Cashing In: Minaj for the Masses

Cashing In: Minaj for the Masses

Love her or hate her? Nicki Minaj is all business as she climbs the charts with Roman Reloaded

The first time we heard Nicki Minaj was on “Monster,” a track that includes heavyweights Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Kanye, it was her ferocious verse that stood out the most. It automatically exhibited her potential to be this generation's dopest female M.C.   

Due to the fact that she signed with a label like Young Money, whose primary focus is to generate revenue (ergo, pop), it became obvious that she would be known for her pop jams as opposed to her skills on the mic. With her growing popularity and appeal, and now surpassing Eminem as the most followed rap artist on Twitter, many have claimed – though she adamantly denies it – that she's gone pop. The proof is there; the Ellen appearances, the elaborate performance on American Idol, the Superbowl show with Madonna, not to mention her recently released, Billboard topping Roman Reloaded. All of these lead to the conclusion that Nicki Minaj is now a “pop” rapper.

But really, who can blame her? And hasn't she always been pop?

There are ample examples of rappers who know a good business opportunity when they see one (Sean Carter, Sean Combs), and who can really hate on Nicki for putting out an album whose demographic spans from children to fully grown adults? It's not like her Young Money counterparts Lil Wayne and Drake haven't put out a slew of pop singles. Rap is about finding your own niche and developing it. So if Nicki Minaj can include dubstep, fierce verses, a nauseating selection of possible Billboard Number Ones, British accents and alter egos all on one record and she can get away with it, then why wouldn't she?

Nicki has the chance here to build her own empire. Roman Reloaded appeals to the swarms of young adolescent fans who know every lyric to “Super Bass.” Will hardcore rap enthusiasts enjoy it? Not likely. Even despite the fact that Nicki continuously insists she is “hardcore.”

Again, the proof is there. The duet with Chris Brown will probably be every high school kid's anthem at prom this year, lead single “Starships” sounds like a more produced Rebecca Black; essentially every track on Roman appeals to pop devotees, save for the first seven; reserved for her rap fans (which in a brief time include cameos from Cam'Ron, Nas, Drake and Rick Ross). And while these rap fans have claimed they feel betrayed by Nicki for going soft, it seems they don't realize that she has always been a mainstream pop artist, whether she admits it or not.

What's most unfortunate is that as an M.C., her skills are unparalleled, whereas as a vocalist, she's mediocre at best. But as a brand, pop-rap is obviously the more lucrative investment here. If she continues on this path, she could very well be the female Jay-Z, one of the most celebrated pop rappers. Nicki Minaj shouldn't be ashamed to admit she's a popstar, and with a fan base as large as hers, it sounds silly for her to deny it. The random moment where she does spit a ferocious verse proves that she is still in fact hardcore. But like many of the most successful rappers, who know to give the crowd what they want, it appears that she is a businesswoman first.

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