While it’s de-rigueur for visiting performers to claim to love the town or city they’re visiting, hip hop star Nicki Minaj seems to have a genuine soft spot for the people of Scotland. The Pinkprint Tour comes to Glasgow’s Hydro arena following hot on the un-walkable kitten heels of Minaj successfully hosting of the EMA awards in November, and her incongruous rapping about shortbread and having orange hair seems to have made her an honorary Scot. Here’s a quick guide to how the Minaj works it.
2011’s 'Superbass' established Minaj’s style; fluttering her eyes like a malfunctioning fembot, sporting a series of Gonk-ish hairstyles, shaking her booty while rapping at phat-pipe broadband speed, 'Superbass' depicts her considering the merits of a possible suitor, ideally someone ‘ill’. Her affections are not to be offered too freely; she admonishes women who look ‘hoe’, much as she admonishes herself on the more pared down 'Stupid Hoe'.
Since 2007, Minaj has been a rising star, initially under the wing of Lil’ Wayne. Ubiquitous hits like 'Starships' and 'Pound the Alarm' established her vocal delivery with the fluidity of Samuel Beckett’s monologue 'Not I' delivered at a Minnie-Mouse-on-helium frequency. Prominent guest vocals on David Guetta’s 'Where Them Girls At' bolstered her cross-over from hip hop to manufactured mainstream goddess; the video for another Guetta collaboration, 'Turn Me On', provides evidence for the latter, artfully presenting Minaj as a robot under construction.
Running alongside her official output, there’s a cottage industry of parodists and hangers on all chipping in to the Minaj. A minor wardrobe malfunction, causing the infrequently shy star to perform an entire song holding her dress together in Glasgow last year, has more videos devoted to it than most singers can manage in a career. Consequently, cartoon parodies, drag imitations and educational versions of her songs proliferate. The unreconstructed booty-obsession on her 2014 LP 'Anaconda' created an endless meme of vox pops showing people reacting to the song, including Dead Parrot’s deadpan reconstruction of a 'Downton Abbey'-type discussion of the merits of her music.
Minaj has her own uniquely offbeat style; one of her own promotional clips shows Minaj as the interviewee, complete with shades and bowl cut, but also as the interviewer: wide eyed, eager to please but unable to conquer awkward silences in the conversation. A previous EMA promo depicted Minaj as the Queen, sipping tea while reading about her latest exploits in the paper. More revealingly, an interview from 2008 depicts her astride a child’s mechanical pony delivering a proto-feminist sermon on the mount, offering up such forthright comment as ‘If a man argues with a woman, he’s not a man’. It’s clear that such trappings are not required; Minaj is the kind of royalty that the whole of Glasgow can take to its heart.
Nicki Minaj plays The SSE Hydro on Sunday April 12.
Words: Eddie Harrison