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Throughout her career, @NickiMinaj has demonstrated a discipline and intelligence that is rare among other pop stars of her generation. She has persevered because she is always in control of her craft. Neither her work nor her success are accidental. “I believe in my gift wholeheartedly,” she tells Roxane Gay (@roxanegay74). Now, it feels like the queen of hip-hop is on the verge of another big moment in her career, and she knows it. Click the link in our bio to read our cover story on @NickiMinaj, one of 7 icons featured in our Greats issue — on newsstands Oct. 22nd. Story by Roxane Gay (@roxanegay74), photo by @patrickdemarchelier, styling by Marie-Amélie Sauvé (@marieameliesauve). #TGreats17

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Nicki Minaj is gearing up for her fourth studio album, which she says will reflect the fact that she’s “genuinely happy” at this point in her life. Holding down one of seven covers for T: The NYTimes Style Magazine’s ‘The Greats’ issue, the hip hop vet detailed the difference between The Pinkprint and what she has up next.

“Sonically, I know what the album’s about to sound like,” she said. “I know what this album is gonna mean to my fans. This album is everything in my life coming full circle and me being truly, genuinely happy. It feels almost like a celebration. The last album, The Pinkprint, was almost like my diary, closing the chapter on certain things and not knowing if I was happy or sad about beginning new chapters. I was really writing about feeling unsure. Now, I can tell you guys what happened for the last two years of my life. I know who I am. I am getting Nicki Minaj figured out with this album and I’m loving her.”

Nicki also spoke a little bit about what it’s like to come up in the game as a Black, female rapper, saying “I kind of love that I’ve had to go through so many hurdles to get where I am because I feel like I deserve it. I had so much going against me in the beginning: being black, being a woman, being a female rapper. No matter how many times I get on a track with everyone’s favorite M.C. and hold my own, the culture never seems to want to give me my props as an M.C., as a lyricist, as a writer. I got to prove myself a hundred times, whereas the guys that came in around the same time as I did, they were given the titles so much quicker without anybody second-guessing.”

She says this is the “most inspired and free and excited I’ve been since I started releasing albums through a label.” She insists she’s no longer second-guessing her music. “… artists do it to themselves,” she tells T Magazine. “I’m not going to blame a label. You just overthink. When you’re doing your own little thing, you feel like, I can be myself, I can be crazy. When you start working with a record company, you start thinking you need a bigger sound. I wanted to get back to the place where I wasn’t second-guessing things so much. Sometimes simple is O.K.”

@NickiMinaj is working on her fourth studio album, the title of which is, for now, a well-kept secret but is “super, super iconic.” “This album is everything in my life coming full circle and me being truly, genuinely happy. It feels almost like a celebration,” she says. “Now, I can tell you guys what happened for the last two years of my life. I know who I am. I am getting Nicki Minaj figured out with this album and I’m loving her.” It took a long time for her to get to a place of confidence and trusting in her instincts, and it hasn't been without hurdles and challenges along the way. But, ever since she turned her gift into a career, it's been nothing but a checklist of milestones. Click the link in our bio to read our cover story on @NickiMinaj, one of 7 icons featured in our Greats issue — on newsstands Oct. 22nd. Story by Roxane Gay (@roxanegay74), photo by @patrickdemarchelier, styling by Marie-Amélie Sauvé (@marieameliesauve). #TGreats17

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Check out some of the photos from her cover shoot above and stay tuned for more details on her forthcoming project.

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