There's more to Nicki Minaj than just a pink wig and her funny voices. Rap's reigning queen has evolved from a budding New York MC to an omnipresent figure in music and pop culture. She's come a long way since her 2007 Playtime Is Over mixtape.
"I think I went from being a caricature in people's eyes to becoming someone with a lot of layers," Nicki told MTV News correspondent Sway Calloway when she appeared on his "Sway in the Morning" Shade 45 radio show on Tuesday.
Nicki spoke with Sway and co-host Devi Dev about a range of topics — from her over-the-top 2012 Grammy performance to working with Madonna — but Nicki seemed most eager to emphasize that as many strides as she's made in her career, her superstar qualities were always there on the inside.
"You just gotta realize that I'm never gonna be one-dimensional," she said. "Even my core fans I think, at times, thought I was one-dimensional when I was doing mixtapes. However, even on the mixtapes, I was singing and I did a song called 'Can Anybody Hear Me' on one of my mixtapes where I was singing and talking about being a female rapper and trying to get signed."
"Can Anybody Hear Me" appeared on her 2009 tape Beam Me Up Scotty and featured Nicki spitting about her difficulty securing a record deal. Funny when you think about all of the success she's now obtained. "When it rains, it pours for real/ Def Jam said I'm no Lauryn Hill/ You can't rap and sing on the same CD/ The public won't get it, they got A.D.D.," Nicki rapped back in '09.
Minaj has since broken down those barriers and her latest album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, is the ultimate brush-off to naysayers who once told Nicki what she couldn't do.
"It's just been peeling back the layers and now I think the ultimate layer was me saying, 'Now I'm gonna do whatever kind of music I want to do and you're free to not like it,' " she said. "This new album, Roman Reloaded, when I tell you I am not nervous, I am not fearful; all of those emotions left."
The Young Money superstar's second album balances her hard-core rap sensibilities with pop tracks produced by RedOne and Dr Luke. Critics have been lukewarm, but Nicki doesn't want to choose between the two distinct musical genres; it's all derived from a feeling, she said.
"My story is not gonna always entail a hard hip-hop beat, but sometimes it is," she explained. "A lot of the tracks on this album are just a hard hip-hop beat and just spittin' and that's why I enlisted some people like [Cam'ron] and 2 Chainz and the legendary Nas."
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To celebrate the release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, we will be examining the "Evolution of Nicki Minaj" throughout the week. Check MTV News every day to see how the Southside Jamaica, Queens, Barbie went from a promising mixtape standout to rap's reigning queen.