Nicki Minaj may have everything she dreamed of — including her historic career, marriage, and son — but the journey to getting it all was far from easy. In a rare, intimate interview for Vogue‘s December issue cover story, the rapper opens up about her trials and tribulations with motherhood, her musical career and more.
Minaj, born Onika Tanya Maraj, married high school flame Kenneth Petty in October 2019, and they are parents to a 3-year-old son, whom they refer to publicly as Papa Bear.
“Because I’ve known my husband for so long, there’s an ease we have with each other,” she tells the outlet. “If it was a guy that I met as Nicki Minaj, I think I’d feel like they liked me because I’m Nicki Minaj, and what if I don’t look like Nicki Minaj every day? And that, combined with pregnancy, would probably have made me crazy.”
Although Minaj has never shied away from sharing photos or videos of her son with her legion of fans — known as Barbz — the rapper has rarely provided insight into her mindset during her pregnancy. Minaj admits that she initially thought of her marriage and motherhood as escapes from her long-established brand.
She recalls that she used to tell people that when she became a mother, she would be entirely focused on their care, believing that she could solely focus on being a mother rather than being consumed with her rapping career.
“But what happens is that you find out you have to work,” she says, reflecting on how she and Petty tackled their son’s infancy with “no help whatsoever save for an occasional brief visit from a grandparent.”
The rapper admits that the experience was the most exhausted she’d ever been, including her three world tours. That exhaustion even affected her marriage, with Minaj sharing that “things got testy” between her and Petty.
“Because of our history, I think we knew we’d get past it. But there’s no such thing as confidence in parenthood,” she notes. “…There’s a level of anxiety, and you think it’s going to go away, but in fact it gets scarier. So often you think: I don’t know how to do this!”
Norman Jean Roy/Vogue
It was after a conversation with another woman about mom guilt that Minaj realized that trying to stay away from “the only thing I know how to freaking do” was fruitless. So she returned to make music, which leads to the imminent release of her upcoming fifth studio album, Pink Friday 2.
“When I look back at a lot of my music, I’m like, Oh, my God, where was the me in it?” she tells Vogue of the highly anticipated project. “So for this album, I went back to the old game plan.”
Minaj confesses that she feels that she “got away from” an optimistic outlook with her recent music and looks to recapture that energy with her fifth album. Pink Friday 2 will be a nostalgic callback to her beginnings and an introduction to a new era of the rapper’s music.
“Imagine a Nicki Minaj greatest hits album, but all the songs are new,” Aubry “Big Juice” Delaine, Minaj’s longtime mix engineer, boasts.
The new direction is a sign of a greater change within Minaj, who says she feels as if she’s unlocked a secret of life. “For me the idea of accepting what you can’t change — it just never clicked with me before,” she shares. “So now, if I find myself trying to control it all, I try to remember what’s really important. I look in my son’s face, and my whole soul lights up. He has no clue how nerve-racking it’s been for me to be a mother and an artist.”
Minaj’s Vogue issue hits newsstands on Nov. 21.