I Got Hired To Write Nicki Minaj’s Biography (Part 1/2)
I write horror stories. I live and breathe the genre. Writing scary prose isn't just a hobby for me: it's my passion.
So imagine my surprise when I was asked to write a biography. No, not for Stephen King or Edgar Allan Poe. But an authorized biography for the one and only Nicki Minaj. Yeah, I was shocked too when I first read that mysterious e-mail. It fucking screamed scam. To think a NoSleep author with failed indie screenplays and a middling fanbase would ever get the chance to write the bio for the biggest female rapper of this decade?
The offer even said I'd be given full credit… not to mention insane pay. And all I had to do was just give the L.A. phone number a call…
To my surprise, a familiar female voice answered. The unmistakable charismatic and playful tone I'd heard on hit radio since 2010. My college celebrity crush: Nicki. And she sounded overjoyed to be talking to me! Her contagious laughter sweeter than John and Paul's harmonies.
Nicki told me she loved my stories. She even referenced deep cuts like I Went From Being A Hard-Working Mother To Being Accused Of Murder and My Office Crush Attacked Me. She praised the scares, the twists, prose, even the Goddamn similes. And most of all, she was impressed by the diversity of my casts.
For once, I felt like someone got me. And that someone was Nicki Minaj of all people. And she didn't stop there either. The authorized biography meant I'd get the chance to spend time with the artist herself. A one-way ticket to Beverly Hills she was paying for! Free room and board at the Queen's castle of a mansion.
"I've been wanting to meet you so bad!" she said. "You're an awesome writer, Rhonnie."
"Well, thank you," I replied, my heartbeat running away…
But I had to tell her the truth: I'd never written anything outside the horror genre. Nothing non-fiction…. much less an anticipated biography like this. The task kinda scared me.
"No, you got this!" Nicki yelled. "I know you can write, Rhonnie. You're the one to tell my story. Just you!"
Again, she had my heartbeat running away…
"I don't need the damn biographers or journalists or whatever," Nicki went on, her excitement enunciating each and every syllable. "I need you. I need a real writeeerr…"
The sweet purr sold me.
"And I think together, we can really make something happen," the superstar continued. "Like something classic!"
"I'd be honored," I said with a beaming smile.
"Just bring your ass here," Nicki went on. "I'll cover everything."
Here I was standing alone in my girlfriend Ashley's apartment. On my day off from stocking sodas. Just finding out Nicki Minaj had been my cheerleader all along…
"Thank you!" I said to her. "This is gonna be so amazing. My girlfriend loves you! Ashley's gonna lose her shit when she gets to meet you!"
"Well, I can't wait to meet her!" Nicki replied. "You know I'm always here for my fans."
"I'd love to meet Ashley. Can I call her Ash?"
"Holy shit, that's what she prefers!"
Nicki unleashed a Roman laugh. "Oh my God, I knew it! And yeah, we'll all meet when the book's done."
Slight disappointment sunk into me. "When it's done?"
"Yeah. We can't have no distractions, Rhonnie. We gotta sacrifice. We have to focus."
Hesitant, I leaned against the kitchen counter. "So I'm really going by myself? You're cool with that?"
"Of course!" Nicki said. "I ain't trying to creep you out, you're the horror writer!"
I couldn't help but smile.
"Look, my man ain't gonna be there either," Nicki continued. "It's just gonna be us geniuses. That's how I like to work."
Nicki had a point. I just wasn't sure how Ash was gonna respond…
"Well, Ashley really would love to meet you," I said. "Her mom's from Trinidad."
"Oh, really?" Nicki said, her voice taking on a scholarly tone. "You like us Trini girls then?"
I laughed. "Well, yeah."
"Well, tell Ash I'll make it up to her. Homegirl's got her when we finish the book."
The conversation flowed as well as Nicki's best verses. We chatted like old friends. Two artistic souls forming a bond. Nicki herself even went ahead and e-mailed more information. Even a fucking plane ticket.
Of course, my cynical dark passenger kept me from being too overjoyed. What if someone hired an amazing voice impersonator or created a script based off Nicki sound bites? I couldn't be sure… but Goddamn, this seemed way too elaborate for the scams I was familiar with.
And deep down, I wanted this to be true. My future of being a full-time, professional writer looked set. Nicki Minaj had rescued me from obscurity. And in turn, she likely paved the way for Ash and I's inevitable marriage.
Once Ashley got home, I shared the insane news. She was happy. Ecstatic. Like a tween ready to meet her favorite pop singer, she broke down in excited screams.
