Nicki Minaj Is Our April Cover Star

hustle & glow

Photographed by Matt Irwin. Styled by Daniela Jung. Sweatshirt by Studmuffin NYC, cuff on right wrist and ring on left middle finger by Joomi Lim, bow cuff on right wrist, ring on right thumb, ring on right pointer finger, and cuffs on left wrist by Jennifer Fisher.

A primary reason she’s taking her time making her fourth album is because she needs space after The Pinkprint, which was written in the wake of a long-term relationship’s end. “I needed time to hear myself think again,” she says, “because where I left off with The Pinkprint was a little bit emotionally unstable. I wanted to take a moment to just live my life, enjoy my life, have fun, go out. I think that’s very important before you start writing again. It’s a spiritual experience for the people who are hearing the music, so I’m trying to be very careful of what mental space I’m in while I’m creating it. Now, I want my happiness to be reflected in the new stuff.”

That happiness seems to be yoked at least in part to her current love, Meek Mill, whom she is riding for despite his legal troubles. (“He’s not perfect, but I can’t believe how much he’s changed,” she told a Philadelphia Common Pleas court judge on his behalf late last year. “He doesn’t have a lot of structure. He can be irresponsible. Since I’ve come into his life, I think I’ve been working on that a little bit.… He’s just getting accustomed to being an adult.”) The couple also remained intact despite beef between Meek and Minaj’s labelmate Drake, a rap battle that unfurled last summer during Minaj’s tour. Throughout it all, rumors have percolated that the couple are engaged, thanks, in part, to two apricot-sized rings he’s gifted to his love, the last on her 33rd birthday in December.

“I’m not engaged yet,” says Minaj, that diamond smile encompassing her whole face and popping her dimple. “He said that my third ring would be my engagement ring. But sometimes he calls me his fiancée, and I’m always trying to stop him, like, ‘Nope! I ain’t got that third ring yet!’ We’re just taking it one step at a time. And, you know, if that happens, if I get married, then I’ll have a child, and that’ll be fun, because I can’t wait to hold my baby. When he and I were just friends, he would always say, ‘You remind me of my mother, and I like that because you’re like a dude. You’re tough like a guy and you talk like a dude.’ So I always got the sense that me being tough and bossy was a turn-on for him. And it’s important for me to keep my voice. Being in a relationship shouldn’t mean that you lose your voice. Being in a relationship should mean that you’ve met a secure-enough man to allow you, in a sense, to remain a queen.”