Nicki is famous for her fast rapping. Can she really sing, and is she talented enough to do so without autotune?
Nicki Minaj can sing. In addition to being a rapper, she has shown off her great singing abilities in live performances.
Nicki Minaj’s Live Singing
Nicki has proven that she is a powerful and accurate singer in live concerts. For some of her best live singing, see this compilation of her live performances:
Nicki demonstrates technical ability as well as a beautiful, clear tone. Some of these clips are spontaneous, such as Nicki singing with the little girls on the Ellen show at the 1:32 mark.
Nicki frequently uses audio distortion to make her voice sound different on her recordings. However, Nicki could not possibly have edited these live clips, so they serve to verify her natural singing capabilities.
Nicki Sings as a Joke
Although Nicki has proven that she can perform beautiful vocals, she also likes to joke around with her “singing.” Nicki pretended to sing along to Celine Dion’s song, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”
Nicki lip-synched with dramatic gestures as a joke, gaining laughs and attention worldwide. She even earned a reply from Celine Dion herself:
Nicki was ecstatic to see Celine’s reply. The rapper tweeted “wait til I tell my mother.”
Nicki is also known for her occasionally bizarre vocals. While she has great technical ability, she can also distort her voice to sound funny.
Nicki let her vocal creativity run wild during a live recording of “Starships” for The Today Show. The singer purposely brought her vocals into her deep, low register, creating an amusing and unexpected sound.
Once more, this clip is live and not autotuned. Nicki really can sing that low, proving that her vocal embellishments on recordings can also be produced in real life.
Some Complain that Nicki Sings too Much
A few listeners actually think that Nicki sings too much of her songs. The DJ Peter Rosenberg from Hot 97 said that Nicki sings too often and is “not real hip-hop.”
Nicki took offense to his statement but did not fire back with words. Instead, she made a statement by pulling out of the lineup for Hot 97’s Summer Jam Festival at the last minute.
After Nicki’s retaliation, Rosenberg asserted that he would never apologize to the singer. He stood by his words and defended them as his honest opinion.
However, the two ultimately came to reconcile. Nicki appeared on Hot 97 and they found common ground, agreeing that “Starships” is Nicki’s most pop song. Peter Rosenberg also said that he believes Nicki is possibly the greatest female MC of all time.
Other critics have come forward to diss Nicki’s singing. Chris O’Meara from AP Magazine wrote in 2012 that Nicki “seized the spotlight as a rapper, only to retreat into singing.”
Chris O’Meara’s language implies that singing is of a lower value than rapping, and also says that singing is for girls. Others have countered this argument by pointing out that rappers are almost universally expected to sing now, with top male rappers like Drake, Fetty Wap, and Chance the Rapper all singing on their songs.
Nicki Responds to Criticism With A Rap-Oriented Album
Nicki definitely proved herself as a true hip-hop rapper with her 2018 album “Queen.” In her Pitchfork album review, Brianna Younger wrote that “Queen” is Nicki Minaj’s “most rap-oriented release yet.”
Nicki foreshadowed her musical shift herself when reconciling with DJ Peter Rosenberg. She said that she wanted to lock herself in her “dungeon” and write a more rap and hip-hop heavy album.
Nicki definitely followed through on her words. Even harsher album reviews, including one by Ben Beaumont-Thomas for The Guardian that calls Nicki’s lyrics uninteresting, had to admit that Nicki lets “her technical excellence do the heavy lifting.”
Nicki’s recording engineer, Aubry “Big Juice” Delaine, also praised the singer for returning to her roots. He said her new album has old-school Nicki, and songs like “Barbie Dreams” represent “what hip-hop is all about.
Nicki has proven to fans and critics alike that she is both a talented singer and rapper. She can croon beautiful melodies and spit heavy beats, satisfying the ears of all listeners.