Character Study: Just How Real Is Nicki Minaj? [COVER STORY]


How real is Nicki Minaj? Is she a doll pulling her own strings to satisfy the appetities of her Barbie brigade and alpha male following? To a point. Is she the evloution of the female MC—quirky, fashionable, talented? Arguably. Here's what's certain: she's a work in progress. And the final product might not be what you're expecting.

WORDS: Siobhan O'Connor  PHOTOGRAPHY: Jill Greenberg

ILLUSTRATIONS: Mari Inukai and Khia! Jackson


IF NICKI MINAJ had her way, she’d be at home watching reruns of Judge Judy right now. Instead, she’s a few miles west of her new Los Angeles apartment, at the W hotel in Westwood. It’s a stunning hilltop property, but on the L.A. cool matrix, this W rates pretty low. The other one is on the Strip, and it’s a hot spot. Which means it’s not a good place for Nicki these days.

She’s not sure when exactly it happened, but going out has become a drag. Used to be she’d slip on a pair of jeans, hop in her white BMW and go to house parties to flirt with older guys. Now it’s Lamborghinis, industry dudes and paparazzi. She might buy popcorn for someone at the movies and the next thing you know, people think she’s dating him. Or she might walk out of a nightclub holding hands with Diddy and have people think she’s dating him.

“People don’t get when you’re off, or you’re having a bad day,” she says, obliquely referring to the photograph that bounced around the blogs of her hand-in-hand with Diddy, looking especially miserable. The speculation was inevitable: Had she been crying? Was she just tired? Are they doing it?

None of the above, it turns out. Nicki just doesn’t like going out anymore. Today we’ll try, though. “It’s good for the story,” her publicist tells her. “Is it good for the story?” she asks me with a wry smile.

This part of being a rapper— the part where you’re on the brink of superstardom, where everyone wants to know what you ate for breakfast, where requests for verses come in daily from the world’s biggest pop icons and where journalists want to do novel things with you to create good scenes for their articles— is new to Nicki.

Until last year, she was a not-so-regular girl from Queens, New York working the mixtape circuit. Lil Wayne had already decided he wanted to sign her, and they’d worked together on her third mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, but outside of in-the-know rap circles, it’s not like her phone was ringing off the hook. Last August, Nicki signed to Universal Motown Records through Wayne’s Young Money imprint and within a few months she had recorded and shot videos for “Lil Freak,” “Shakin’ It 4 Daddy” and “My Chick Bad” with Usher, Robin Thicke and Ludacris respectively. She even recorded “Up Out My Face” and she shot a video, a white-and-red explosion of a thing, with Mariah Carey.

In just 10 months, she has been catapulted from the culty fringes to the majors, nailing a provocative public persona as popular with rap’s tough guys as it is with teenage girls— all before her first album is even close to completion. She’s also garnered the support of the three biggest names in rap: Kanye West told her he was blown away by her style; Jay-Z is the reason Thicke chose her for “Shakin’ It 4 Daddy”; and Lil Wayne is her “sensei,” as she likes to say. As if that wasn’t enough, she is no longer with her longtime manager Debra Antney and, if the rumors are true, has acquired a considerable upgrade, at least in a marquee-name kind of way. According to reports in April, Nicki started working with Diddy and former Violator Management heayweight James Cruz, who helped market 50 Cent, Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes to mainstream America.

The backup is important to Nicki, who finds herself at a crossroads. Some parts of the music business she loves. She adores her fans, especially the girls. She sends them tweets, signs their boobs at shows she even shares her Harajuku Barbie nickname with them. In Nicki’s world, anyone who loves her can be a Barbie, a clique of silly, hot girls who amuse themselves by putting on weird outfits and airs and voices.

There’s a lot she hates, too. The trappings of fame— neighbors calling her mom for gossip, wearing uncomfortable shoes every day, going to overheated clubs and having cigarette smoke blown in her faceshe could do without. And then there’s that vocal army of detractors, many of them other women, taking shots at her in the press. “She reminds me of Lil’ Kim,” Pepa from storied rap duo Salt’N’Pepa told “Bold and you know  . . . but to me she hasn’t learned the message yet.”

“She has a lot of doubters,” says Ludacris. “But the people who say negative things or fear her don’t understand her.”

“I see this as a great opportunity for every female rapper,” says Nicki, pressing her back into the couch. She’s said that in almost every interview she’s done, only this time there’s a “but.” “But I don’t feel like they’re appreciative, so I’m done. I used to do it for everybody and now I don’t. It’s sad, though, because people take the fun out of it.”

