Obviously the stakes are higher with Nicki’s new album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and with that the singer seems more determined than ever to stand on her own two, above all the rest. Check out the excerpts and photos when you continue.
What wows you these days? Everything that comes your way keeps becoming bigger, bigger, bigger.
If I wasn’t doing it, I wouldn’t believe it’s possible. I remember when I was working with Jay-Z. It was like, “Oh my God. Did I really just do a song with Jay?” I worked with Mariah and it wasn’t commercially successful. But I had fun and I made a real friendship with her. It was, obviously, a life-changing moment for me. It does feel like every moment is getting bigger and bigger. Not only did I get a call to do a song with Madonna, but then I got a call to do a video with Madonna, and then—oh, by the way—you’re going to do the Super Bowl with Madonna. This is not really happening.
Do you have to put the excitement off to the side to keep yourself from freezing up?
I happen to be a pessimist, and maybe that’s a good thing because I don’t stop to smell the roses—which is not a good personal thing. I don’t stop and enjoy those moments. I’m just [snaps fingers] on to the next. Always on to the next and never in the moment.
When you’re constantly exceeding your own expectations, how do you set new goals?
Doing the Super Bowl with Madonna doesn’t really change Nicki Minaj’s personal goals. My goal right now is still to put out Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, sell five million copies eventually, and tour every country in the world. That’s what I’ve been working toward. So while the world is talking about, “Oh my God, I can’t believe Nicki Minaj was at the Super Bowl!” I’m mixing and mastering my music. In my scheme of things it’s way bigger.
Because those surprises can’t replace the things you want to achieve by yourself?
Because my goal the whole time has been for people to see me as a stand-alone artist. I came out with Young Money, the biggest hip-hop label in the world at that time. And then it was, “How do I branch away from Lil Wayne?” One of my biggest records was with Drake, “Moment 4 Life.” Even with the Super Bowl, it’s Madonna’s moment. I’m just sharing in that moment. It’s not Nicki Minaj’s moment. Nicki Minaj at the Grammys—that’s my moment. I’ve just been constantly on this quest to stand alone.
Tyrone Biggums, is that you??? (we kid!)
When I look at the Nicki Minaj franchise—the fashion, the success of songs like “Superbass,” the media thirst—I don’t see you in any kind of supporting role.
When you’re told something for a long time, even when it changes, your mind frame doesn’t change and you’re subconsciously trying to prove everyone wrong. Even though I know what I’m capable of, I still haven’t had a performance where I would say, “I want this to go down in the Nicki Minaj history book.” I am my own worst critic. For instance, the American Music Awards was set to be an amazing performance, but then I had a horrible malfunction with the clothes and the hair ten minutes before I opened. So I was backstage having a fawking nervous breakdown.
My hair was supposed to light up, my choker was too small. So while I was in the box, waiting for the show to open, I had to rip the shit off, throw it to the side, and act like nothing happened. When I got off stage I freaked out because it was just so emotional. I really, really, really wanted that to be a dope show.
But I was watching and didn’t notice anything wrong.
Does that ease the frustration at all?
No, because I’m not doing it for everyone else. I’m doing it to prove to myself that I can do it. To prove to myself that I don’t have to settle for less because I’m a female rapper or because I’m black. And until I prove it to myself, it’s not gonna matter. No one’s opinion is going to matter. I really just have to perfect something.
Anybody else feel like maybe if she focused more on rapping and less on the theatrics and wardrobe she’d be that much better for it?
What’s your off-stage persona?
I’m the biggest homebody. But I’ve been like this. Nothing about me has changed since I got fame. I never liked to go to clubs. I never liked to go out. I don’t know where that public craziness came from. I was always like a comedian to my friends and family, but in a lot of ways I’m shy. I think people read my shyness as being mean. They misinterpret it. The first and only person who ever called me out for being shy was Wayne.
Did he recognize it in you because he could relate to that shyness?
Actually, no. Wayne is the least shy person in the world. He loves to be the center of attention. He eats it for dinner. And that’s why I was so drawn to him. I wanted that confidence. Wayne wants to put on a show for everybody. He enjoys people looking at him.
He would make up raps in front of people. Meanwhile, it took me so long to allow people in the studio because writing was such a personal thing to me. It was revealing everything about myself. How could I let people see that before I fine-tune every word, the delivery, the flow? But with Wayne, he just trusts his first gut.
Like so many women, it sounds like you’re hyper-aware of both your action and the world’s reaction. With all the hundreds of photos you have to take, do you feel more confident with cameras?
I hate cameras. I hate cameras and I hate camera phones. The camera’s my worst enemy and my best friend. It’s the way I convey my emotions to the world without saying a word, so I use it. People always say, “You come alive as soon as the camera’s on!”
Do you rehearse those over-the-top face and body animations?
