By Mesfin Fekadu
NEW YORK — Nicki Minaj loves the kids, but she’s not ready to completely clean up her image for her young fans.
“I’ve always been kind of racy,” Minaj says, laughing. “Don’t expect that to change, but I love children and I respect children so much. …I’m big on them remaining, you know, kids. I don’t want them to go around cursing and acting crazy.”
Many kids — and others — are going out to buy Minaj’s sophomore album, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” which sold 253,000 units in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, giving Minaj her second No. 1 album.
In just three years, the rapper has transformed her image by singing on her songs, and toning down her oversexed appearance. Her fan base now includes young girls, which she says surprised her.
“I didn’t expect the kids to gravitate to me like that,” the 29-year-old said in an interview last week before performing in New York’s Times Square at a Nokia event. “I’m finding my own niche with them.”
One of the reasons children have connected with Minaj is thanks to pop hits like “Super Bass,” ”Turn Me On” with David Guetta and “Starships.” Minaj is also featured twice on Madonna’s latest album, “MDNA.”
“Roman Reloaded” showcases Grammy-nominated Minaj as her male alter ego, Roman. The album has multiple sounds to match her multiple personalities: In addition to dance-pop anthems that mirror Rihanna and Katy Perry, there is hardcore hip-hop, contemporary R&B and reggae flavors.
“Once I did it I was like, ‘Why aren’t all albums like this? Why does every artist have to give you one thing?'” Minaj asked. “I like going to restaurants because I can order a little bit of salad, a little bit of bread, a little bit of chicken, some sushi. I like variety. I get very, very bored if I have to keep things the same.”
The new album follows her 2010 debut, “Pink Friday,” which is approaching double platinum status and launched seven singles that were hits on the pop, R&B or rap charts. “Roman Reloaded,” which boasts 19 tracks, features Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Drake and Nas, and producers like RedOne, Dr. Luke, Alex da Kid and J.R. Rotem.
“The album alone, just the sequence and the order and the genre, that alone is a conversation piece,” she said. “People keep talking about it. I didn’t know it was going to be such a big deal.”
Minaj, who was discovered by Lil Wayne and signed to his Cash Money/Young Money imprint in 2009, says she’s interested in putting out her own female rap talent.
“It wouldn’t be on Young Money, it would be on my own label if I do decide to do my own label. Yeah, sure, of course,” she said.
“People do come up to me a lot about their female rappers, and I always tell them, ‘It’s for the strongest, (the) mentally strongest people in the world. You know, you’ve got a lot of things going against you, but if you really, really want it, you push yourself, write your own lyrics and you have an opportunity. You can do it.'”