Nicki Minaj Billboard

THE DAY I WAIT in the hotel lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City to meet Nicki Minaj is the start of New York Fashion Week. I am early, and I watch as stylists push an overfull rack of designer clothes out of the elevator. I later learn they are from Alexander Wang, and are dressing Minaj for the designer’s show. In the hall entrance of her suite, there is another rack bulging with outfits. Deeper into the suite, a lean and lanky hairdresser is combing a very long platinum-blond wig. He brushes the wig so carefully, so lovingly, that for a moment, I want to be that wig. A few feet away from his gentle ministrations, a makeup artist is organizing makeup and various brushes and other tools of the trade. Everyone speaks in hushed murmurs.

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When Minaj enters, from an adjacent chamber, she is a petite wonder, wearing a fluffy white bathrobe, her face naked. After we greet each other with a light handshake, she asks if I mind if she gets her eyes lined. She isn’t really asking, nor do I object. She sits in the makeup chair, and the artist begins applying Minaj’s trademark black eyeliner with its exaggerated cat’s eye flair. I am stunned by the number of people Minaj has at her service. I also meet her day-to-day manager and personal assistant — who are two different people — and her stylist. In the hall just outside the suite wait a tailor and a couple of other people eager for Minaj’s time. She is the center of gravity for a great many professionals, and she wears that responsibility well. When her eyes are done, Minaj sits on the adjacent couch, arranging her robe to her liking. There is regality in how she sits. That she is wearing a bathrobe is utterly inconsequential. A queen is a queen regardless. A stylist begins presenting her with options for the two events she will attend later that evening — a dinner party and a book launch. She is shown a clingy, see-through dress with a long train, a gorgeously patterned black-and-white leather Balmain gown and a couple of other options. I marvel at the sublime luxury of basically having a human closet. Finally, Minaj turns to me, offering her full attention, and says, “You want us to start? ” as if, this whole time, we’ve been waiting on me. I want to applaud with appreciation. Yasssss, queen, as they say. She has what she describes to me as “the X-factor, which is just the thing you can’t put into words. ” Onika Tanya Maraj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, in 6987, and immigrated to Queens, N. Y. , with her family at the age of 5. She began her music career singing with various rappers and working odd jobs.

When she waitressed, she wrote lyrics constantly on the notepad she used to take orders. There is genuine pleasure in her voice as she reminisces about this. “I would take people’s order and then a rap might come to me just by what they’re wearing or what they said or did, and I would go in the kitchen and write it down, put it in the back of my little thing or my apron, and by the time I was done I would have all of these sheets of paper thrown around everywhere with raps. ”Minaj’s music is characterized by urgent lyrics, spitting in a range of voices and accents. Her rhymes range from bold and aggressive, to coquettish, to wanton and sultry, with a soupçon of women’s empowerment. The pace of her rapping is often breathless but her diction is impeccable. There is wit and sly humor in her work. Take the 7569 single “Only” where Minaj raps, “My man full, he just ate, I don’t duck nobody but tape/ Yeah, that was a setup for a punch line on duct tape. Nicki Minaj is also coming down with a cold. Yes, I know what I did there, but it also happens to be true. Having to fly to New York did not help. Minaj was in Miami (where she now spends most of her time) working on her fourth studio album, the title of which is, for now, a well-kept secret but is “super, super iconic. ”That studio time begot the beginnings of her cold — the air-conditioning always blasting, shutting off, blasting again — a vicious cycle of climate control. Minaj ended up spending two nights in the studio because it was one of those sessions where she was able to “write and record and listen back and have excitement in all three of those stages. ”It took a long time to get to that place, Minaj tells me, and now, “sonically, I know what the album’s about to sound like. I know what this album is gonna mean to my fans. This album is everything in my life coming full circle and me being truly, genuinely happy. It feels almost like a celebration. The last album, ‘The Pink Print, ’ was almost like my diary, closing the chapter on certain things and not knowing if I was happy or sad about beginning new chapters. I was really writing about feeling unsure. Now, I can tell you guys what happened for the last two years of my life. I know who I am. I am getting Nicki Minaj figured out with this album and I’m loving her. ”MINAJ’S PUBLIC IMAGE and personas are carefully curated.