"Oh my God, Nicki called you!" Ashley yelled. She gave me a ferocious bear hug. "See! I told you you'd be famous!" Her hands ran wild over me. "You're such a great writer, babe!" Then Ashley's kiss hit. The most passionate kiss we'd had in months… at this rate, sex was gonna be amazing tonight…
"Well, she liked the stories at least," I said.
"Shit, that's so crazy! I'm so proud of you, babe!" Like Nicki, Ashley too had Trinidad heritage. She had the smooth dark brown skin, the piercing eyes. Perfect teeth. And a nice figure considering she was all natural. Her flexible black hair could be amazing in a bun, straightened, or just left alone in its wavy perfection. But most of all Ash had personality to spare. A kind soul full of fiery life and strength.
On the other hand, I was a weird, skinny guy. Not tall at all. Messy straight brown hair and big green eyes. Even at 27, I still told I looked like a high schooler. Never in a complimentary way either. I always though my awkward good looks and goofy smile made it easy for people to walk all over me… Thank God, I had Ash to look out for us.
To my surprise, Ashley wasn't even upset about not being able to go with me.
"Oh, I trust Nicki!" she said behind a radiant smile. "If she says she'll get me there, she will." Ash gave my nose a playful tap. "I proud of you!" she said, using her goofy child's voice. "Just get that book done, babe. Do it for me." She squeezed my hand. "Make Nicki proud too."
Now I had both my crushes to please. With Ash's help, I did as much research as I could on Onika Maraj. Both from info on-line and from my self-proclaimed "Nicki Minaj expert" girlfriend. There was the superstar's roots: Nicki born in Trinidad, raised in Queens. Favorite color obviously pink. A female rapper with both sex appeal and ferocious flow. And also an underrated artist of many styles and personas.
Only familiar with her hits, I was surprised by Nicki's versatility. Even her emotional ballads like "Bed" and "I Lied" showcased a strong range often overshadowed by her tenacious theatrics. She's a singular talent. And so much more than the oversexualized cliche she's often portrayed as. I figured racism and Nicki's own aggressive raps lent a hand in keeping her from garnering too much mainstream acclaim.
Still playing the Nicki Minaj professor, Ashley educated me further on Minaj's life story. Nicki's gradual shift from tomboy to the Queen. I got a summary of Nicki's working-class beginnings, her hectic relationship with her parents, the messy romances through the years, and philanthropy work often overlooked by the media. Ultimately, I narrowed my focus on what this biography should be. Not lip service to Nicki's chart-toppers, the sexual dominance over her men, the amazing body… no, I wanted to do an exploration into the real Nicki Minaj. The side of her ignored by all the exploitation and critics. The beating heart beneath her music.
On Thursday afternoon, Ashley gave me a kiss at the airport. And then I was off to Beverly Hills.
The plane ride was lonely without her. But once I stepped foot in LAX, the excitement hit me. The fucking airport was loud and packed. An army of wannabe movie stars and musicians marched all around me. I wasn't in Stanwyck, Georgia anymore.
But there was no warm welcome party. Not the parade of chaos I expected upon meeting Nicki. Instead, a tall man in a psychedelic shirt and tight purple pants greeted me. Too chill to be a chauffeur or gofer. He held up a piece of paper with my name scribbled on it.
"What's happening, man?" he said to me in a Caribbean accent.
Even behind his thick red sunglasses, I could tell he was a friendly dude. A dark-skinned Trinidadian named Kellan. Muscular and in his late-20s, Kellan had the carefree charisma of a cool college kid. Rather than enduring any awkwardness, we bonded immediately.
To my relief, he showed me all the info on his phone. Nicki's directions for what she wanted him to do. Then together, we rode off in Kellan's silver SUV.
The L.A. weather was perfect. But of course, the traffic wasn't. The ten-mile trip took us a solid hour. All while Kellan kept his radio on the Top 40 station.
"So are you like related to Nicki?" I asked.
"Naw, man," Kellan chuckled. Calm and collected, he navigated the streets of L.A. like a pro. "We're just friends." He faced me. "We're from Trinidad, you know how that goes! We all get along."
I chuckled. "I saw that when I went with my girlfriend."
Soon, we traveled through a valley of gaudy mansions. Beverly Hills's finest. And the further we drove through this flawless neighborhood, the more spacious the yards became. The more isolated the mansions got.
We pulled up the long driveway. And sure enough, this star had a star home base. A three-story brick mansion. Nicki's pristine yard featured more intriguing artwork and statues than a meticulous museum.
The tall-iron pike gates slammed shut behind us. Surveillance cameras were everywhere, but none of the security took away the welcoming aura.
