Nicki Minaj is one of today's biggest rappers—regardless of gender. In the last five years, the 31-year-old has bested people on their own songs, dominated in not one but two genres, and turned herself into a worldwide superstar. This spring, Minaj grabbed headlines for her "makeunder," with the MC discarding the pastel wigs and gaudy outfits she previously wore in favor of a more toned-down, natural look. But the aesthetic transformation shouldn't be all that surprising, as it's just in keeping with the chameleon-like persona Minaj has put forward in her music since she started. In 2014 alone, she's gone from a rapper who could skin you alive on "Lookin Ass" to an emotion-filled ballad singer on "Pills N Potions," a banana-slicing femme fatale on "Anaconda" to a deadpan rumor extinguisher on "Only." And we haven't even heard her third studio album, The Pinkprint, coming Dec. 15, in its entirety yet.
For the second cover of our December/January issue, shot by photographer Vijat Mohindra, Complex sent News Editor Lauren Nostro to talk with Minaj in Hollywood. A long day of shooting left Minaj curled up on a couch for the 2 a.m. interview, but sleep deprivation did not keep her from speaking frankly about the connection between her album and Jay Z's The Blueprint, taking pride in her work, and refusing to suppress any of her sides, because at this stage in her career, she can do whatever the hell she wants.