One of the stand-out qualities of The Pinkprint, Nicki Minaj's third studio album, is how plainly it illustrates a woman in her early 30s going through the ringer that women in their early 30s do: a time of transition, she details not just her recent breakup with her boyfriend of a decade, but also the kind of career and family choices we tend to consider intimately once we're thrust in our fun-ass third decade. Minaj confirmed as much in an intimate, hour-and-a-half-long interview in New York Tuesday night, elaborating on those and many other topics more than she ever has before.
As part of the #CRWN interview series created and conducted by veteran hip-hop journalist Elliott Wilson, Minaj appeared on a stage to about 300 at the West Village club Le Poisson Rouge, wearing a hooded fox-fur vest and a sheer, black-dotted crop top. She and Wilson sat in gold-plated seats made to look like thrones, and the audience was comprised of some of Minaj's most devoted New York fans, the ones who know every word to every mixtape and DVD cut.
Before the interview began, the venue played The Pinkprint, which leaked late last week, and most of said fans already knew about 70 percent of the words—"Feelin Myself," "Four Door Aventador," and "Trini Dem Girls" popped off the most. Through some magical confluence of Wilson's questions, the crowd's vocal support and, perhaps, Minaj feeling truly supported, she gave what was most certainly the best interview I've ever seen conducted with her, and not just because she juiced it up by rapping the occasional a cappella verse here and there.
The interview began with Wilson asking about The Pinkprint, of course, saying he felt that with it she was "able to balance the diversity of everything that you are as an artist." She responded,
I definitely found my niche, I'm not chasing anything, I'm just doing me... The Pinkprint was just about me showing what the culture should be about. I think the culture should be about skill. Practice makes perfect, and I really worked at that: whether hearing a beat, knowing what my audience wanted from me, knowing what kinds of beat I shined on.
But The Pinkprint begins with the intimate song "All Things Go," a confessional track in which Minaj details feeling guilt over family matters and laments an unborn baby lost to either miscarriage or an abortion, so she soon delved into more personal issues.
It was so very, very scary. The second verse, I was talking about my little cousin who died, and I had never, ever spoken about that. I remember the last time I saw him, he told me how uncomfortable he felt by how people were treating me. He was like, don't let nobody come around and use you... he was so overprotective of me, but he was goin' through all this craziness, like niggas was really trying to kill him. Now, when I think about him, I just keep thinking like, why didn't he tell me? I had never expressed my guilt to anyone. So after I wrote it, it was hard for me to listen back. I love that song, but I hate it, too. Every time I listen to it, I feel like I relive it. So that's the only difficult thing about writing things that are very personal. Like, you're gonna have to relive it for the rest of your life. Are you really gonna be okay with reliving that moment, reliving that guilt, reliving that pain. But then if you don't write it, it feels like you're not being completely honest. I wanna remember where I was in my life right now. Ten years from now, I wanna listen to The Pinkprint and remember what I was feeling.
Wilson pressed Minaj about the third verse, about her mother and the child. "It's very difficult," she said. "It's something that I put in the back of my mind for so many years, and I guess... I know a lotta women can identify with feeling like, 'If I forget about it, it's almost like it didn't happen.'"
The conversation then moved to "Bed of Lies," the single with Skylar Grey written about Minaj's ex, Safaree "SB" Samuels. "I didn't imagine that when I was writing 'Bed of Lies,' I was gonna end up performing it on every damn show!" she laughed. (Earlier that day, Minaj had most recently performed it on Fallon, but more on that later.) "Seriously! Cause I was thinking about that today, I was like 'I don't wanna perform no goddamn 'Bed of Lies.' But whatchu gonna do? I put that out cause I was doing the EMAs, and when we put it out people started asking for the song. And I couldn't perform 'Only' on these shows, cause the lyrics. But when I was writing ['Bed of Lies'], we were good at that time!"
"Oh really?" asked Wilson. "In the relationship?"
"Everything was fine," said Minaj, "and in fact, we were laughing together. I remember he was like, 'I just realized this is a dis record to me!' And we were both on the floor crying, cracking up." Minaj choked up a bit at that point, and the conversation transferred to "Only," which resulted in the crowd rapping her entire verse to her. "Why you gotta be so extra, oh my gaaawwwwwd!" Minaj laughed, but the one unasked question of the night was about her feelings on Drake and Wayne talking about sexing her on that track. (She did say that Drake needed to get turnt up to write his verse, and when she first heard it she was like, "I can't even deal with you right now," which, ha! Same.)
That's about when Minaj got really down with it, abstractly broaching topics many women can really relate to—the combination of being a devoted career woman (a "workaholic," as Minaj put it) and balancing that with having a partner and, perhaps, eventually wanting to have kids.