Kellan parked next to a pink Lamborghini. Awestruck, I stepped out, my bag in one hand, a folder of notes in the other. The Minaj Mansion was old yet regal. God knows what history this Hollywood palace had…
Regardless of the classy vibe, you could tell the house had character. The psychedelic pillars certainly showed off the Nicki touch. The mansion her own personal playland.
"Hi!" a cheerful voice called out.
Laughing, Kellan rubbed my shoulder. "Here we are, my man," he said.
My excitement only intensified. Especially once Kellan led me closer and closer to the front door. Closer to that exuberant voice.
There Nicki was standing on the porch. A cross between creative lunatic and Disney princess, the Queen wore a flowing green dress and layers of exotic jewelry. Messy pink hair and a lack of make-up a nice grungy addition to her elegant outfit.
"You made it!" she said through that tough accent.
Before I could even reply, Nicki gave me a warm hug.
"It's nice to meet you," I managed to say through the anxiety.
More radiant than a Golden Age movie star, Nicki confronted me. The smile of perfect teeth somehow soothed my nerves.
"Well, Hell, it's nice to meet you too!" Nicki responded. She motioned toward me. "Look at you. Rhonnie Fordham in my house! Right here on my porch!"
Needless to say, the inside of the house was nice as well. There were the framed albums and gold records. Minaj memorabilia in addition to collectibles from all her favorite musicians like Foxy Brown and Missy Elliott. I couldn't stop gazing at the many Trinidadian arts and crafts. Honestly, the entire house's interior design wouldn't have been out of place in one of Nicki's more inventive music videos. Everything was just so… vibrant. Aggressive and artistic. Just like Nicki.
Together, the three of us cruised through the spacious kitchen and living room. The long hallways. Even the home recording studio.
"I know Ashley can't wait to see all this," I said.
Nicki flashed me a smile. "Aww, she'll be here soon enough, babe." She leaned in close. "Once we finish our book."
Nicki led us toward the back of the house. "I mean Kenneth ain't even here!" she said. "So hey we all gonna be on our own. We're gonna focus."
"That's your boyfriend, right?" I asked.
"Yes. I told him to get his ass in New York." Her voice shifted toward manic Nicki. Her ensuing hand gestures straight out of an audition tape for the most deranged actress ever. "Just let me focus!"
The three of us walked into a narrow hallway. An antique chandelier hung over the marble floor. And through the maze of African-American paintings, I saw only three doors. Close to us were two doors standing side-by-side, the last one all the way at the other end of the hall.
One of the two doors was wide open, and I could see a workout room inside. There was all sorts of gym equipment and treadmills. Even a large flatscreen.
I followed Nicki to the guest room next to it. Colorful walls greeted me. Windows provided a nice view of Nicki's spacious yard. And the room's decorations were a cinematic dreamscape. Marlon Brando and James Dean posters, a wooden bookshelf showcasing a vinyl record player and dozens of horror movie books. Nicki really did like her horror…
Nicki latched her playful eyes on to me. "It's all yours, Rhonnie."
"I really appreciate it," I said. Enamored by the room, I got ready to toss my bag on to the comfy bed.
Nicki snatched my wrist in a tight grip. "Oh no, you ain't dressing like that."
Grinning, I watched her hand my bag over to an amused Kellan. "What do you mean?"
Like a stylist, Nicki motioned toward my current outfit. The purple tee and sloppy khakis. "Naw, you cute, but you ain't dressing like that here, boo."
"I'm a writer, what do you expect?" I remarked.
"Yeah, you're damn sure a writer, but I ain't having my biographer dress like some hipster without a cause."
"Too accurate, man…" I joked.
Chuckling, Kellan took my bag out into the hallway.
Nicki pulled me in closer. "We gonna get you newer clothes, Rhonnie. Some fresh shit!" She opened a closet.
A treasure chest of clothes stared back at us. The walk-in closet was chock-full of nice shirts, khakis, bathrobes, jeans, etc. All of them tailor-made to fit me.
"Wow…" was all I could say.
"What? You like it?" Nicki asked.
"Yeah." I shifted my gaze toward her twinkling face. A movie star glow beamed all around her. "You just reminded me of Ashley then."
"Oh shit, she dresses you too?"
I grinned. "When I actually listen."
Playful, Nicki took a calm step toward me. "Hmm, sounds like you should listen to her more."
At Nicki's insistence, I changed into a better outfit. Tight-fitting khakis and a red tee. She said I looked even better… I couldn't help but think I looked like a cast-off from one of her videos. Then again, the clothes were Nicki's vision so I needed to appease her.
