UK and everywhere else. Just everywhere.