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(I restrain myself greatly. ) I don’t know that anyone but her inner circle knows who Nicki Minaj really is. But she’s at her most animated and unguarded when she’s talking about music, and she thinks about music in deep and complex ways. She has strong opinions on what’s necessary to make a great rapper: “Do you sound intelligent? Does your flow switch up? Are you in command of the beat? I listen for things like that. ” Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Foxy Brown — “Those are the three I keep in my head when I’m writing because they’ve influenced me so much, ” she says. “I feel like I’m a part of all of them. ”I’m curious about whom Minaj thinks she’s influenced herself. She tells me that around two years ago, Kanye West said to her, “ ‘Every girl I hear rap, I can hear Nicki in her rap. ’ I didn’t ask him who, but that was such a great compliment. Because sometimes you think you’re the only one that can hear those types of things. ”It feels like Minaj is on the verge of another big moment in her career, and she knows it. “This is definitely the most inspired and free and excited I’ve been since I started releasing albums through a label, ” she says. She is also deeply reflective about her evolution as an artist. I ask if the transition from making mixtapes to studio albums compromises the joy of creation and she answers, “Yeah, because. . Artists do it to themselves. I’m not going to blame a label. You just overthink. When you’re doing your own little thing, you feel like, I can be myself, I can be crazy. When you start working with a record company, you start thinking you need a bigger sound.

I wanted to get back to the place where I wasn’t second-guessing things so much. Sometimes simple is O. K. ”I ask her what it has taken to get to this place of newfound confidence and trusting her instincts. “I believe in my gift wholeheartedly, ” she says. But this self-assurance was not easy to come by. “Sometimes I wake up and say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore, ’ you know? I’ve had those times. I’ve had those years where I’m just like, ‘Am I good enough? ’ ” But she believes in her “ability to withstand what would break the normal girl, ” she says. At this point in her career, Minaj is able to reconcile, somewhat, her struggles. “I kind of love that I’ve had to go through so many hurdles to get where I am because I feel like I deserve it. ” She is frank about what she has been up against. “I had so much going against me in the beginning: being black, being a woman, being a female rapper. No matter how many times I get on a track with everyone’s favorite M. C. And hold my own, the culture never seems to want to give me my props as an M. , as a lyricist, as a writer. I got to prove myself a hundred times, whereas the guys that came in around the same time as I did, they were given the titles so much quicker without anybody second-guessing. ”I am struck by these words because I’ve heard similar sentiments from other successful women in male-dominated industries — this sense that their endurance and perseverance contribute to their greatness. But, above all, Minaj has persevered because she is always in control of her craft. Neither her work nor her success are accidental. When we finish talking and I make my exit, there are more people in the hallway, waiting for their time with her.

She remains in command of the beat. To download the cover. Makeup by Pat McGrath x Sheika Daley. Hair by Tokyo Stylez. Production by PRODn at Art + Commerce. Manicure by Casey Herman at The Wall Group. Tailoring by Lars Nord for Lars Nord Studio. Digital technician: Evan Lee. Photo assistants: Margaret Gibbons, Rob Massman and Ryan Page. Stylist’s assistants: Rae Boxer, Rasaan Wyzard, Sean Nguyen, Elaine Ragland and Derek Ezra BrownWe re interested in your feedback on this page. Tell us what you think. Reports the rappers called it quits after stress caused by Nas and Nicki living in different cities. While it's said the split was amicable, we wouldn't be expecting these two to be hanging out as friends anytime soon. Sounds like they're both ready to get back to their individual ventures. That's what the latest rumors reported by are saying but as to whether or not the 85-year-old is actually expecting or not. A source told the outlet that the Anaconda rapper found out she had a bun in the oven over Thanksgiving, and she's said to be planning an announcement around the. Hmmm. The supposed insider also claims baby daddy Nas has told his ex about the news, which has on her end. Posted a pic (above) on her Thursday night that appears to be an unused pic from her, and it is hot! Of course, Nicki is far from the only celeb who likes to show off some skin Because without those two on this track, Migos ' Motorsport would be a total lemon! But what else can you ask for?

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