From there, Nicki showed me my workout room. Besides the equipment, a long mirror dominated a wall. Not to mention several coolers and Keurigs were scattered about.
"You're gonna stay in shape in my house!" Nicki said, overexcited. "You're gonna be looking good on my watch, Rhonnie."
"I'll do my best," I replied. I looked over at our reflections. I gotta say, Mrs. Majesty had dressed me up pretty well… She looked like she was even checking me out…
The Queen cackled. "My castle, my rules! Remember that, boo!"
I followed her out toward the hallway. Helped by the giant mirror, I really got a strong view of Nicki's pure physicality. Her beauty. At only 5'2, Nicki felt stronger. She just looked more powerful. Hell, even taller…
Outside of leading lady looks, Nicki had the poise of a star athlete. A model's face with a fighter's ferocity. And while 36 wasn't old by any stretch of the imagination, she looked preserved at a permanent peak. Flawless, smooth brown skin. And a contagious energy. A sharp nose to match a rebellious spirit. Her eyes so big and vibrant. Of course, there was the bodacious booty, not to mention the bouncing boobs. But to me, Nicki's allure ran deeper than the superficial. Besides a pretty celebrity, she was also a mad scientist in rap. An eccentric, creative mind like myself. And ultimately, regardless of the stage name and surgeries, she was still Onika Maraj.
Loud music startled me. Jumping, I turned and looked down the hall.
"Super Bass" blared from behind that last door. The consistent chorus of "Boom, badoom, boom, boom…" like a rap air raid.
Nicki grabbed my arm, giving me another scare. "You alright?"
Grinning, I faced her. "Yeah." I stole another glance back at the door. "Like who all lives down there?"
Nicki gave the room a dismissive wave. "That's where the staff goes."
"Oh. Your staff?"
"I let most of them go home. That's probably just Martha and Cookie messing around this week."
Nicki snorted with laughter. "She's the cook!" She leaned in closer toward me. "I only wanted a few of us here, you know. No distractions from the staff."
"Super Bass" continued swirling around us. A steady soundtrack. Grinning, I looked back at the staff room. "Well, they might distract us with your own damn music."
"Naw, they ain't!" Nicki grabbed a hold of my hand. "Come on, I'll show you where we'll be working."
So out of all the home bars and gardens of pink flowers in this mansion, Nicki's sanctuary was the studio. The site for our writing sessions.
The studio was small but too cozy to be claustrophobic. Nicki's notebooks of many lyrics ran wild across a desk. In the corner, several home bars offered alcohol and coffee. Fuel for what I figured were the Queen's many late-night sessions. But there were no T.V.s, books, or magazines. No distractions as Nicki would say.
And there, we talked as friends and co-writers. Just Nicki and I along with an occasional guest appearance from the drunk Kellan. The conversation was fluid. Like a fireside chat in Nicki's own studio. I wasn't talking to the bombastic or psychotic personalities from all her different songs. I was talking to the real Nicki.
Midnight drew closer. And as the beer and wine increased, so did our banter. There was no awkwardness between us. Our chemistry sizzled.
"So Ashley was okay with you coming out here?" Nicki asked in a sly tone.
Smirking, I watched her take another sip of the red wine. "Yeah, well, she's a big fan."
Nicki purred with glee. "So she ain't gonna get jealous…"
"She's your biggest fan."
"Hmm…" Nicki leaned in closer. "That might be you pretty soon."
An hour later, I was back in the guest room. Wearing my oversized glasses and one of the green bathrobes Nicki had given me, I talked on the phone with Ash. Here I was less than twelve hours after leaving Stanwyck, and I was already homesick for my love. Even in this fucking comfortable bathrobe.
"How is it?" Ashley asked, her voice full of fangirl excitement. "Does she really have a pink garden?"
"Yeah," I replied. My eyes strayed toward my laptop. I could hear all the unwritten stories beckoning me…
Eager to concentrate on Ashley, I pressed the phone closer to my ear. "It's nice and all. Nicki's cool as fuck."
Ash laughed. "I knew she'd be! It's Nicki, babe!"
"Yeah, I know." Solemn emotions made me go silent. "I just miss you."
"Aww," Ashley said.
"I'm serious, babe," I said. "One fucking night and I already feel lost without you…" Melancholy creeping in, I stole a glance toward the windows. Out at the dark yard. The pretty artwork. And the harsh security gate. "I just miss you. I need you out here, I know you'll love it."
"I know I will too!" Ashley replied. "Like holy shit, I can't wait to see you and hang out with Nicki Minaj!"
