NICKI MINAJ: Hi, Jada.
PINKETT SMITH: Hey Nicki. How are you?
MINAJ: Hi, mama. Thank you so much for doing this. I just want to make it crystal clear how honored I am.
PINKETT SMITH: It’s such a pleasure. When I found out you were having a baby and going into that passage of your life, I was like, “Man, I can’t wait to chat with her.” First of all, let’s start with big congrats to you coming out the box with this number one hit [“Super Freaky Girl”] that’s at the top of the charts already. Does that feel good?
MINAJ: It feels so, so, so, so good because everything happened so fast, like the pregnancy and COVID. I wasn’t sure how I was even feeling about having to put out an album this year, but that song happening and people liking it, that made me happy. People have gone through so much recently that they want to have fun. It’ll probably expedite the album to come out this year.
PINKETT SMITH: Got it, got it. Well, I definitely want to talk to you a little bit about being a mom. [Laughs] How has that been? What are some of the surprises that you’ve had as far as becoming a mother? What has that brought up for you?
MINAJ: It’s funny that you asked what that’s brought up for me because nobody’s ever asked me that. Let me address that before I forget. I see myself as a baby in my son and because of that, it reminds me of moments that I had probably forgotten over time, just of me being a toddler in Trinidad. First of all, being a mother is the biggest freaking blessing on planet earth. I’m so happy that god allowed me to experience this. I’ve always loved children and I’ve always been great with children, but in the last few years I started thinking, I know it’s going to be a huge shift for me because I’m used to going wherever I want, whenever I want, and I knew having a baby was going to change all that. But I absolutely love it. I love my son so much that I don’t know if it’s normal, but it seems unhealthy because I took too long to start working and leaving him to be watched by anyone, so now I have this real bad separation anxiety. So that’s not good.
PINKETT SMITH: Yeah.
MINAJ: If it wasn’t during COVID, it would’ve been different, but I was afraid to bring people around him when he was a tiny, tiny baby—nannies that are going back home and stuff. But the other reason I brought up the second part of your question is because my son is about to be 2, and when I was 2 years old, my parents left me in Trinidad. Of course, I was very attached to my mother, and in my little toddler mind, I thought I was going to see her the next day. And she was gone for two years, so that’s a big part in my development.
PINKETT SMITH: Right.
MINAJ: In fact, right before I came to the States, my mother had to come to Trinidad because I had to have an operation. And when I opened my eyes from the operation, and I was maybe 3 years old going on 4, I started crying because I didn’t know who this lady was. I was crying at the side of my mother, and I started begging my cousin, who was a teenager, to come be in the room with me because that’s who I had gotten attached to in the year-and-a-half prior, you know? So I’m reliving all of those things now because I’m afraid that my son will ever feel that I left him for anything, for any reason, and for any amount of time.
PINKETT SMITH: I understand that. It’s so funny how when we have our own children, we are so focused on making sure that they don’t have to relive some of the challenges that we might have had as kids. But I want to let you know that there’s nothing unusual about adoring your child in a way that you don’t want to be away from them. I was the same way with mine.
PINKETT SMITH: Yeah, girl! I sure was! I didn’t want to leave them ever. I don’t want you to think that something’s weird about that. Especially for those of us who’ve had our own challenging childhoods. We just want to love them deeply and have them know that they’re loved. But that kind of precious connection is so special. And let me tell you, there’s only a small amount of time that your son is going to be two.
MINAJ: Right, right, right!
PINKETT SMITH: Don’t feel bad about wanting to cherish this. There’s nothing unusual about that. And I love hearing that you’re having that experience. I just love that for you, Nicki, I really do.
MINAJ: Thank you, Jada.
PINKETT SMITH: One of the greatest gifts we have is being mothers. And with this single that I heard too, I was like, “Wow, okay. So Nicki is now married, she’s now a mother,” but you are not afraid to still be Nicki Minaj. And I want to tell you, because that can be challenging for us as women: Sometimes when we become mothers, people are like, “Oh, now that’s all you are.” So when I saw you come out the box at number one, I was like, “Okay, she figured out how to approach her art.” It’s like, “No, no, no. This is the place. I am still a woman.” Talk to me a little bit about being able to protect that space for yourself, to be the artist you want to be, to be the woman you want to be.
MINAJ: Can you do all of my interviews for the rest of my life because listen, oh my god. Okay. Here’s the truth that I would not have revealed to anyone but you. The truth is, the video is about to come out and I haven’t even shown it to my husband. Normally I share everything with him. I’ve said this many times, but we grew up in the same neighborhood and he’s five years older than me. I was, I think, 17 years old when I met him, so he was 21 or 22. I’ve known him for a long time, so because of that we are really good friends and I never feel fear to share anything with him. But this video, I haven’t shared it. And it’s because—oh god, how do I say this— I’m big on respect and loyalty, but at the same time, I do feel that for the last couple of years, I have been leaning more towards wife and mom. And I feel like either you’re going to do it or not. So I had this conversation with myself and I had it with him as well, but it’s like, I don’t know how to be a watered-down Nicki Minaj. I just can’t do it!
