As she prepares to perform at Meydan Racecourse, the singer talks to us about flying the flag for female rappers and what she has in store for her UAE fans.
Nicki Minaj: A little less racy, a lot more range for Dubai show
Nicki Minaj's Dubai show will cap off a busy year on the road during which she performed more than 60 shows across North America, Europe and Asia.
Her show at Meydan Racecourse is her only Middle Eastern appearance and the last of the year before a couple of European performances in January.
The rapper certainly didn't rest long, electing to go on a new global jaunt hot on the heels of her Pink Friday tour, which just ended in August. The new tour focuses on her successful second album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. Minaj describes the shows as being "on steroids". This means a bigger stage, more dancers and more video content.
Toning it down
Nicki Minaj loves children, but she is not ready to completely clean up her image for her young fans. "I've always been kind of racy," Minaj laughs. "Don't expect that to change, but I love children and I respect children so much. I'm big on them remaining, you know, kids. I don't want them to go around cursing and acting crazy."
Many children own Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which sold 253,000 copes in its first week and gave Minaj her second chart-topping album. In just three years, the rapper has transformed her image by toning down her raunchy appearance. She expresses surprise at the fact that her fan base now includes young girls. "I didn't expect the kids to gravitate to me like that," says the 29-year-old. "I'm finding my own niche with them."
A few of the reasons children have connected with Minaj are the pop hits Super Bass and Starships, as well as her vocal turn on David Guetta's Turn Me On. Minaj also seems to have the blessing of the pop queen herself; she features twice on Madonna's latest album, MDNA.
The new record
Roman Reloaded showcases the Grammy-nominated Minaj as her male alter ego Roman. The album has various sounds to match her multiple personalities. Dance-pop anthems mirroring Rihanna and Katy Perry are mixed with gritty hip-hop, while contemporary R&B is laced with languid reggae vibes.
That was the plan, according to Minaj. "Once I did it I was like: 'Why aren't all albums like this? Why does every artist have to give you one thing?'" she says. "I like going to restaurants because I can order a little bit of salad, a little bit of bread, a little bit of chicken, some sushi. I like variety. I get very, very bored if I have to keep things the same."
The new album follows her 2010 debut Pink Friday, home to seven singles that were hits on the pop, R&B and rap charts. Roman Reloaded, boasting a whopping 19 tracks, features a swathe of hip-hop A-listers including Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Drake and Nas, and respected producers like RedOne, Dr Luke, Alex da Kid and JR Rotem. "The album alone, just the sequence and the order and the genre - that alone is a conversation piece," says Minaj. "People keep talking about it. I didn't know it was going to be such a big deal."
Leading the pack
Minaj, who was discovered by Lil Wayne and signed to his Cash Money/Young Money label in 2009, says she is interested in putting out her own line of female rap talent. "It wouldn't be on Young Money, it would be on my own label if I do decide to do it," she says.
"People do come up to me a lot, about their female rappers, and I always tell them: 'It's for the strongest, [the] mentally strongest people in the world.'
"You know, you've got a lot of things going against you, but if you really, really want it, you push yourself, write your own lyrics and you have an opportunity, you can do it."
• Nicki Minaj is performing on Friday at Meydan Racecourse, Dubai. Tickets from Dh450 at www.timeouttickets.com
* With additional reporting by Saeed Saeed