Nicki Minaj is unquestionably the Queen of mainstream hip-hop at the moment, the walking braggadocio-spouting litmus test by which all other female MCs are now judged. Her third album, The Pinkprint was released on December 15, and early feedback notes her success at blending the hip-hop and pop elements she struggled to mingle fluidly on past projects.
On the winds of success, Minaj sat down with Rap Radar‘s Elliot Wilson last night for the latest installment of his CRWN interview series. The crowd was jam-packed with Minaj devotees eager to hear her stories, taking every opportunity to recite her rhymes and shout “Yaaaas!” in encouragement. Wilson and Minaj discussed the process of making The Pinkprint, her thoughts on Lil’ Wayne‘s beef with Cash Money Records, and how she managed to balance skill and accessibility, among other things.
Check out some of Nicki Minaj’s best quotes of the night below:
1: On finding her place in hip-hop with The Pinkprint:
“I definitely found my niche and I’m not chasing anything. I’m just doing me…I wouldn’t say [being the boss] is a comfortable feeling. Being the boss never feels comfortable, it’s pretty uncomfortable, but that’s the point, know what I’m saying? I feel like only the people who are willing to do the hardest job do that job. In the beginning, I felt like I knew what I wanted my shit to sound like and I was pretty confident in my own opinion. And when I had to learn the hard way sometimes, it was good for me to learn and I feel like I made all my mistakes.”
2: On skill vs. commercial appeal:
“I think there should be a balance between the two, but there should also always be a foundation of skill. You should always have that. And the word of the night is skill…On the intro track for the album ‘All Things Go,’ I wanted to say certain things that needed to be heard and understood by everyone. It couldn’t have difficult punch lines, it couldn’t have a quick flow, it had to be something that was intelligent but easy to understand. I got a Boi-1da beat because the way his beats sound, they draw you in. It’s almost hollow, it lends itself to speaking to people. I think growing as an artist enabled me to be on ‘The Pinkprint’ and make good decisions. It wasn’t something that I knew was going to happen, but I definitely took my time with it, and I promised myself that I was going to take my time with my third album.”
3: On the emotional content of “All Things Go:”
“It was very, very scary. The second verse, I’m talking about my little cousin who died, and I’ve never talked about that before…I had never expressed my guilt to anyone, I just wrote it. His family never knew. I’m very close with his sister, she never knew. After I wrote it and listened to it, the entirety of ‘All Things Go,’ I love that song, but I hate it too. It’s hard for me to listen to it because I feel like I relive it. That’s the thing about writing songs that are overly personal, the fact that you’re going to have to hear them for the rest of your life: are you really gonna be okay with reliving that guilt, re-living that pain?
4: On Lil’ Wayne’s issues with Cash Money Records and YMCMB as a dysfunctional family:
“I was very surprised. I knew that there was some stuff going on, but I didn’t know he was so angry about it…Usually he’s so cool about it, and we have the same management and I always tell my manager, like y’all know how to work Wayne projects, because y’all keep pushing it back and back and back and people fiend for it so much, so I don’t think it’s that. I think it may be some other stuff that, as family, they need to figure out. And I hope they do, because I love them so much…I’m not trying to say this in a cocky way, but there’s a real thin line between genius and crazy and everybody in this business is a little fucking crazy, including me, and I know that. I know that I’m a little bit off and I’ve never been able to put my finger on it…sometimes I’ll ask people or my manager, ‘What is wrong with me?’ and really wanting a diagnosis.”
5: On motherhood:
“I’m a workaholic, and that’s the only thing I worry about because…when will I be a mommy? I think about so many humongous female icons that we love and cherish and they never had children. Like Janet [Jackson], people like that. No disrespect, but I can’t imagine a woman not wanting, one day, to have children. I always think when people get to a certain age and don’t have children, do they feel guilty? I wanna ask that of older women in the business.”
6: On her “Monster” verse:
“I feel like a lot of people only accepted it because Kanye and Jay [Z] were on there. Because if I were on there by myself, y’all wouldn’t have given me my props…I been ill, I been ill…I didn’t get ill [from] ‘Monster,’ I was ill before ‘Monster,’ and people who are geniuses like Kanye recognized my genius…If they weren’t on the song, some of y’all still wouldn’t have accepted it.”
7: In response to Wilson’s comments about her use of different voices:
“You said that you didn’t get the voices before, but liked them on here: why? Because you listened. Because you listened. Because people you respected were on the track, and that’s fine, I understand that…I got a call from Mister Cee after he heard ‘Bottoms Up,’ and he said he had to give me my props. ‘Bottoms Up’ was very animated, but he took the time to listen, you know what I’m saying? It takes skill. And then I see people doing it now. Sometimes, when I hear the animated things that Kendrick Lamar does…I respect and like him, but when I paid attention to certain things he does, I think to myself: ‘I did that.’”
Be sure to check out WatchLoud.com in the coming weeks for video footage of the interview.
Dylan “CineMasai” Green is a movie geek, hip-hop aficionado, and pita chip enthusiast. Find him on Twitter.
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