V Vintage: Nicki Minaj... Before The Fame

The truth is we always knew Nicki Minaj was destined to be hip hop’s next it girl. We knew it when we chose her as one of the main reasons why the Bronx-bred art form was still alive and kicking in our August 2008 “Real Rap” issue. We knew the animated rapper born Onika Maraj was worthy of the early hype when we caught up with the Queens, New York MC in July 2009 as she was beginning to embrace her role as the savior of female rap. At the time of our acclaimed 60 Rappers In 60 Days interview series, Minaj (Yes, that’s the then 23-year-old copping a page from Lil’ Kim’s 1996 Hardcore book for her Sucka Free street release) had just dropped the buzz-heavy mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty.

She had experienced her first taste of superstardom after going out on the road on Lil Wayne’s I Am Music Tour and her recording deal with Weezy’s Young Money imprint had yet to be announced. Yet Minaj was already experiencing the pitfalls of her rising infamy as rival spitters began making her a prime target. Before her song-stealing cameos on Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Young Money’s “Roger That,” and Usher’s “Little Freak;” before her own polarizing debut single “Massive Attack;” before she shocked the music world by naming Diddy as her manager. This is Nicki Minaj before the fame.—Keith Murphy 

 

VIBE: Do you get a little intimidated when people call you the savior of female rap?

Nicki Minaj: I don’t think intimidated is the word. I definitely get excited by it. I don’t want to let anybody down. I’ve always been the type of person to make everybody happy and get things done. I want everything to be 100 percent perfect. I do feel it when people hold me to high expectations.

On your latest mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, you covered a diverse range of musical genres from dancehall to club music to hardcore hip hop. Will we see that type of production range on your major studio debut?

I think that the album will be a little bit more focused on one type of sound. But you know, I definitely want to be one of those artists that continue to do their mixtapes. The people that just really love the ‘Street Nicki’ can still get a dose of that; but I think that when the album comes out, it will be more focused on things that you would hear on the radio. It will be more radio-friendly because honestly, those are the type of records that I like to write. I don’t think people know that about me. Records like “Kill da DJ” and stuff like that, I have fun writing that; I have fun singing. Those songs make me happy. So I think I want to make my album more like that. But whatever I do, I always will have those real songs where I talk about real things.

Do you have a specific story you want to get out to the fans?

I have a song I wrote called “Autobiography.” I came from a very intense living situation, with having a parent on drugs and not having a lot of money. So I always want to talk about the real things. But I think 90 percent of my music, I want it to be ‘feel-good music’. I’m already recording tracks for my album, but when it comes time to actually say, ‘this is the album,’ I may be in a completely different space than I’m in right now.

Now as far as the label situation goes, everybody’s been asking the $64,000 question: “What label is Nicki Minaj going to sign with?”

People will know within 30 days. I don’t think I want to wait too much longer than that. In another interview I was basically talking about the other deals that I had seen that other female rappers had signed. I felt like they weren’t treated like a star. I feel like before you sign anything in this business, you have to truly believe that you’re not only a star, but a superstar. When you think of yourself like that, you won’t really just go ahead and sign the first thing that comes your way because you’ll know that all the fame and fortune stuff will happen. Like right now, I’m not concerned with people asking, ‘When are you going to be mainstream?’ I’m not concerned with those things because I know that it’s destined to happen for me. What I’m concerned about is being a female and getting my business in order. Those are things I think a lot of females didn’t think about before. I hope that girls that come after me will remember that Nicki Minaj said, “Get your business in order first and then do what you love to do.” You’ll then be happy on both sides of the spectrum. So that’s what I’m doing. I was being a little hesitant, but we’re looking at contracts right now. You know, we’ll see what happens. I’m just gonna put it in God’s hands and leave it there.

Talk about the experience of being on Lil Wayne’s I Am Music tour. You’re still a relatively new artist and you get to see a superstar on stage sell out every night and have thousands of fans scream his name. That has to be eye-opening, right?

That tour made something inside of me say, Oh my God, I want this! I know that I have this in me, and I want this! It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me really kick in into that next gear and say, I’m about to go hard or go home! I have one more chance to prove to the underground world and prove that I am who I say I am. And I did it. I did it with Beam Me Up Scotty. I put out music, it wasn’t just freestyles. It was music; it was talking about a lot of different things like you said. It was showing versatility and showing rap skill, and singing and all of that.

What type of influence has Wayne had on your career?

Wayne has always been my biggest influence. It’s weird because I sit down and talk to Wayne like he’s just a regular human being, and then I walk on stage with him and there’s 20,000 people screaming for him. I think it puts it into perspective for me like, Wait a minute, this is actually attainable. I could have this; I just need to focus and remember that my grind is just beginning. I always say that that’s what I learned from Wayne the most; he never stops grinding. It showed me, Yo, this dude is the truth, and I’m going to follow in his footsteps.