No, I hate rehearsing. I never rehearse what I’m gonna do in a video. It’s just that I have this love-hate relationship with the camera. I wanna please the camera so bad. The perfectionist in my brain is like, “You have to be on.” I always want to feel like I gave everything my all and never, never, never exhibit laziness.
Yikes. That’s a level of personal drive that nobody can ask for. At this point in your career, I’m sure you can call certain shots that you couldn’t before.
In the beginning people thought they knew who I was but they didn’t. They tried to create something. Whenever I’m being me, the people love it. They connect with it. But whenever I find myself in a situation—prime example, during a photo shoot, if a photographer is telling me every little thing to do, I shut down. And you might as well kiss the photo shoot goodbye. I’m an artist in every motherfucking sense of the word. I work well with people who trust my instinct and understand that I am the marketer and promoter of the Nicki Minaj brand. This did not come overnight. This did not happen from a record company. No manager created this.
I never came into what I’m doing dissing anyone. I gave everyone their props and it’s unfortunate that people felt intimidated and attacked me.
I always got a kick out of the endless debates over who was managing you. I’ve known you through three sets of managers [Deb Antney, Puffy and James Cruz, and Hip Hop Since 1978] and in every case, it was always clear that…
Little do they know, I manage myself.
Yes. You were always the first and last word.
Right. People assume that I am not the brains behind this operation, and they don’t give me my credit. I could give two fawks about credit. I just want you to leave me the fawk alone. Let me do me. Don’t tell me how to pose; I know how to pose. When I’m recording, I just have to go in and do it, you know? Even my engineer thinks I’m crazy because I’ll hear something different on a track, and he’ll insist, “No, no, nothing was moved.” [But I tell him] “Tony, something was moved.” And later, sure enough, “You were right, there was a two-second delay here.”
Do you always feel like the smartest person in the room?
I meet people that are smart every day. I love collaborating with creative people. I’m not walking around saying I know everything. Hell fawking no. I want to build something. I just don’t allow anyone around me who drops the ball constantly. I’ve never been happier with my current management, because Gee Roberson is such an intelligent man. I learn from him every day, and I’m very, very turned on by people that I learn from. Not sexually—I just love being enlightened. All artists should want to learn the business as they go along. If you’re in this shit, talking about how you just want to be an artist, you’re fawking stupid. It makes me cringe.
This being Complex’s 10th Anniversary issue, it seems fitting to look forward to the next 10 years… Where do you think you’ll be in 2022?
In 2022, I’ll definitely be married and I’ll definitely have my two children.
Why just two?
OK, I might have three, but I do want at least one boy.
Maybe if you get a full set early, you can stop there.
No, no, no. I don’t think I even need a girl. I need a boy though.
Wait, you don’t feel like you need a girl?
Yeah, ‘cause you think I’m going to dress her up in wigs. No. [Laughs] I really need a boy in my life. A baby boy. Because…I’m so attached to my little brother and I felt like that was my real son. And boys, they’re just so, I don’t know… My heart just melts when I see them.
Will you still be working?
I always said There’s no way I could still be doing rap, ‘cause what will I still be talking about? But now that the public has given me this opportunity to do all types of music, I might have more longevity. As long as I can continue to experiment, then I might be doing music in 10 years. I know that I don’t feel like I need to be doing music in 10 years to feel fulfilled. And I don’t want to be one of those people who doesn’t know when to call it quits. Let’s just say that.
Since the success of Pink Friday you must see that the industry has changed. Corporations see a female rapper who has more visibility and more income streams than her male counterparts. So new female artists are viable, and that creates a more competitive atmosphere.
When I first got in, doing freestyles and mixtapes, I did a song called “Still I Rise.” I was talking about how so many women were pulling me down and ripping me apart. I said, “Every time a door opens for me/That means you just got a better opportunity to do you/Better understand these labels look at numbers and statistics/If I win, you win, it’s just logistics.”
So in order for my theory to be proven right, I have to open doors for women. The up-and-coming females who wanted to get in—when you guys are coming out and dissing me, and all that negativity….They saw me as a threat instead of seeing me as “she’s going to open the door for us.” I never came into what I’m doing dissing anyone. I gave everyone their props and it’s unfortunate that people felt intimidated and attacked me. Then it became a ripple effect. But now it’s all love. My music is a way for me to have fun. Sometimes I’ll say things and I’ll laugh. But it’s all love. I’m in a great place and I just wish everybody the best.
Here’s the behind the scenes video:
Shots of Nicki greeting Japanese fans in her popcorn getup on the flip…
Photo Credit: Christian Anwander/Complex
Nicki Minaj tweeted photos of herself from Japan Wednesday. She greeted fans in Tokyo rocking this popcorn getup. Are You Feelin’ It?