Nicki Minaj of Queens, NY is the foul-mouthed offspring of Lady Gaga’s avant-pop fashion and Lil Wayne’s attitude. Her debut album Pink Friday gave her the biggest first-week sales for a female rapper since Lauryn Hill’s Miseduction in 98. Her list of collaborators and features reads like best of the contemporary American rap scene; Drake, Kanye, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Cam’ron, 2 Chainz, Nas, Lil Wayne. Now her new single, Pills N Potions, a Dr Luke produced ballad, is surging up the charts, reaching the UK Top 40 after only 48 hours of being on sale. We caught up with the rapper talking about working with Kanye, being fondled by Rihanna and running away with Drake.
What was it like growing up in Trinidad, how different did it feel when you moved to New York?
In Trinidad we didn’t have much, we lived in a house with three bedrooms and 15 people. My parents moved to the States and then they sent for me, and I thought everything was going to be great. But my father fell victim to drug and alcohol abuse, so it was an uphill battle for a very, very long time. He was really, really addicted. My mother had to make ends meet the best way she knew how.
How did your childhood affect you, as an adult?
As a kid you don’t realise these things are shaping your psyche, but they obviously do. It made me a very aggressive person. I always heard lots of yelling, fighting and cussing. It made me a very reactive person. I’ve been learning how to tone that down a bit, I’ve been learning how to say "ok, cool, I gotta think things through, I can’t always react." What motivated me was that I wanted to get my mother out of her situation, so I always wanted to kick ass at whatever I did.
You’re known for being obsessed with the UK?
Since I was a little kid I’ve imitated the British accent, I watched the movie Gladiator a billion and ten times so I could learn all the lines and be able to say them in a British accent. I love the way you guys speak. You always make lots of facial expressions. Like... [pulls faces and drops a British accent] ‘It was craaaazy, it was wiiiiicked’. I love making faces. For my first rap with Wayne I said "you be Harry Potter and I’ll be Hermione." I’ve always been obsessed with you Brits, this is not new.
What are your influences?
The way I rap is the way I speak, it’s conversational. I try not to limit what I put in my raps. I approach it like I have something to prove, whenever I do records I think, if this is my last time to say something to the hip hop world, what would I say? How would I thank people, talk about my past, prepare them for my future and also do it with style and swag? And then I go in.
What was it like working with Kanye?
When I got the call to be on Kanye’s album that’s when I started thinking "hmm…" They have their little circle and I didn’t really expect to be accepted in that little circle. Once I knew I was getting on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy I felt like this might be a movement. This is big for a female rapper to be on a Kanye album.
Do you feel like being a female rapper is more accepted now?
I think the stars have aligned and now it’s our time, I don’t know what happened, but I hope we get way more female rappers coming to the game and at a faster pace.
Do you rap for women?
I represent girls of all colours and shapes. I’m someone just about everyone can identify with. I don’t exclude anybody. I think that’s what I bring to pop culture. That’s the way I speak. I like to compliment girls and make them feel proud and make them feel better about who they are, no matter how they look.
Who’s your ideal man?
One day I will run away with Drake and get married, but right now it’s just a fantasy.
And your ideal woman?
Rihanna. She fondled me at the MTV Awards and the America Music Awards. I love her. She’s the best fondler ever.
What does the future hold?
I want to be a mogul; I want to have multiple businesses where I can employ hungry people, people who are eager to learn. I want to have foundations where I can put people through college; I want my Barbs to be smart, not to be crazy and foolish and not to depend on boys. I want to do something to inspire people all around the world. I’d like to be remembered as one of the great rappers and a mogul, an actress, a mother and a wife.