PINKETT SMITH: [Laughs] MINAJ: When I was pregnant I couldn’t even record certain songs. That body was very uncomfortable for me, number one. And then you have the baby, and your body’s going through all these changes and mentally you’re going through it. It was difficult for me to write on the whole.
PINKETT SMITH: Right.
MINAJ: But then this song came along and because I didn’t approach it in a sexual way, I approached it in a fun way, it’s like I tapped back into who I was. People might not get this from me, but I was never trying to be sexy, I always was laughing. I think that I can look sexy, but I don’t think of myself as a person that is—you know how some women walk into the room and they’re just like, “Ooh.” I’m not like that.
PINKETT SMITH: [Laughs] I totally understand, Nicki!
MINAJ: Okay, good. So because of that, after a few years I had forgotten who I was because I was only reading who people were saying I was. And then it dawned on me like, “Wait a minute. When you were saying your sexually explicit lyrics before, Onika [Minaj was born Onika Tanya Maraj], you weren’t trying to be serious. You weren’t trying to turn people on. You were trying to be funny and goofy and stupid. Like, just tap back into you.” You know? And so that’s how I approached “Super Freaky Girl.”
PINKETT SMITH: Right.
MINAJ: And then, I figured it out again. It’s like, “Yo, I can be both.” Because at the same time, I’m very goofy with my son. I do nothing but animated voices with my son all day to the point where I need to stop! [Laughs]
PINKETT SMITH: [Laughs]
MINAJ: So he knows that momma is goofy and kooky. And so I still felt true to myself on “Super Freaky Girl.” As opposed to, a lot of people were sending me songs, Jada, a lot of female rappers, especially, and I didn’t want to be mean, but every other word was “pussy” and “fucking” and da da da, and I wasn’t there. I don’t think I can ever fully be there.
PINKETT SMITH: Right.
MINAJ: But also, I don’t think the new female rappers really understand who I am. A lot of the girls that came before me, they really were those sexual beings, and I was so inspired by them. But I’m not like that, I’m more the goofy girl. Even some of the new male rappers—I turned down a Gunna song because it was just moaning and groaning on the track, but Drake ended up doing it and it worked great for them. And free Gunna by the way, I have to make sure I say that. But it’s just like, I told her I’m not there. I said, “Look, sweetheart, I’ve put this song on 50 times to try to write to it. I can’t. I’m just not in that moment right now.” Not saying that I’m not a freak with my husband, you understand?
PINKETT SMITH: Right. Of course!
MINAJ: I’m not saying that at all, okay? But I don’t choose to express the sexual side right now in that overt way.
PINKETT SMITH: I understand that. I think people who haven’t had children don’t realize what it takes for us to really step into some different shoes to stay connected to the woman. So I get it. As we get older as women, we get more comfortable in being what we are.
MINAJ: Yes! Oh my god. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. You tend to think you’re going to be feeling worse when you’re in your late thirties or early forties, or you think when you’re about to be 40 years old, “Oh, I’m going to feel like shit,” and then you end up feeling amazing.
PINKETT SMITH: [Laughs] Yes! Because you get to a place where you get full acceptance of yourself. And just hearing you when you were like, “When I was coming up people thought these things about me and what have you.” It’s like, “Okay, maybe I’ll play that role. I’ll try that skin on for a minute.” It sounds to me like you’ve tried on different skins and you’re starting to find the skin that is yours, defined and shaped by your hand and your understanding, so that’s real dope.
PINKETT SMITH: Where do you feel like the state of hip-hop is right now, as a whole, but specifically for women?
MINAJ: I wish there was some more singing. I remember listening to Monica’s first album, for instance, and I couldn’t put it down. Or, of course, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Now, what happened was that we introduced this guy who was a really great rapper, but he has great melodies, and his name is Drake. And then the industry has changed so much in that, “Well, if I could be a rapper and I could get the same reaction that the R&B singers used to get from the girls, then I don’t even have to know how to sing. I could have the best of both worlds.” The biggest male rappers now are giving the best melodies. I always say Lil Baby, for instance, his melodies are freaking dope. He’s not a singer, but he’s got catchy hooks and melodies out the wazoo, and it’s like, “Oh my god, I see the switch.” I remember when [Lil] Wayne had started singing, whether it was in his rock era or after. Some people liked it and some people didn’t, but he was singing and using autotune. So I think over time, because the quote-unquote “rapper” or the “hood” person has always been more appealing to us, and when I say to us,I mean to us. Now it’s like, that’s who everybody wants to be. So now, the singers went out of style. But I wish the singers were back in style. Right now when I go to listen to music and I just want to be in my little somber place, even that used to inspire me as a writer of raps, which is crazy. Do you know what I mean?
Head to Interview to finish the story. How do you feel about Black women supporting each other publicly?