Our conversation went even better than Nicki and I's. I told Ash I loved her and she'd be here soon. Then we'd really have ourselves a Beverly Hills vacation. With Ash's hero to boot.
Later on, I worked on a new story. My nocturnal session took me to around two in the morning.
Music erupted through the quiet night. Nicki's verse on "Rake It Up" ambushed me.
"What the fuck…" I muttered. Annoyed, I crawled out of bed. The peaceful solitude had turned into an obnoxious nightclub.
I stepped out into the hallway. Squinting behind my glasses, I could tell the music was coming from the room down the hall. The staff spot. And there in the darkness, I saw moving multi-colored lights glowing beneath the door. Maybe Kellan had joined Cookie and Martha…
But even over the ferocious beat, I heard something else… Uneasy, I turned and looked off toward the living room. I heard literal rapping. Not music or lyrics… just a rhythmic, repetitive tapping noise…
With cautious steps, I entered the living room. The sizzling fireplace provided comfortable warmth and a comfortable glow. The staff's music muffled off in the distance.
Thee was Nicki sitting on the couch. A pink bathrobe draped all across her silk pajamas. Behind her own oversized glasses, Nicki's eyes stayed glued to a huge pink laptop. Her fingers a storm of movement.
"Whoa…" I said with a smile.
Nicki looked up real quick. A warm grin crossed her face. "Sorry. I was writing."
"So was I." I looked over and saw Judge Judy playing on the T.V. "I didn't know you had my hours."
The Queen let out a raspy laugh. "I know you like staying up late too."
I motioned toward the hallway. "Apparently, the whole house does."
"That's because we nocturnal…" Nicki teased.
I couldn't help but keep smiling. Nicki was too charming. "Well, we got that in common."
Nicki went back to typing. Her quick hits like a mechanical chorus. "We've actually got a lot in common, Rhonnie."
The compliment made my heart leap.
"We're just two deranged artists fighting the world," Nicki went on.
I took a step closer toward her. "Man, that's poetic."
"See." Nicki finally came to a stopping point and faced me. "We both take this serous. These are our passions, Rhonnie." Still in scholar mode, she set the laptop down. Her voice fast and excited… just like mine got. "We stay up late doing this because we live and breathe to write, Rhonnie. We need to create! Hell, I even stay off my social media while I work!"
I chuckled. "I try."
Nicki stood up and approached me. She had the movement of a movie star with the eccentric tics of a college professor. "I mean my point is we spend most of our free time writing, Rhonnie. We aren't different even when I'm a rapper and you're a horror writer."
I nodded. "Naw, you're right. And people need to see that with you." Fueled by the booze and incoming ideas, I motioned toward her. "They need to see how dedicated you are! How passionate you are about your music!"
Even at three A.M., our impromptu interview had begun. Armed by more drinks, Nicki and I sat on a couch and connected. We got into her background. A chaotic childhood driven by a drug-addicted father and a dearly devoted mother. All those siblings Nicki loved dearly. Particularly her younger brother Caiah.
Our fireside chat carried on for an hour. Nicki was adamant Kellan was just a friend. Even when I questioned where her boyfriend Kenneth was…
"Well, where's your girlfriend, Rhonnie?" Nicki hurled back in a mock angry tone.
"Fair point," I responded.
Like a sharp spotlight, Nicki kept the starlet gaze on me. "This is about us, remember?" She glanced toward the hallway. "Kellan is just a friend. Just company while you and I work together, Rhonnie." She flashed a smile at me. "Then we'll have playtime."
We finally went to bed before sunrise. I awoke around 9:30 to find a note resting on the nightstand. Nicki's pretty handwriting had already laid out a schedule for me before the next interview.
Amused, I went ahead and did all the chores she asked. I wore the tight-fitting workout clothes she'd laid out for me. Flattering male yoga pants from what I saw in the gym mirror… I did my half-ass exercises for thirty minutes. Showered. And then wore the exact name-brand outfit she wrote down: tight jeans and a pink Polo.
I stepped out into the hallway when a sudden slam echoed toward me. Alert, I looked over and saw the closed staff room door. At least, no music was playing this early… Club Cookie hopefully wouldn't re-open till nightfall.
Lunch was already laid out in the kitchen. A real home-cooked platter of steaks and steamed vegetables. Even chocolate cheesecake. Shit, this was the life… I guess Cookie could cook after all.
"You like it?" a beaming voice asked.
Grinning, I turned to see Nicki standing in the kitchen doorway. She wore an obnoxious purple gown. A golden headdress adorned her wavy hair. What she had on was a glowing example of VMA weirdness. You know, the kind of shit only Nicki could pull off. "Yeah, this is amazing."