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Freeway Reveals Death Of 20-Year-Old Son, Jihad

Freeway is mourning the death of his beloved son, Jihad Pridgen.

The Philly native shared the devastating news on Instagram on Thursday (Oct. 29). “God knows I try my best to be strong, but this right here is a pain like I never felt,” he captioned a graduation photo of his son. “Please cherish your time and your [loved] ones because we’re not [promised] the next breath. I Pray Allah forgives my son for all of his sins and I pray that Allah grants him the highest level of paradise.”

The Muslim rapper did not go into detail about how his son passed away. In closing, he asked fans to make dua (an Islamic invocation) for his son and family. Jihad, 20, was following in his father’s footsteps in becoming a rapper. He went by the stage name “Snowhadd.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

God knows I try my best to be strong, but this right here is a pain like I never felt. Please cherish your time and your love ones because we’re not promise the next breath. I Pray Allah forgives my son for all Of his sins and I pray that Allah grants him the highest level of paradise. Ameen 😢 Please make dua for him & my family.

A post shared by Freeway (@phillyfreeway) on Oct 29, 2020 at 3:28am PDT

New’s of Jihad’s death follows the death of the son of fellow State Property member and former Roc-A-Fella rapper, Oschino Vasquez.  “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. Devastation at its finest,” the grieving father wrote on Instagram revealing that Freeway attended his son’s funeral last week. “Then I got that bad news. What [are] the chances that [we] both lose our sons. F*ck rap beef that’s fake sh*t. This is real life. I’ve never been depressed before but I [am] now.”

The cause of death is unclear, but according to varying reports, Oschino’s son and his son's pregnant girlfriend may have passed away in a car accident.

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Kenya Barris To Make Directorial Debut With Richard Pryor Biopic

Kenya Barris has signed on to write and direct a forthcoming biopic on Richard Pryor for MGM. The movie studio acquired the film in a heated bidding war, Deadline reports.

The biopic will mark Barris’ directorial debut. In addition to directing and penning the script, the Black-Ish creator will also produce the film through his company, Khalabo Ink Society. Additional producers include Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, through her Tarnished Angel imprint, and Tory Metzger for Levantine Films.

“The way Pryor did what he did — with truth and specificity that was somehow self-aware and self-deprecating, and said with an unmatched level of vulnerability – that was the power and impact of his work,” Barris said in a statement. “Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created. To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.”

There have been several attempts to bring Pryor’s story to the big screen, including in 2016 when The Weinstein Company teamed with Jennifer and Lee Daniels on a script by Oscar-winning screenwriter Bill Condon. Mike Epps was slated to start as the comic legend, and Oprah Winfrey was going to play his grandmother, Eddie Murphy as his father, and Kate Hudson at Jennifer.

Pryor began his comedy career in the early 1960s playing local clubs around New York. By the following decade, Pryor rose up the ranks to become one of the most popular Black comedians in the genre appearing in films like Lady Sings the Blues, The Mack, Uptown Saturday Night, Car Wash, Harlem Nights, and The Wiz. Pryor was also a talented writer and producer (he wrote his stand-up comedy specials as well as other shows such as Sanford & Son, The Richard Pryor Show).

The 65-year-old comedian passed away from Parkinson’s Disease in 2005.

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Beenie Man Speaks Out After Fainting At Mother’s Funeral

Beenie Man broke his silence amid rumors that he was hospitalized after fainting at his mother’s funeral. Footage of the dancehall icon passing out in front of his mother's casket began circulating the web last weekend.

In a heartfelt message posted on social media on Wednesday (Oct. 27), the dancehall star thanked well-wishers, and poured out his grief. “One Sunday, October 25th I laid my Mom to rest. It was by far and still is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do,” he explained. “Leading up to the day of the funeral I was [physically] involved in every aspect of the planning an execution.”

Beenie’s mother, Lilieth Sewell, suffered a stroke in July. Her health began declining after she was released from the hospital.  She passed away in September at age 63.

“I kept telling myself, maybe if it remained active I will be able to function,” Beenie said. “Unfortunately, when it came down to that very last moment, it hit me and hit very hards. This would be the last time I would see my mom. Despite the noise, the singing, the mourning, all I could hear was silence while watching my mom’s body being lowered into the tomb.

“My heart broke and I blacked out for a few minutes,” he continues. “When I revived, I saw my closet friends and family were around me.”

The Grammy winner added that he was not “hospitalized,” but was comforted by friends and family. “Please continue to pray for us as we heal and moved forward.”

Read his full statement below.

pic.twitter.com/frzvivfDse

— Beenie Man (@KingBeenieMan) October 27, 2020

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