Nicki Minaj continues to make headlines. YMCMB’s seemingly unstoppable female spitter, who is coming off a win for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist at Sunday’s BET Awards, has become a headlining favorite for music fans. Whether it’s questions surrounding her gravity defying curvy physical attributes, her adventurous fashion sense or prolonged beef with Lil Kim, Minaj has become a pop culture-lightening rod. But the story that continues to follow the outspoken platinum beauty is her credibility as a hip-hop act.
Ever since Hot 97’s radio morning show host Peter Rosenberg proclaimed that Minaj’s bouncy pop hit “Starships” wasn’t real hip-hop in early June, debates have surfaced on whether or not the genre-blurring MC has left her hardcore mixtape origins behind. But there’s one individual who believes Minaj is getting a bad rap. Black Eyed Peas frontman and in-demand producer will.i.am, who worked with the rhymer on the fluffy high energy 2010 hit “Check It Out,” says hip-hop purists have it all wrong.
“I’m proud of Nicki,” will.i.am tells VIBE. You can’t listen to this stuff about not being real hip-hop. You gotta go and get it. Whatever the music is called that’s what it’s called whether it’s hip-hop, pop, rock, gospel or a freaking musical, who cares? Nicki is an artist and she is expressing herself. Why limit yourself?”
Of course will.i.am, who is set to release his next solo album #willpower on September 24th, can more than identify with Minaj. As the lead visionary behind the Peas, the Los Angeles native has had to contend with critics who have bemoaned his group’s move from grassroots hip-hop troop to Fergie featured global pop superstars. Indeed, Will.i.am has some straight-no-chaser words for detractors. “Hip-Hop was broadening itself in the ‘90s,” he says. “You had A Tribe Called Quest and Death Row…you had Lauryn Hill singing and rapping. You had Too Short, Outkast, Nas and the Roots. Hip-Hop was broadening itself. Now hip-hop is limiting itself. If hip-hop is going to continue to limit people I say ‘Fuck hip-hop.’ It’s like the most unhealthiest community.”
Will.i.am says he is more concerned with real life hip-hop issues. “People should really be tripping off the fact that all of our hip-hop heroes are dying,” he states. “Heavy D is dead and Erick Sermon recently had a heart attack. And we still talking about Nicki Minaj doing dance music? Get the fuck out of here. I want Nicki to continue to show the world what hip-hop can be. It doesn’t have to always be about fucking this stripper girl or getting money. I would rather be interested to hear what Chuck D thinks than some blogger or radio host.”—Keith Murphy