Best of What's Next: Nicki Minaj

Music Features Nicki Minaj
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HOMETOWN: Queens, N.Y.
ALBUM: Pink Friday
FOR FANS OF: Lil Wayne, Trina, Drake

Nicki Minaj doesn’t do understated. “Hip-hop is Black Friday—we have a certain tradition, and a certain way of doing things, and I’m gonna change all of that up,” the 26-year-old rapper says of her decision to title her debut album Pink Friday and slate it for late-November release, right before the year’s most-anticipated retail salesday. The album follows a year full of scene-stealing guest verses for hip-hop’s current A-listers, a killer mixtape of her own and an unending calendar of shows and interviews. It’s all fueled by Minaj’s way-beyond-outré aesthetic and hyperactive social media presence (1 million Twitter followers and counting), not to mention a designer handbag full of quotable rhymes.

Born in Trinidad as Onika Maraj, the self-proclaimed “Harajuku Barbie” takes style cues from the clique of Japanese fashionistas, as recently glimpsed on the samurai-saturated video for “Your Love,” Pink Friday’s second single. But the album is going to be more than just the sum of Minaj’s trademark neon wigs and zany lyrics that careen from sex and shopping to Sonic the Hedgehog. “I’m most excited for people to hear the [tracks] that speak about relationships that I’ve been in,” she says, “because I haven’t been able to tell that story yet.”

Even without an album, Minaj has already made a mark: “Your Love” is the first track by a female rapper to top Billboard’s Rap Songs chart since 2003. “I hope the female rappers that come after me will always push the envelope as much as they possibly can, and stand for what they want and believe in, and not allow people to push them around,” she says. “That’s the most important thing that I would like for girls to take away from Pink Friday, and my music. They might call you a diva, but you’ll be a famous, rich diva in the long run.”

WHAT’S NEXT: After her album’s release and supporting tour, Minaj hopes to tackle some long-simmering dream projects: working on a track with Enya and starring in a Tim Burton movie. “Working with Tim Burton,” she laughs, “would be so, so dope.” MICHAEL SABA

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