What lies ahead for Nicki Minaj, amidst a management team change and a heavily press-fueled year?
There are very few artists in the musical sphere whose resume parallels that of Nicki Minaj. From historic and record breaking moments, such as being the first woman with 100 appearances on Billboard Hot 100, to 10 Grammy nods and a long lot of consecutive international award show wins in almost every single category. After ten years with her foot on the gas and 5-inch heels on the neck of the rap game, according to recent reports, Nicki has decided to part ways with her management team, Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant, who also manage the likes of Lil Wayne and Rich The Kid.
Nicki Minaj performing at the MTV EMAs - Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Nicki’s decision to clean house could be signalling a new era, faze, and perhaps even a new sound in her career. As reported by Variety, the split between Blueprint Group and Maverick Management and Minaj was “mutual and amicable.” While we are sad to see the departure of everyone’s favorite Queen Radio interjector, Gee is said to have already picked up where we left off, potentially taking on Lil Nas X as his latest client. On Nicki’s end, she is rumoured to possibly take on Irving Azoff, Chairman and CEO of MSG Entertainment, whom she previously awarded “Cocksucker of the Day” to on Queen radio, alleging that he attempted a "smear campaign" on her 2018 summer tour plans.
Though it is not confirmed if Minaj will join the label that’s home to Lady Gaga and Travis Scott, many of her Barbs are giving their two cents in her search for a new team-- filling her mentions with Scooter Braun’s name. With so many floating hypotheses and speculation of who Nicki will take on (or rather, who will take on Nicki), one can’t help but wonder, what is next for the mega star?
For a superstar like Nicki Minaj to make such a drastic change in management at the pinnacle of her career implies that Minaj could possibly be looking for a substantial change in business and perhaps even image. So, what kind of revamp does Mrs. Minaj have up her sleeve exactly? There are several possibilities. Throughout most of her career, Minaj has been dubbed a feature and remix Queen, releasing unofficial remixes of track as recently as “Barbie Drip” and “Going Bad.” However, will the new management style call for surprise album drops instead of single-release remix-based build-up? Fans have also been left asking where this will put the fate of her current ventures, that highlight and indulge fans in her personal life, such as Queen Radio? In recent years, Nicki has become much more of an open-book with the behind the scenes of her life. She has taken to sharing her private music-making process, posting never before seen behind the scenes clips of herself creating hit songs and lyrics in the studio as well as posting an abundance of videos and photos that include public displays of affection with her boyfriend Kenneth Petty. This is a stark difference opposed to earlier in her career when she kept her relationship status very private and concealed (think: Safari), and continued to keep a low profile throughout all of her much more high-profile relationships (think: Meek Mill and Nas.) In fact, even her latest platform Queen Radio-- where she addresses rumours, gossip and misconceptions about herself-- appeared to a huge deviation from the tight-lipped Pinkprint-era-Minaj.
Many fans have been alluding to the fact that, in hindsight, this new intimate Nicki could have been a strategic managerial decision. Given the new-found impact that social media has had on the music industry in recent years, almost every artist and their teams have had to adapt and adjust to the social media playing field. In some ways, social media has almost become the third hand of the music industry, aiding in jump starting the careers and exposure of fresh faces like Cardi B and City Girls. One could argue that not only must an artist’s music be appealing, but now, that same artist must interact more on an informal level with fans: giving glimpses into their personal lives, and showcasing various sides of their own personalities. The fans want an immediate and close connection to their favorite artist. It can certainly give an artist the upper hand if they do it correctly. We’ve seen the advantage it has had for artist like Cardi B, whose charismatic internet persona was a hit on Instagram, and made her even more likeable and relatable to fans, by extension, giving her whole rap career a boost. Now that the music industry understands this forumaliac approach we have seen artistS interacting and sharing with fans more than ever, and a spike in “challenges” that fans can participate in. The ‘Queen’ era is full of this type of candidness. Minaj became outspoken with her thoughts on the music industry after it was revealed that her fourth studio album Queen sold 185,000 copies first week, she called out competitor Travis Scott for attaching merch pricing to album sales in order to gain the number one album in the country. Yet it seems, Minaj’s sudden outspokenness backfired, causing an onset of media power players including Charlamagne tha God to dub her as “desperate” and relegating her to “Donkey of the Day.” Watching Nicki Minaj’s legacy be questioned in the eyes of the public, as a result of her rightfully speaking out on in a way that most artist would be praised for, hurt not only as a lover of hip-hop, but as a black woman. It once again highlighted the idea that, often times when black women begin to voice their opinions and speak their mind, they are labeled “difficult,” “irate” or on the verge of a mental breakdown. This is much of the rhetoric we witnessed from the media and the court of public opinion, regarding Queen Radio’s press roll out. Despite Nicki’s legacy and 10-year-strong contribution to the game, she was given no room to express natural human emotions, like anger and disappointment, without retaliation in return.
Nicki Minaj at the Met Gala 2019 - Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
After perhaps her most whirlwind year in the press yet, and the current absence of a new managerial team to act as a source of comfort and stability, the superstar may be feeling uneasy, rightly so. Following Minaj’s most recent Met Gala appearance on May 6th, many Barbs were left wondering whether she is taking time for her own personal health. In a short video clip of her Vogue interview with Liza Koshy, many commenters were observant of her out-of-character demeanour citing, “She seems stressed, she probably needs to cut some negative people out her life. Nicki was the queen of camp, but she looks uncomfortable tonight,” and, “Wow, I was saying the same thing to myself. I wasn’t going to comment, after reading yours I had to say something…I hope she finds peace with whatever she is going through…” Nicki’s appearance at the Met Gala could possibly be signaling that she herself is anxious for what is to come.
As Nicki Minaj currently stands at a business crossroads, and as she’s pulled back the reins significantly when it comes to social media revelations (in light of all the backlash she receives?), many are excited to see what the talented rapstar’s next career move may be. There are an abundance of paths and directions Miss Minaj could go. So the question remains, will she continue to try and play by this generation's “open book” social media rules? Or will her new managerial team fall more in line with the likes of clients like Beyonce and Mariah Carey, successful legends who have taken an advantageous “less-is-more” approach, sharing as little as possible online, outside of music. Or could a new managerial change have very little effect on Minaj’s output both personally and musically, instead, signal in a completely different business- and-branding-centered era? To expound, this past year we have seen celebrities like Rihanna take a full, but momentary, step back away from music to focus on becoming a renowned CEO and businesswoman through various avenues such as fashion and makeup. Could the next chapter for Nicki include building her empire beyond music?
The possibilities seem endless. As of now, much remains a guessing game, but one thing is for certain: it is always a beautiful to watch an artist grow and develop throughout various stages of their career.