Nicki Minaj reflects on her role within hip-hop in her cover story for XXL’s 20th anniversary issue.
Appearing on the cover in a black latex dominatrix-inspired piece, the Young Money queen goes on to praise legendary rappers for their influence during the interview, including Lil Wayne, JAY-Z, Foxy Brown, Eminem, Nas, Lauryn Hill, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Salt-N-Pepa, The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube.
But Nicki also made it a point to speak about her own influential career, breaking down her impact on the game. “My role in hip-hop has been super unique because when my first album came out, there had been so much time where there wasn’t a female rap album out that went platinum,” she said.
“There wasn’t a big female rap presence right before I got in. So, my role was reintroducing the female rapper to pop culture. I aligned myself with a lot of brands and I was able to show that a female rapper can sell products. Whether it was the makeup, the lipsticks, whether it was the nail polish, headphones or anything like that. It just said, ‘You know what? We were overlooking female rappers for a long time.’ I don’t think we got that much credit. I think female rappers have always been dope and influential, but I think I sort of came in at a time where big business was paying attention, so I was able to capitalize off of a lot of deals and business ventures.”
Part of that came from Nicki’s fierce bars, which were paired with some of the most prominent rappers in the game from early on, including Eminem, Kanye West, and JAY-Z. “I had so many big names on that first album,” she said. “I don’t think that’s ever been done before on a female rap album. For everybody—humongous artists—to sort of cosign them, and give them that stamp of approval. I remember every time I wrote a verse to ‘Roman’s Revenge’ and sent it to Eminem, he would send a new verse back. It was competitive. It was fun. I think all the big, male artists also treated me with a sense of respect as an MC. They took me serious. If they were on a track with me, they knew they had to come hard. So, I’m really, super proud of bringing that to the game as a female rapper.”
Plus, the fashion-forward MC spoke on the importance of hip-hop and its influence on fashion as a whole. “I think certain designers feel like they’re bigger than rap or hip-hop, but nothing is bigger than hip-hop,” she said. “Hip-hop is by far the biggest influence on life.”
Up next, Nicki is expected to release her fourth album, the follow-up to 2014’s The Pinkprint. “I have to release a classic at this point,” she recently told DAZED.