Level 4's place to be to catch a rising star
By Lacy Matsumoto
Special to The Advertiser
Known for her bad-girl lyrics, confidence and sex appeal, female rapper Nicki Minaj has more going on than people might assume.
Her proud lyrics and boastful rhymes also have an underlying message: to empower women.
"My message to young women is to stay in school. You need to be educated to be a strong woman, and no matter how fun or sexy you want to be, you should always have being a businesswoman on your mind," Minaj says in a phone interview.
The 25-year-old rapper was born in Queens, N.Y., and made her claim to fame when a CEO of Dirty Money Label spotted her on MySpace. (Born Onika Maraj, she changed her name to Nicki Minaj as a provocative play on the phrase menage a trois.)
Her often over-the-top, glamorized style has her rocking glossed, pouty lips and perfectly curled hair. Her voice is clear, concise, and has often been compared to rappers such as Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown — but she says she's not trying to be like either emcee, who broke ground before her.
Since signing a label contract, she's released a 2008 mixtape, "Sucka Free," won best female artist of the year at the Underground Music Awards and began collaborating with artists such as Lil Wayne, T.I., Gucci Mane and Jay-Z.
Minaj also has a new, high-profile collaborator: Mariah Carey, with whom she appears in a music video.
The "Up Out My Face" video with Carey should be out "any day now," Minaj says.
What makes Minaj so hot? Fans enjoy her risque image, her convincing lyrics, and have picked up on one of her signature comments — her use of "Barbie" as a term for girls with style.
"I don't think of myself as a Barbie, it's just a term I use," she explains. "It's like, instead of calling girls cute or sexy, I just say 'Hey, you're a Barbie,' or like, 'Yo, Barbs.' "
Currently, Minaj is working in an Atlanta studio on her next album. "I hope to complete it by the end of this year," she says.
She took a Hawai'i gig at Level 4 tonight, even though she's not on tour, because, "It's Hawai'i!" Still, her time in the Islands is short and sweet: "It's not a vacation for me, unfortunately."
She has to get back to work: "I'm really turning down a lot of gigs, because I'm focusing right now on the album," Minaj says. This Honolulu show is a prime opportunity to catch a star on the way up.