Nicki Minaj, Shaheem Reid: Countdown to ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’ — Day 7
In day two of our countdown to Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded release, music journalist Shaheem Reid shares his thoughts on the Young Money star. Reid's credits include working at MTV News, and producing several hip-hop specials for the music network. He currently holds the position as editor-at-large for XXL Magazine and is a respected writer and commentator on hip-hop culture. Both hailing from Southside Jamaica, Queens, the hip-hop cultural commentator has watched Minaj's career from its infancy. He's witnessed a wide range of her accomplishments, yet explains the current queen of hip-hop is just getting started.
Shaheem Reid's Countdown
to Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
"The first time I heard Nicki was about five or six years ago. I was hearing about this girl that was coming out named Nicki that could spit. I heard a couple of freestyles around the way, I thought she was dope. It had been such a drought from hearing female rappers, I was just like, 'Let's hear what the lady's gotta say.'
Sooner or later, I actually saw the 'On the Come Up' DVD. When I was at MTV, they was telling us about this new girl named Nicki. The record that really, really put her over the top for me was this song called 'Kill Da DJ' where she was rapping and singing. This was when she was affiliated with Gucci [Mane]. The YM [Young Money] deal wasn't official but she was working with [Lil] Wayne. I said, 'OK, I already see where you going.'
She got a real cute voice to me. Vocally, she's not Aretha Franklin or Patti LaBelle, nor does she need to be. I think she has a very sweet voice, it's rich, it has harmony. As we've seen in the past couple of years, she's been able to bring these pop records to life where she's displaying a great acumen for rap but she's also coming out singing.
Nick is really a perfect storm. The last time I did [MTV's] 'Hottest MCs,' I think she was the first female to get on there. I was proud of her. She came from the bottom. It was hard for New York rappers to get deals. Nicki had to go to Atlanta and affiliate herself with Gucci Mane, then she linked up with Wayne.
Everything [about her] stands out. Her look, she has really outrageous and outlandish outfits that reminds me of a female Busta Rhymes, but a little more updated from the '90s. A lotta people talk about Lil' Kim; I think it's more Busta Rhymes. Busta was more outlandish with it, lovably outlandish. When everybody was wearing jeans and Timbs, Busta would come with the Dr. Seuss hat! We all wanted to see what he would wear next. Not everybody could pull this off and not get looked at as a clown.
Watch Nicki Minaj's "Stupid H--" Video
We're looking at Nicki as one of the queens of rap. We look at her as a very eccentric entertainer, and I think that coincides with her music. We never know where she's gonna go next -- she might do a pop song, a hood song, a diss record. She's not somebody who's ever complacent with where she's at.
She's elastic, and when I say elastic I'm not talking abut fake. She bends and she moves and she flows. She's unorthodox; she keeps us guessing. You can tell she studied the greats of music, not just rap. Like Madonna keeps us guessing, Nicki is cut from that cloth. We haven't really had that, even with Kim and Foxy [Brown], it was mafia-driven. Lil' Kim wasn't doing commercials to promote children's awards shows, her music was very adult-driven.
Nicki is something else where she's able to tap into everybody. When you listen to the music, it's nothing fake. She's still Southside Queens raised [but] the money is different now, her schedule is different now, her status on the music food chain is different now. She's getting major endorsements. This is something that a lot of our MCs, period, aren't able to do. As big as hip-hop is, you're not going to see too many of us in commercials. There's something that corporate America is scared of with MCs, but Nicki is able to be embraced.
She has a real cult following. When you go to her shows, you're going to see heterosexuals, homosexuals, older ladies, men. We think she's sexy as hell. Ladies think she's sexy as hell. She's one of the ultimate sex symbols. It's almost beyond music. You take what sticks out from everybody else -- her body, the natural look of her face -- then she has these characters that she makes up -- she went to school for acting -- so she's incorporating everything in it. When you're charismatic, you put out anything that is in that ballpark, you're gonna be successful. She's been able to do it because she's had bona fide success.
Now we're starting to get an influx of female rappers: Azealia Banks, Iggy Azalea and a lotta these new ladies we're starting to hear. I'm not going to say that they owe their buzz to Nicki, but she opened the door. If her album would've flopped, the [label] execs wouldna been open to hearing those type of records.
It takes a lot of investment with female artists. A female rapper, period, they gotta travel with not just the regular stuff a guy travels with. You gotta send a stylist, a makeup person, a hair person, maybe somebody that does nails. Whereas with a guy, you send 'em with a barber and they're good to go. I think she's gonna have a long career. I think she's gonna do what the greats [like] Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney [Houston], Tupac [Shakur] did. She's not gonna be wearing hot pink wigs for her entire career, she'll tone it down.
Beyond all of the outfits and everything, that girl can rap. She put her time with the best. We heard her with Jay-Z and Kanye [West] on 'Monster,' Lil Wayne, Madonna, Usher, Robin Thicke, Trey Songz. She's verastile. She can rap, she got it. She's in pocket with those flows. When you put that together with how she's created this larger-than-life persona, I think it's dope."