Nicki Minaj Talks Grammy Performance, Madonna, M.I.A., & 'Starships'
Fresh off her much-talked-about appearance at the Grammys, Nicki Minaj called into Ryan Seacrest to talk at length about her alter ego Roman Zolanski and controversial performance, why she chose to debut “Roman Holiday” at the awards, how Madonna changed her life (and her wig), her disappointment in M.I.A.’s finger flipping at the Super Bowl, and her new single “Starships,” which will premiere tomorrow morning on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show.
On attending the Grammys with a Pope look-alike: “The religious figure is there because he was called on by Roman’s mom to rehabilitate him.”
On her debut performance of “Roman Holiday”: “I had this vision for him to be sort of exorcised—or actually he never gets exorcised—but people around him tell him he’s not good enough because he’s not normal, he’s not blending in with the average Joe. And so his mother is scared and the people around him are afraid because they’ve never seen anything like him. He wanted to show that not only is he amazing and he’s sure of himself and confident, but he’s never gonna change, he’s never gonna be exorcised. Even when they throw the holy water on him, he still rises above.”
On getting in her comfort zone: “I wanted to create a movie. I reached out to a great friend of mine, Hype Williams, to create the movie. I just wanted him to be in this monastery and I wanted to see him in his comfort zone. It’s funny because it’s the most comfortable I’ve been on stage in my entire life.”
On why she chose “Roman Holiday” for the Grammys: “The Grammys chose ‘Roman Holiday.’ The producers of the Grammys came to the studio and I played them ‘Roman Holiday,’ and I could not play them another record after they heard that. They went crazy. I could have chosen to do a no-brainer pop song, but I can’t do it anymore. I have to stay true to what I’m doing.”
On Madonna’s influence: “Meeting Madonna changed my life. Working with Madonna changed my life. Rehearsing with Madonna for two weeks changed my life. When you look at these amazing women, you have to realize that a lot of work goes into this. I, for the first time, refused to go to any parties. This performance was it and this is the first performance that I’m proud of in my entire career. I saw how much Madonna sacrificed and how much she rehearses and rehearses and rehearses and rehearses, and everyone there was like, ‘We got it.’ But she was like, ‘No, I want you to know this choreography in your sleep.’ We did know it in our sleep by the time we got on the Super Bowl stage. But when I saw that, it inspired me so much, the same way Wayne inspired me to start really becoming a beast as a rapper. The Madonna situation inspired me to give it my all and put that work in.”
On how Madonna got her to change her wig: “Madonna was the first person in history who was able to make me change my wig. I had some choices in terms of color and she was like, ‘Nicki…’ She has a way with words. She’s a monster, but when she’s speaking to an artist, she’s really sweet and she knows how to word things so you don’t feel uncomfortable. She was like, ‘I don’t know about it.’ So I really went through four color changes on my wig for the Super Bowl. We got the platinum blonde and she smiled. Once she smiled, I was like, ‘Thank you Jesus.’ I couldn’t take it anymore. She was one of the only people who could get me to wear red lipstick and when I did it, I ended up loving it, so I told her, ‘I’m so glad I trusted you. You’re amazing, you’re the queen, and everybody has to bow down.'”
On M.I.A.’s Super Bowl stunt: “My first feeling was disappointment, only because of my respect for Madonna. I’m a cuckoo lady too, but I would never be able to do it off the strength of Madonna. There are fines that go into these things, and I just thought, ‘Oh my God. I hope they don’t penalize Madonna.’ Madonna knows the artist that M.I.A. is and it was her decision to take the risk with all of us. We were kinda all firecrackers and she took that risk. She’s done some crazy things becoming the icon that she is, so I think that’s why she was able to forgive M.I.A. I love M.I.A. and I don’t want to say anything that is the wrong thing, but me personally, I couldn’t see myself doing it, just for the respect for Madonna. I wouldn’t want any backlash to come back on Madonna.”
On her new single: “‘Starships’ is one of my absolute, absolute favorite records on Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. It just sounds like a Ryan Seacrest-type of record. And I’m so excited for you to give this song your blessing, Ryan, because I know people are gonna love it. It feels right. It just feels good. It makes people feel happy and that’s all I want. I want to start the year off with making people feel good. The [Grammy] performance was the performance, that was my clear craziness, and now it’s time to make people dance and have fun, and that’s all I want to do.”