Nicki walked up to me. "Well, I know you worked out pretty hard."
"That's the most I've done in awhile…"
Confident, Nicki squeezed my arm. "Aww, I know how y'all writers are." Her voice was deeper than usual. Raspier and sultry like Lauren Bacall's. "But you can still stay in shape." Her enamored eyes looked me up and down. "You can still look so… nice."
After having a few drinks with Kellan, Nicki and I retreated to the studio. Into Nicki's personal fortress. And there we talked. My tape recorder and notepad in my hands, my focus solely on the Queen.
Together, we delved further into Nicki's past. Or at least what parts of it she wanted to share. To my surprise, she hated the stage name…
"It just had to be interpreted sexually," she ranted in that raspy accent. "I mean yeah, I don't mind it now, but why couldn't Nicki Maraj or Nicki The Ninja or something just suffice? I have to compromise with this shit just to get my music out there! And that's how it's always been, Rhonnie. The male gaze, we all gotta appease it!"
I nodded. "Naw, I see your point."
"Maybe I'd like to sexualize men more. I don't know rap about a fine boy and his fine ass, but people get all uptight about that shit." Nicki was in jaded overdrive. Her angry mannerisms veered out-of-control. "It's gotta be black girl big titties this, shaking this fat ass that!"
This was the side of Nicki I hadn't seen in person yet. She'd unleashed her inner angry rapper. "Well, tell me more about your parents," I said.
Nicki gave me an uneasy look. "What do you mean?"
"I mean like y'all's relationship. I know who they are-"
"What's there to say," Nicki interrupted. The purple dress couldn't disguise her discomfort. "I still love them."
"I know that." Struggling to strike the balance between supportive friend and brave biographer, I leaned in closer. My composure calm and chill. "But your mom and dad had a pretty rough relationship, right?"
"Look, dad was always shot out, alright." Her bold deep accent began crumbling… "He was always getting mad, yelling at her. Yelling at us…"
Keeping my distance, I stayed silent and respectful. I just listened.
"He tried to kill her one time," Nicki said. Her trembling hand brushed her hair to the side. "The son-of-a-bitch tried setting her on fire."
"I'm sorry," I said.
"No. Don't be. You didn't do anything." Nicki leaned back in her seat. No smile or playfulness, just a forced cool demeanor. "But they're both better now." Reflective, she gazed over at the desk. At her archive of lyrics. "I just try to come in here every day, you know. Just escape into the music."
Silence lingered for a few seconds. Until I pressed further. "So your mom did stay with him?" I asked, my voice steady.
Nicki gave me a dismissive wave. "Look, let's touch on that later." She forced a wide smile. "Let's get back to the MySpace days, man."
But I had to push forward. Even if I was shit at feigning toughness. "But Nicki, this stuff with your parents. We have to talk about it. You can't just redact the past, you know."
Fighting back, Nicki gave me a skeptical look. "But I'm not? What are you talking about?"
"I get it, you're wanting to move on," I continued. "But the point of these talks, the point of this book. It's to show your personal side. The Onika Maraj side, alright."
Quiet, Nicki's piercing eyes stayed on me.
"Just like with your music, I know songs like 'I Lied' or 'Chun-Li' captured those raw emotions," I said. "I want this biography to be like that! Not just mindless sex and pop music. But the soul-bearing. Your feelings."
Nicki's gaze held me hostage. Tense silence suffocated the studio.
"Like I said," Nicki struggled to begin. "We'll talk about it later."
My "tough interviewer" routine evaporated to stuttering and floundering. You know, the common issues with introverted writers… "I don't know, Nicki," I said. "I think talking about your family, your relationship with Caiah, all of that will be important to understanding you. Seeing this personal side."
"Personal?" Nicki yelled with ferocity.
Like a warning gunshot, Nicki's rising voice put me in my place. I shut the fuck up.
"Look, I know what you're saying, Rhonnie," Nicki continued, barely restraining her temper. "But don't try and twist this. I care about my family. I do, I love them."
"I know," I said. "I wasn't doubting that."
Lost in her memories, Nicki leaned back. More relaxed but just as troubled by the past. "When you’re working so much, you’re busy and you’re successful, no matter what, something suffers, you know." Her gaze shifted back toward all those notebooks. Her demented laboratory of a studio. "I guess you could say it's what happened to me and mom. To me and my whole family really."
Sympathetic, I dialed back my approach. "But you do talk to them still?" I asked in a calm tone.
