Pretty (and freaky) in pink, isn’t she?
MANILA, Philippines - Nicki Minaj is truly a product of these times.
Just as today’s youth are flooded with a complexity of choices and options at every turn, the 29-year-old music star has provided a deluge of rap, pop and hip-hop across several discs.
On at least 4 “mixtapes” and her two “solo” CDs, Pink Friday and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Minaj has straddled those genres not just within albums but even within her individual songs.
Just about every conceivable extreme has been done (“Nothing’s shocking,” to quote the band Jane’s Addiction), virtually every taboo is no longer unknown, and eccentricity is so entrenched that normalcy could be the new weird.
Conversely, Minaj’s rhymes and rants — often boastful lyrics backed by loud and proud beats — are peppered with cussing, casting ironic expressions of empowerment by way of dissing her “haters” and boasting of the fame and fortune to her name.
And to further distinguish herself from interchangeable vocal and musical peers such as Katy Perry, Rihanna and, oh yes, Lady Gaga, Minaj presents herself as a visual juxtaposition — freely mixing up her Indian and Afro-Trinidadian lineage with her ever-exposed cleavage and perky, Barbie-girl wattage. (Parents of Minaj fans might also notice her resemblance to Chaka Khan, and how her foldout album sleeve photos are almost akin to Playboy centerfolds.)
Who is Nicki, really?
Minaj was born Onika Tanya Maraj in Saint James in Trinidad and Tobago. At age 5, she got moved to Queens in New York, growing up just as rap rose in street cred and FM presence.
She has said in interviews that her father had been a drug addict who constantly fought with her mother up to, in at least one instance, an arsonist rage. To cope, the young Nicki made up fantasy-as-reality alter egos to “allow her to be ‘a new person’,” to quote biography.com. (“Nicki Minaj” is itself a made-up persona, which would conveniently explain the artifice and quirkiness she now projects to the world.)
Her wish for a better life for her mother, coupled with a desire to perform — boosted by acting lessons at the La Guardia High School of Music and Art — and eventually getting bitten by the rap bug soon led Minaj to the music biz, initially doing backup vocals for NYC rappers before writing her own material.
Tenacity and talent (and MySpace) propelled her career further, soon getting mentored on the ways of the mike and the biz by Lil “Tha Carter” Wayne, who also went on to rap on some of her tunes.
Aside from her said mixtapes, which are heavier on the collaborative rapping than her newer CDs, Minaj became a sought-after co-rapper on songs by other musical femme fatales, including Britney Spears, Rihanna and, as seen at the Super Bowl half-time show last February, Madonna.
Such was Minaj’s lead and supportive omnipresence that, in 2010, she was on an unprecedented 7 simultaneous singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
So in a little over a decade, Minaj became the latest industry example of a struggling somebody turned hot commodity.
She has not just won on the sales front but also in critical terms, resulting in several awards as the best female hip-hopper around.
Rap around her finger
The sight of thousands of people spellbound by the thumping, if synthetic, catchiness of “Starships” alone made Minaj’s July Manila gig memorable. Her song-and-dance presence, backed by a coterie of dancers instead of instrumentalists, proved engrossing for those more dazzled by movement than by music.
Amid all that, Minaj’s main talent is her rapping skill. Take away the her ditties’ sensory overload, strip away her revealing clothing (so to speak) and attempts at oddity, and forget that she is one of the best-known acts on the planet — we would be left with her vocal style, which is among the most considerable examples of rapping out there.
Perhaps down the line, maturity would get the better of Minaj and she would focus less on being an entertainer and more on being an artist, less on being a rabble rouser and more on being a reputable rapper.
If that happens, more of us could end up truly tickled pink. - Rappler.com