I lost a big part of my life, and one of the reasons was because I was a workaholic. I couldn't focus on anyone else. Maybe they needed more attention, and I take care of my whole family. So if I'm gonna choose between working my ass off and giving you, one human being, all of my attention? You might get forgotten sometimes. Not because I don't love you, but because I got the weight of the fucking world on my shoulders and if I don't do it, no one else is gonna do it. I can't depend on no other human being to get up and do this for me, see what I'm saying? And I realized that men are like children. You gotta [makes baby noises].
Wilson told Nicki he'd been playing the record when his wife heard it, and told him, "Nicki's ready to have a real man. A real boyfriend, a real situation.' And I'm like, well she just turned 32 so she's ready for that like—'cause you know, in your 20s it's all fun and games, and in your 30s it's serious business!"
"You start really reflecting and looking forward, like 'Whoa!'" Minaj told him.
You've gotta have good communication. You could be right next to someone for hours and not communicate. I could be right here with you for the next two hours and leave without having heard nothing you fucking said. And sometimes you can speak to somebody for 10 minutes and feel like *gasp*, they get it! We just want somebody to get it. You know what I really want? I want someone to appreciate how hard I work. I want somebody to get up in the morning and they see me on my laptop after I been up for three hours more than you have and now when you get up, you're able to get up whatever time you want. I just want you to acknowledge that I been up working so that you can live happily! And if you don't see that, it will chip away at me, and one day I'm gonna feel like, I don't have anything left. Because it's so seldom that you will meet a woman that's like, "I got you." And we do and we did [take turns] and we love each other very much, but.
She sighed, continued:
It's both ways. I'm not an angel, no one is. But my point is that, one of my big things that I'm looking for in whatever man I run off into the sunset with, is just him acknowledging that I'm not like the chicks that come up to you in the streets that wanna take from you. I don't wanna take nothin' from you. I wanna give you everything you don't have and everything you need, and I want to give it to each other, and it has to be like that, because if I'm the only one giving and you start, you know. [Sigh.] And then in some ways maybe a man would feel like he can't be with me because maybe he doesn't get the uplift-ment that he feels that he needs as a man. And maybe I feel you got to be that man for me in order to treat you like a man. I'm not ever gonna give you what you don't deserve.
Because I've done that in so many other ways, and at the same time, we're talking about my best fucking friend. Like somebody I would really jump in front of a bus for, before and after. Nothing changed. I'm like the most loyal chick. If you ask anybody that knew me from before this shit, they'll tell you I was the same exact way. People can say whatever the fuck they want about me, I been this way. I been trying to run my own shit. I been like that. It's just a sad time, because for the first time in my life, I realize everything I thought? It's changing right in front of my face. I didn't plan this. It's just happening. People keep talking to me, asking me questions, and I can't really answer certain questions because it's still happening, right now. and I'm still goin' through the motions of like, what am I gonna do? You don't just stop loving someone, you don't stop caring for someone, you don't just stop worrying about them. Especially when you grew up together. And he really, really held me down in the beginning. Was the perfect person.
Doesn't that get to you? Minaj is detailing that thing that so many women—boss women, career women, whatever you want to call it—face at some point in our lives: finding the right partner who is able to both be reciprocal in their emotions, respect, and emotional respect, while also strong enough in themselves to not be shaken by our general boss-ness. And if regular women have a tough time with it, imagine doing that on the level of nationwide fame? Minaj had something to say about that, too:
Fame, I don't fucking want fame. I don't even care about fame. I want to do my music. I don't need to be seen and I don't need to be in anyone's pictures. I just wanna do my music and what inspires my fans, cause they inspire me. They always make me feel like I can do anything I wanna do. And if I stop, they're gonna be like, well we can stop, what you doing? And I don't want them to give up on this shit. You know, I was right here living in New York, taking the train, going to school, dealing with problems that I couldn't talk to my mother about, and feeling so down and out. And I came through all of that... Sometimes I'm like, how did I get from buyin a beef patty and an Arizona—wait this used to be my shit. I had a beef patty, a Arizona, and a 35-cent granola bar, and shit was really real!
At one point, the audience started rapping her " No Flex Zone" verse to her while she held a leopard-spotted hand mirror and re-applied her lip gloss. It was the best moment of the night. Wilson said, "Don't worry, we'll edit this out," but this is an official public plea to Elliott Wilson and his video people: PLEASE do not edit that out. It was the best.
#CRWN puts up interviews here after the fact. Watch closely for when the clips drop, because it truly was a banner Minaj interview, and I say this as a scholar of Minaj interviews both good and bad—if she doesn't like an interviewer, you can basically tell—even (and maybe especially) in written interviews.
Minaj liked Fallon, but his interview wasn't nearly as insightful (or long!) as Wilson's. Here she is talking about Red Lobster (fans know what it is) and her yearbook photo, and a performance of "Bed of Lies."
Image via Getty.