"Oh, of course." Nicki's wistful face looked at me. "We're doing better now…" She hesitated.
I could tell this wasn't confident Nicki on stage or rapping in the studio. She was struggling.
"But there's some things I can't ever get back," Nicki said. "The touring and the studio kept me from those memories. Caiah's graduation, all the Birthdays. Christmas, Thanksgiving. Those are things I'll never get back." Her tormented stare struck harder than her most powerful verses.
"Fame eats it all away, Rhonnie."
From there, the conversation hit a light-hearted intermission. We made our way to Nicki's nicer memories. Nicki was quite the reader growing up. She described stories and books as an escape from the loneliness. How she would even pretend all these fictional characters were a part of her family. Of course, imagine how I felt when the Queen said my horror stories were her latest escape!
But Nicki's true love was obvious: acting. Just the way she reminisced about wanting to be a movie star radiated off her with child-like wonder. I could tell she was an aspiring actress trapped with a rapper's talent. Of course, Nicki had the theater training. The looks, the personality, the drive… the affinity for costume shops.
"Be the next Pam Grier," I encouraged her. "You've got that fire to you."
Nicki grinned. "You should write a role for me then."
After the interview, I took a long shower. Put on my big glasses. Even drunk, I wrote a little before calling Ash at midnight. She was encouraging as always. The motivational speaker to my dark mind.
"I can't wait to see you there," she said.
"Yeah, whenever we finish the interviews," I replied. "I don't know. Might be another month…"
"Naw, it'll be quicker than that!" Ash said with what I knew was an excited smile.
Over the phone, I kissed her good night. Then I was back at it on the laptop. Back in my own studio. One sentence into my Nicki notes before a catchy beat stopped me.
Club Staff was back. The cool chorus of "Bed" drifted into my room like mist. And Nicki's frenetic verse hit me like a hurricane.
Cracking a smile, I stumbled toward the hallway. And sure enough there were the colorful moving lights glowing under the club's door.
Fuck it. I was too tired to care. I wrote what I could then went to bed.
When I awoke and put on my glasses, my vision was crystal clear. Too clear.
Stunned, I snatched my glasses off. Yeah, they were large Buddy Holly glasses… but not the cheap Dahmer ones I had. The ones Ash hated. Instead, what I had was style. Purple frames. Clean, slick lenses. In other words, fucking expensiveass glasses. I looked all around me but didn't see my contacts case anywhere. Nor my Dahmers.
"You like the upgrade?" I heard Nicki tease.
I saw her enter the room. She wore glasses even bigger than mine. Her hair fixed up in a messy bun. Dressed in sloppy nerd attire, Nicki still managed to pull off the baggy jeans and bland red blouse. Somehow, her goofy charisma made the outfit look natural rather than tacky.
"I'm gone be like Ashley and keep improving you," she said.
"Naw, I appreciate it," I responded. "Ash would approve."
"Mm, they're sexy too!" Nicki's voice erupted in a fangirl tone.
Awkwardness sinking through me, I looked back at the nightstand. "But where'd my contacts go…"
Nicki glided toward me. Her walk all poise and pizzazz. "You don't need that shit anymore, Rhonnie."
I confronted her enchanting eyes. Her warm touch squeezed my shoulder.
"You look so nice with the glasses," Nicki added. Chuckling, she traced a pink painted fingernail over my frames. "Man, you got those looks and the smarts like me."
A goofy smile crossed my face. Maybe I blushed… "Well, thanks."
My morning ritual commenced. A light workout in those form-fitting clothes. The long shower. Nicki had already laid out a tie-die shirt and purple pants in the guest room. She even left a few beers.
Then us well-dressed nerds made our way into the recording studio. Nicki and I ready for the next interview. I kept going back to her geeky childhood. How timid Onika was growing up. A girl suppressed by both alienation and her own volatile family. There were the many phases and personalities Nicki's creativity conjured up to deal with the isolation. Not to mention the acting, poetry, storytelling. And ultimately, the rapping.
"That was all I had," Nicki said. "The writing kept me going through everything. It kept me strong."
I offered a warm smile. "I understand."
"Oh, I know you do." Contemplative, Nicki hesitated. "When I was a kid, I used to pretend all the books I read were real. Like all the characters." Even behind the huge glasses, I could see she was suppressing teas in those soulful eyes. "I guess that carried over into my writing. To Roman and Black Barbie, they were just more characters. They became my friends."
"Spoken like a true writer," I said.
