She has a body like Marilyn and a mouth like Eminem. No wonder Nicki Minaj is the hottest female rapper in the world. Interview by Simon Hattenstone
Nicki Minaj is having her photo taken. I've never seen anything quite like it – so incisive, dramatic and bossy. "No close-ups," the rapping pop star growls. Then she kittens up to the camera, pouts, thrusts, threatens, giggles and pleads. Each pose lasts a split second. Blink and you miss it. Miss it, tough luck. The photographer looks shell-shocked. He's got more, and less, than he bargained for. "I think that's enough, thank you," she says. She walks over to him, wiggling her astonishing cartoon bottom like a rudder. "Let me see what it looks like," she says. "OK, that's enough."
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For years, Minaj rapped for the stars – she had bit parts on hits by Ludacris, Lil Wayne, who mentored her, and perhaps most famously Kanye West, for whom she contributed a brilliantly grotesque solo on Monster. In 2010, she featured on seven singles in the US charts – a record. Now she's on the verge of being ridiculously famous in her own right – and in the most unlikely manner. Minaj has just released her second solo album, and it has topped the US and UK charts. She has 11 million Twitter fans. Or rather, she did have before she decided on the spur of the moment to quit Twitter last week because a fan had leaked her songs. Typical Minaj. She says she might return, and presumes her fans will wait for her – she might be back by the time you're reading this.
Astonishingly, Minaj, best known for down and dirty raps that outfilth the boys, has found a new niche audience – little girls who still play with Barbies and wear long pink dresses in homage to her. She even calls her girl fans Barbs. She is now probably best known for a performance of Super Bass on the Ellen show, which she gave with eight-year-old fan Sophia Grace Brownlee, backed by her five-year-old cousin Rosie – it's been viewed on YouTube more than 38m times. In the song, a tribute to "a hell of a guy" who sells coke, and a warning to the ladies who might have their eye on him, Minaj raps: "When he give me that look/Then the panties comin' off, unh." On the Ellen show, the girls sing a cleaned-up version, but it is still disarming: a collision of two very different worlds.
Was she always determined to out-brag and out-curse the boys? "Yes, definitely. That's why I say stuff like, 'Dick in your face', because I don't even wanna refer to female genitalia any more." Why not? "I just feel I have bigger balls than the boys."
Has she always felt like that?
"Is that the persona or you?" I ask.
"No, that's definitely me."
"Is that because you don't think boys have big balls, or because you have huge ones?"