Music News

Nicki Minaj to Tone Down Voice Characters, Show More Human Side

For Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj wrote all the hooks and arranged the music. This creative control was not just for personal artistic freedom, but to also show she wasn't the stereotypical female emcee, who's strings were being pulled by her label or a male counterpart. She says Young Money CEO Lil Wayne and Cash Money founders Bryan "Birdman" and Ronald "Slim" Williams have been completely supportive of her vision.

Nicki Minaj is less than two full months away from the released of highly anticipated debut album. With many framing her project as “make or break” for the future of female emcees, Minaj is promising to give her fans a closer look at the human being behind the quirky Barbie persona.

In her latest cover feature with Complex magazine, Minaj addressed the polarizing reception she’s received for her use of character voices and other over the top vocal effects like growls, screams, and spasms. While her fans adore these creative techniques, Minaj recognizes they have prevented her art from being taken seriously in some circles.

“Every woman is a character—but people need to see I’m a regular human. It’s like you wear a pink wig and you’re no longer human all of sudden,” Minaj explained. “Sometimes the shit I say is over people’s heads and I feel like I need to dumb it down a bit so people can understand it. I think if I had said a lot of raps in a particular voice, people would go, ‘Yo, that shit was hard’—but when you change up your voice a little bit, they can’t see past that. And they’re lookin’ at me like, ‘This bitch is stupid’—and I’m lookin’ at them like, ‘No, bitch, you’re stupid.'”

For Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj wrote all the hooks and arranged the music. This creative control was not just for personal artistic freedom, but to also show she wasn’t the stereotypical female emcee, whose strings were being pulled by her label or a male counterpart. She assures Young Money CEO Lil Wayne and Cash Money founders Bryan “Birdman” and Ronald “Slim” Williams have been completely supportive of her vision. 

An example of the label’s confidence is evident in Minaj’s label deal, which gives her full ownership of her 360 rights (merchandising, endorsements, touring, publishing and sponsorships).

“A lot of people don’t know I wrote all the hooks on the album. I arranged the music, did the transitions,” she detailed. “[Other female rappers] are told what to do, but I run my entire empire; I don’t think people would expect that…My generation is creative; all we need is a Baby or a Slim to back us. We don’t need you to tell us what to do, but we need you to nurture our decisions, and I think Cash Money understands that.”

Pink Friday will be released on November 23. Producers include Kanye West, Bangladesh, Drumma Boy, Swizz Beatz, Zaytoven and will.i.am.

The full Complex interview can be read here.

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It’s a risk, but I think Nicki Minaj is making the right move by toning down the character voices for the album. They’ve done their purpose on features and mixtapes. But the album is her definitive first statement as an artist. With the voices pushed to the background, listeners will have to judge her merit on the quality of her lyrics and song construction.

She’s been adamant in recent months that she has strong, heartfelt content on the record that will surprise a lot of people. So far, we haven’t heard anything like that leak yet.

Personally, I feel the talent is there. But I completely understand why someone could take one look at her (when she’s in character and making those faces), or hear a radio jingle like “My Chick Bad,” and immediately dismiss her merits as an emcee. But listening to her features like “Monster,” I hear a capable emcee when she wants to go there. In fact, based on that joint Lil Kim should be thankful Nicki Minaj ignored her taunts for a lyrical beef. I think that showdown would’ve got ugly for the Queen Bee.

So we’re left with the question not if Nicki Minaj has the talent, but if she’s truly willing to explore the depths of it. Right now, she could easily ride the pop wave and do just fine with tracks like “Your Love.” But is she willing to push the envelope and challenge herself?

We’ll find out in November.

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