"Well, the reading helps too," Nicki commented. "Like I said, that's how I got so interested in you. Your stories just like immerse me…" Her voice trailed off in a stream of solemn reflection. "I mean even when I became famous and made all this money, the loneliness. It never really goes away. And there's so many days where I don't feel special. I don't feel pretty or smart or creative…" She let out a soft chuckle. "And your stories help me escape that. They're amazing."
Flattered, I nodded. "Thanks."
"Chun-Li" interrupted the interview. Not even the studio was safe from Club Cookie…
Nicki's snorting cackle erupted over the music. A nerdy laugh to match the ridiculous gear.
I couldn't help but smile. "Well. Your staff's still here."
"I bet Kellan made them turn it up."
"So all they play is your songs?"
With the laid-back coolness of a defiant rock star, Nicki shrugged her shoulders. "Can you blame them?"
In an unrelenting beat, the music only helped propel our interview. The mood got light and carefree. A few drinks and guest appearances from Kellan didn't hurt the laid-back atmosphere either.
Nicki's quirkiness was the side people never saw. Or the side they chose to ignore. Besides the crazed Roman and this nerdy Nicki performance, there was also charitable Nicki. The Nicki Minaj who helped in raising $250 million for MAC AIDS Funds.
"You knew about that?" Nicki asked, her smile unable to hide how impressed she was.
"Yeah, I did my research," I responded.
"Well, yeah." She leaned back. "Just no one ever talks about that. Even when I'd like people to know I care, you know. That I do try to help and give back."
After the interview, we did more of the same: drinking and debauchery in the Queen's palace. Club Staff's playlist accelerated along with our alcohol intake. Together, the power trio of me, Nicki, and Kellan jammed out like college roommates in a Beverly Hills mansion.
Soon, my buzz spiraled into a swirling haze. I collapsed on a living room couch. Nicki sat right beside me while a laughing Kellan stumbled in a recliner. The last thing I remembered was Nicki's playful smile. How her light touch latched on to my arm. And then my eyes closed.
Sunlight splashed across me like a bucket of water. Groggy, I awoke in the guest room. I still don't know how I ever got there. Nor do I know how my clothes mysteriously changed into a tank top and a new pair of boxers overnight… I heard more Nicki tunes drifting in from Club Staff.
The Queen's ferocious flow on "Feeling Myself" enrapturing my ears, I reached over and grabbed the purple glasses. I snatched my cell phone. 8 A.M. And seven missed calls from Ashley.
"Fuck!" I yelled. Frantic, I got ready to call her back.
A harsh grip ensnared my wrist.
"Rhonnie!" Nicki's ferocious voice screamed. "We've got work to do!"
I faced her focused stare. Now Nicki was in tomboy mode. Pure defiance. She wore an oversized black Ramones tee shirt and loose, holey dark jeans. Her hair was straightened and stringy. Less stylish than usual… but still oh so attractive.
"That means no calling your girl!" she continued.
With blazing speed, Nicki snatched my phone. Her clenched hand a bear trap. "We've got an interview, remember."
"I was just gonna call Ash," I said.
"So!" Nicki yelled. Like a baton, she wielded the iPhone in my face. "You think I've been talking to Kenneth this whole time! No, motherfucker! I'm taking this serious. I cut off everyone to focus and I expect you to do the same!"
Uneasy, I backed off. "Okay…"
Nicki pointed toward the closet. "Now go change and get your workout on! You know the damn drill!"
Indeed, I did. I changed quick into those tight shorts. Then I hit the gym hard. The entire Queen album played from the staff room.
The treadmill and crunches left me sweaty. Almost delirious, I staggered around the room. Surrounded by nothing but my exhausted reflection. And Nicki's music.
I finished off a Gatorade in a few swigs. Tired, I approached the flatscreen. My finger stumbled through the buttons.
The screen shifted from MLB Network to a different feed. I'd hit the input button on accident… and what I saw now was live footage from Nicki's palace. From my gym.
The video was clear as day. A home movie in high definition. And there I was on screen: walking the treadmill, doing my sit-ups and stretches. All in those flattering pants. I gotta say that even drenched in sweat, I looked pretty damn hot. But I was the oblivious star of Nicki's private movie. And who the Hell knows what she was using it for… or just how many videos she had of me.
I was too scared to explore this feed any further. Nervous, I turned off the T.V. And with restless eyes, I scanned the workout room. But I saw no cameras. No glowing red lights. I was alone.
I decided to play it cool. Not that I had much choice with no cell phone or weapon. And this far away from home. There was no sense in arguing in Nicki's arena. Just get the interviews done and see where it goes from there, I told myself.
Submitted April 16, 2019 at 03:59PM by rhonnie14