By Paul Cantor
Nicki Minaj is hot, and not just figuratively speaking. This week, two new songs she’s featured on- Sean Kingston’s “Dutty Love” and Jay Sean’s “2012”- debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart (at #46 and #50, respectively), while her own single, “Your Love,” remains in the top 20. And just yesterday, a new video- Trey Songz’ “Bottoms Up”- premiered, in which she also appears. To say Nicki’s omnipresent right now would be an understatement.
“There hasn’t been a female rapper in nearly 10 years to make as much noise as she’s made,” says Billboard.com’s Associate Editor, Mariel Concepcion. “[And] Nicki isn’t just collaborating with straight hip-hop artists.”
Indeed, one of the largest keys to Ms. Minaj's crossover success seems to be that she can come off exceedingly well on any type of record. Her list of collaborations runs the gamut from urban to reggae (Gyptian’s “Hold Yuh” remix) to straight pop (“Woohoo” w/ Christina Aguilera, among others).
Some contend though that while her success in subsequent genres is welcome, she needs to focus on delivering stronger material for her core audience.
“Nicki's flow is so creative that you can count on her delivering at least a few instant, easy-to-remember quotables, which is the key to having a successful verse on a pop or R&B song,” says Brendan Frederick, Deputy Editor at Complex Magazine. “[But] now she needs to drop a few hardcore records for the hip-hop base- like ‘I Get Crazy’ or ‘Itty Bitty Piggy' from last year- and her buzz will definitely reach critical mass.”
Towing the line between pop and urban isn’t something that uncommon right now. A quick glance at her Young Money affiliate Drake indicates such. And much like Mr. Graham (and even to a larger extent, mentor Lil Wayne) she’s taken similar steps- mixtapes and multiple guest appearances- to brighten her already glowing buzz.
“Young Money has a formula that's working,” says John Kennedy, Vibe Magazine’s Music Editor. “She's established herself much like Drake for his album lead up. But mostly in appetizers, guest verses.”
Hillary Crosley, Editorial Director of Parlour Magazine, doesn’t see it as cut and dry. In fact, she argues that we’re quick to overlook one of Nicki’s most obvious blunders. “Her first official single ‘Massive Attack’ was a fail both as a video and a song,” she says. “So in that respect, I disagree that she's like Wayne and Drake because I can't think of any songs they released that earned such a backlash from hip-hop heads.”
So as her debut LP Pink Friday (November 23rd, the day Nicki’s album is supposed to drop) approaches, whether or not she’ll sell tons of records isn’t exactly a given. Especially not in such a grim music industry climate for record sales.
"There isn't that much of an onus on anyone to sell a huge amount of records these days,” says Markman. “Drake sold over 400k in his first week and many viewed that as a disappointment, yet no matter the numbers he is no doubt a success. All Nicki needs to do is deliver a solid LP that will in turn bring value to her brand in other ways outside of SoundScan."
Brendan Frederick agrees. “Album sales are basically meaningless now,” he says. “The purpose of releasing an album is to prove to your fans and the industry that you're a reliable artist they should invest time and money in. Concert ticket sales, merchandising and endorsement deals are where the money is actually being made, and an album is just a calling card that shows what you're capable of.”
What do you think? Does Nicki need to sell a ton of records to prove she’s a real success, or with her Billboard chart domination is she already there? Join the conversation in the comments, or upload your reaction to Your.MTV.com.