This is a feature on Nicki Minaj that I wrote for 944 magazine’s Atlanta edition. It was published in November 2010.
You can’t pin down Nicki Minaj. She’s a burgeoning sex symbol, a fashion idol-in-the-making, a blooming pop tart, and an impressive rap lyricist. And with the forthcoming release of her debut album, Pink Friday, the 25-year-old woman from Queensbridge, New York may become the first major female hip-hop star in a generation.
Nicki embraces the pressure. “I have high expectations for myself,” she says during a conversation at the W Hotel in downtown Hollywood. As she sits on the bed in her Wonderful Room suite, she drapes herself in a white terrycloth bathrobe, nearly covering her street clothes, save for a pair of hot pink Keds sneakers. She’s sweet and unpretentious, politely introducing herself as she enters the room with her management team. But the day’s round of promotional activities have clearly taken a toll. Near the end of the conversation, she slumps and hangs her head, exhausted from all the attention.
Last year, I interviewed Charles Bradley about his final album, Changes, for Napster’s short-lived blog. I also had the pleasure of seeing him at the 50th anniversary Monterey Pop Festival in August, a month before he died on September 23.
Charles Bradley calls himself the “Screaming Eagle of Soul.” The 67-year-old New York singer earned his nickname when he used to perform as a James Brown imitator at local house parties and clubs around the city, and someone in the audience awarded him the superlative. It’s an apt description for Bradley’s voice, which can switch from a gentle yet raspy croon to a piercing, heart-stopping wail. When you hear him cry out on “The World (Is Going Up In Flames),” the bracing first track from his classic 2011 debut, No Time for Dreaming, he’ll make the hairs on your arm stand up.