Kanye West once referred to Nicki Minaj as “the scariest artist in the game.” Given that this statement comes from Kanye West, it’s unclear if this is a compliment or not. Could he be referring to the threat of her talent or her unpredictable personality? Either way, there’s no denying that love her or loathe her, Miss Minaj has made a name for herself as one of the best female rappers in the business. Nicki is the first to admit that she didn’t have the best upbringing in Queens, New York City and would often create characters and scenarios in her head to distract herself from the drama going on around her. However, rather than holding her back, she has stated that her upbringing caused her to “seek out and practice self-discipline.” She may not be the most conventional artist, but she’s had an interesting career that has seen her build a “movement” from scratch.
Here are some valuable career lessons we can learn from Nicki Minaj:
Lesson 1 - Never underestimate the power of endorsements
Nicki’s rise to fame started on social media website MySpace and involved lots of help from contacts. Many rappers helped Nicki in the beginning of her career by collaborating with her and endorsing her music, including Lil Wayne who recorded a series of mixtapes with her, leading to Nicki being discovered. Nicki collaborates as much as she relies on her solo work and by lending her vocals to other artist’s tracks she is making connections and getting her name out there with artists such as Rihanna and Jay Z. This is a good lesson to remember in our own careers - the power of connections and endorsements are invaluable, especially when starting out. The more contacts you have, the more chance of them bringing opportunities your way. Establish a network of contacts and don’t be shy about asking for endorsements on Linkedin -however, ensure you do the same for your contacts in return.
Lesson 2 - Don’t be afraid to be yourself
Nicki is not the most conventional of people and she knows it. With her crazy wigs, tendency to switch between different alter-egos and volatile personality, she inevitably receives a lot of criticism for being different. “I don't mind being called a weirdo. There are a lot of people in hip-hop who are probably never going to get what I do." In business, not everyone is going to like you. However, it’s important to remain true to yourself in your career - trying to be someone you’re not will only work for so long, so be yourself and don't worry about trying to make everyone like you. As Nicki says, "You wanna know what scares people? Success. When you don't make moves and when you don't climb up the ladder, everybody loves you because you're not competition."
Lesson 3 - Learn how to handle conflict with co-workers effectively
Nicki’s been no stranger to controversy and drama and her talent as a rapper is often overshadowed by her colourful personality. In 2012 it was announced that Nicki would be a judge on the 12 season of American Idol. She stated that she was looking forward to working with fellow judge Mariah Carey as she’d been a fan of hers for so many years. However, as soon as the two laid eyes on each other, it was all-out war. Hilarious retorts and chaos ensued before a memorable incident at auditions in Charlotte led to Minaj storming off the stage. However, what’s interesting to note here is that although Mariah had plenty of put-downs about Nicki afterwards, Nicki has been more reflective in interviews about the feud. “I cannot hold a grudge against Mariah Carey. I’ve looked up to her for so many years. I don’t know if she’s gotten over it but I have”. We can learn a valuable lesson from Mariah and Nicki's conflict. It's impossible to get along perfectly with all of your co-workers and if you do experience conflict, act in a respectable way and don’t bad-mouth them to anyone who will listen. Take the moral highground and maintain an air of dignified silence.
Lesson 4 - Always stay in control of anything you are managing
In 2012, Nicki featured in a reality show entitled “Nicki Minaj - My Truth.” From the show, it was evident that she has a fear of failure and liked to have complete control over anything she was working on. Whilst preparing for an arena tour in the UK, viewers saw Nicki freak out when she discovered that the stage had not been set up the way she wanted. She called an emergency meeting with production straight away to fix things. Nicki's been quoted as saying, "My advice to women in general: Even if you're doing a nine-to-five job, treat yourself like a boss. Not arrogant, but be sure of what you want - and don't allow people to run anything for you without your knowledge." It’s a good lesson for business - although delegation is important, if you are going to put your name to something, be sure to keep an element of control and be aware of what is going on.
Lesson 5 - Recognise and exploit any opportunity
Although she is best known for her rapping skills, Nicki has ensured that she diversifies. She has used her business sense to capitalise on her popularity and get involved in other projects. In the past few years she has brought out a fragrance and fashion line. In 2014 she had a small part in a movie, The Other Woman and surprised people when she won good reviews for her acting. One of the reasons that Nicki has been so successful is that she looks out for opportunities and grabs them when they arise. For example, Nicki regularly appears on talk shows to promote her products. During a June 2014 appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael, she took the opportunity during the commercial break to spray members of the audience with her newest perfume Minajesty. The lesson here is that opportunities can arise in the strangest of places. When sellling a product, don't just rely on traditional selling channels - learn how to spot different selling opportunities and take advantage of them.
Nicki has not been in the industry for long but has already enjoyed a varied career which is going from strength to strength. However, she’s not one to become complacent and she admits herself that she is a pessimist and not one to stop and smell the roses - she is always on to the next project. No matter what she does next though, we know she won’t do it quietly. As Nicki says, “Your victory is right around the corner. Never give up.”