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'I WANT TO TAKE TRINI CULTURE TO THE WORLD'

By Leiselle Maraj Sunday, October 31 2010

click on pic to zoom in
TRINI-BORN American DJ and hip hop star Nicki Minaj, (real name, Onika Maraj), poses yesterday with her mom Carol Maraj as she enjoys a visit to TT. M...
TRINI-BORN American DJ and hip hop star Nicki Minaj, (real name, Onika Maraj), poses yesterday with her mom Carol Maraj as she enjoys a visit to TT. M...

Trinidadian born American rapper, Nicki Minaj played the role of celebrity to the hilt yesterday as she kept the local media waiting for over two hours for a press conference to precede her show “Localize Itt” which took place at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last night.

Minaj arrived in Trinidad on Friday afternoon. The press event was originally scheduled to take place at 6pm that day but was postponed until 11 am yesterday. After waiting for over an hour in a room close to the lobby area, media personnel were informed that Minaj was shopping at the Falls at West Mall. O’Brien Haynes, CEO of Boom Champions 94.1fm, which is one of the concert sponsors, explained that Minaj went to the Falls but her handlers did not expect such an overwhelming response from her fans.

“There is no excuse for keeping the media waiting but this trip has been an emotional one for Nicki as she has been reuniting with family members. She took them to West Mall to purchase a few things for them,” concert promoter Daryl Braxton said.

At the press conference Minaj identified Kanye West, Eminem, Rihanna, Drake and Natasha Beddingfield as the artistes she collaborated with on her album, Pink Friday, which is to be released on November 22.

She said plans to collaborate with soca stars Machel Montano and Destra on a track on the upcoming album did not pan out but she remains hopeful that this will happen in the future. She named both artistes as two of the local stars she would like to collaborate with because she liked both their voices.

“I wanted a song that had a Trini sounding sound so I went and googled Machel Montano’s “Congo Man” and I wanted it to be like that but we were not able to get it done. We will get it though, that was a start,” she told the media.

Minaj, whose real name is Onika Maraj, said that she is doing her best to promote Trinidad and Tobago to the world. She began by mentioning her Trinidadian roots which has generated interest but she said she is willing to promote Trinidad in others ways.

“I want to eventually bring Trinidadian music and culture to the world. If any of you have anything you want me to promote get it to me,” she said. When asked if she knew anything about local fashion given her own unique style, Minaj said no but she was willing to wear creations of local designers if they were willing to dress her, for the concert in particular.

“What I know about Trinidadian culture and fashion is Carnival. I have never been to a Trinidadian Carnival but I know it is better than the rest,” she said. Minaj, at this point, was offered free costumes for her and her entourage from mas band, Island People. When asked if this offer tempted her to return for Carnival 2011, Minaj said she would make the effort to come back.

The rapper said that although she left the country when she was five years old, elements of Trini culture never left her. She said her mother and her aunts used to play calypso and reggae around the house, she attended the West Indian parade in New York on Labour Day regularly and she grew up eating Trinidadian food. She admitted she would like to take back “a huge bag” of pholourie, red mango, tamarind balls and other delicacies when she returned to the United States.

“I have been trying to lose a few pounds but I have been eating since I got here. I cannot get enough,” she said.

Minaj, who is known by several other aliases, said she got her name from Fendi, her first producer. “I was always called Nicki at home so I was known as Nicki Maraj but my first producer did not like Maraj and thought Minaj sounded better. I still hate the name and I was going to go back to Maraj on the album but people told me no because my fans like it,” she said.

On her album, she said, she introduces new characters, including a male character, Roman Zolanski and his mother Martha, who is from Manchester, England. Fans will also meet Nicki, Barbie (she is known as Harajuku Barbie) and Onika.

This visit home, Minaj said, was special to her and she was impressed by how beautiful Trinidad is. “When I visited in the past, I was not a celebrity so I stayed at my grandmother’s house which was very modest. We got here and we were blown away by the hotel. The service was beautiful and we have the most beautiful view from the hotel room,” she said adding that some of her entourage never imagined Trinidad was so developed.

Her mother, Carol, who accompanied Minaj and will see her perform for the first time, said she still thinks her daughter’s success is a dream. “She has always been talented but this success still takes me by surprise,” she said. Minaj admitted her success did not come easy and emphasised that hard work is what is needed to make it to the top.

“There are so many opportunities for young singers to expose themselves. Do not wait on the record labels. Get your music out there on Youtube and market yourself,” said the self proclaimed business woman. She said this was the method she used and now she has the benefit of choosing which record label she wants to sign a contract with and not the other way around.

Minaj told fans to expect a medley of old and new music from her at the concert.

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