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Nicki Minaj Channels Barbie In 'Playtime Is Over'
Mixtape Shoot

Posted 4/4/12 3:59 pm EST on MTV RapFix by  in Music News

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Nicki Minaj has come a long way since she dropped her first mixtape Playtime Is Over back in 2007. These days she's selling out concerts worldwide, racking up platinum hits, rubbing shoulders with the entertainment elite, and this week she dropped her sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. To commemorate the milestone, we're taking a look back at Nicki Minaj's evolution, with some unreleased footage from her Playtime Is Over mixtape cover shoot.

Director James Del Gatto had the chance to film Nicki as she shot the mixtape cover back in 2007 and this is our first glimpse of the Barbie that the Queens rapper has fully transformed into. "You should feel very special to be behind the scenes of the world premiere of my photo shoot," Nicki teases in the footage. "We're going with the whole Barbie doll theme so I'm gonna be doing a lot of kooky poses because I have to look like a doll straight out the box. But I'm not a Barbie that needs to play—Playtime is Over."

Del Gatto, who met Nicki before her rise to fame, says that the Trinidad native had star power written all over her from the beginning. "She already had this Barbie thing going," he said of meeting her back in '07. After watching her grow into an international superstar and receiving criticism for straying from her hip-hop roots, Del Gatto says it's all a part of the evolving Nicki persona.

"Part of what her fans should understand is that what makes her so great is that she understand and connects to all of these different parts of life," he says. "All of these different types of people, cultures, personalities—and that's what makes her so great. She's not gonna want to keep herself in a box and just do one thing and her fans really wouldn't want her to do that in my opinion."

"Right now she's just enjoying being who she is, developing, expanding enjoying all these parts of herself and life."

Before Nicki Minaj was Nicki Minaj (and Kurt was Kurt)

Before she was Nicki Minaj, the international superstar (real name: Onika Tanya Maraj) with her wigs and outlandish colorful outfits that give Lady Gaga a run for title of Best Weirdly Dressed, she was Nicki Minaj, a talented aspiring hip-hop artist from the Queens. And the above video of her from that pre-red carpet fame era is currently being passed around the Internets in the past couple days with some viewers longing for this rawer, more pedestrian side of Nicki Minaj. Hey Sasha Frere-Jones: feel free to use this as a flint for your next essay about constructions of identity and its conflict with notions of authenticity as it pertains to hip-hop. Or something. Incidentally, if you slow down Nicki Minaj’s voice she sounds a lot like Jay-Z. Conversely, if you speed up Jay-Z he sounds like Nicki Minaj. This is a mathematical fact.

Relatedly, for more of “celebrities-before-they-were-celebrities” check out this gallery of their yearbook photos (here for Leno, Letterman & Conan before they ruled TV nightlife) and here are some indie-celebrities-before-they-were-indie-celebrities. And in a more poignant note, February 20th, would have been Kurt Cobain’s 45th birthday. Despite the public’s well-known familiarity with his struggles which eventually culminated with his suicide, Flavorwire has this collection of photos of Kurt during his sunnier moments. My favorite picture is of Kurt playing with a cat, which serves as a reminder that despite everything he was no different than you, me, and the rest of the Internet who are all bonded by the mutual shared love of all things cats.


Pop Stars Before They Were Famous

Nicki Minaj, circa 2007

A couple of years before Lil Wayne signed her to the Cash Money/Young Money family and long before she was sitting next to Anna Wintour at New York Fashion Week, Nicki Minaj was living in Queens, rapping on the streets of New York. There are no pink wigs or synchronized "Super Bass" dancers in this James Del Gatto directed video, just Minaj, thanking her fans and freestyling about life in the city and the questionable state of hip-hop.