From the Web

More on Vibe

Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

‘Black Panther’ Sequel Will Reportedly Begin Filming In Atlanta Next Year

Filming on the highly anticipated sequel to Black Panther is set to begin next summer. Marvel Studios will start shooting the Ryan Coogler-directed sequel in July 2021, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“The series are the priority, “ a source told THR of Marvel’s film strategy going into next year. “Ramping them up takes a lot of focus. The movie machinery is well established.”

The shoot will last at least six months. Princess Shuri, the character played by Letitia Wright, who plays King T’Challa's sister Princess Shuri, could take on an expanded role given the death of Chadwick Boseman.

Narcos: Mexico actor Tenoch Huerta will reportedly join the cast, while Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett and Windsor Duke are also expected to return for the second installment of the Marvel film.

In September, Black Panther’s executive producer Victoria Alonso denied rumors that Boseman would appear in the film via CGI technology. “There's only one Chadwick, and he's not with us,” Alonso said. “Our king, unfortunately, has died in real life, not just in fiction, and we are taking a little time to see how we return to the story and what we do to honor this chapter of what has happened to us that was so unexpected, so painful, so terrible, in reality.”

Boseman, 43, passed away from colon cancer in August.

Continue Reading
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Nicki Minaj Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary Of ‘Pink Friday,’ Announces HBO Max Documentary

Nicki Minaj celebrated the 10-year anniversary of her Pink Friday debut with a special surprise for fans. A new documentary on the Queens rapper will debut on HBO Max, she announced on social media on Friday (Nov. 20).

“It’s going to give you guys a raw unfiltered look at my personal life and my professional journey, and I can’t wait to share it with you,” said Minaj.

#NickiMinajHBOMAX #PinkFridayAnniversary #PinkFriday

— Mrs. Petty (@NICKIMINAJ) November 20, 2020

It’s unclear if Minaj’s infant son will make his debut in the doc but fans would surely love to see the baby.  Last month, the first-time mom opened up about motherhood in a Twitter Q&A where she admitted to being scared of hiring a nanny.

In honor of Pink Friday, Minaj hosted another Q&A answering everything from her favorite song to perform off the album (“Roman's Revenge,” “Did it On ‘Em” and “Save Me”) to what she admires most about her artistic growth over the last decade (“I admire the inner peace I found,” she tweeted.)

Pink Friday debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200, behind Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which was released on the same day back in 2010.

Minaj’s album went on to sell over three million copies.

Continue Reading
Rich Fury/Getty Images for Visible

Megan Thee Stallion Addresses Tory Lanez On ‘Good News’ Album

Megan Thee Stallion’s debut album, Good News, arrived on Friday (Nov. 20) complete with a diss record aimed at Tory Lanez. On the blistering track, “Shots Fired,” Meg puts the Canadian singer on blast while rhyming over the infamous Notorious B.I.G. record, “Who Shot Ya?”

Without naming Lanez directly, Meg details what went down in the SUV leading up to the incident, and confirms that she fell out with her best friend, who witnessed the shooting.

“Imagine me givin’ a f*ck it was your f*ckin’ birthday,” she raps in reference to speaking out about the shooting on Lane’z 27th birthday. “You in your feelings, I just thought it was another Thursday.”

“Now imagine me c*ckblockin' n*ggas on some dry sh*t,” spits Meg, seemingly responding to rumors that the shooting stemmed from a jealous love triangle involving Kylie Jenner whose pool party they attended earlier in the night.

The verse continues, “I don't want you on the bench, believe you wouldn't've been invited. And if it weren’t for me, same week, you would have been indicted (should’ve let them lock your a** up).”

Meg goes on to reiterate her claims that Lanez tried to pay for her silence. “You offered M’s not to talk, I guess that made my friend excited. Now ya’ll in cahoots, huh [okay], you a puss in boots.

“You shot a 5’10” b*tch with a .22 Talkin ‘bout bones and tendons like them bullets wasn’t pellets,” she continues. “A p*ssy n*gga with a p*ssy gun in his feelings.”

Lanez pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the shooting. He faces more than 22 years in prison if convicted.

As for Good News, the album is packed with features including City Girls, Beyoncé, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Da Baby, and Young Thug.

In addition to dropping the new album, Meg unleashed the music video for her latest single “Body.” The visual features appearances from Taraji P. Henson, Jordyn Woods, and more.

Check it out below.

Continue Reading

Top Stories