FEATURE: Nikki D, Ladies First
Although the BET Hip Hop Awards may be the topic of conversation today, some people are still harping on the VH1 Hip Hop Honors show that aired a couple of weeks ago. Dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of Def Jam Recordings, the show featured tributes and performances by some of the label’s most notable artists throughout the years. While it was impossible for every act that’s walked through Def Jam’s hallowed halls to be in attendance, one artist in particular was very vocal about her absence from the festivities and rightfully so.
As the first femcee signed to Def Jam Recordings back in 1989, Nikki D paved the way for future female artists like Foxy Brown and Shawna to be on the roster. For that fact alone, Nikki felt she should’ve been included in the tribute or at the very least invited. But neither happened. The day after the show aired, the veteran MC, who scored hits like “Letting Off Steam” and “Daddy’s Little Girl,” let her voice be heard in a 12-minute vlog entitled “Hip Hop Dishonors.” XXLMag.com caught up with Nikki to talk about the Def Jam slight, how she feels about Foxy and why she thinks Nicki Minaj is not a real rapper.
XXLMag.com: We heard you were invited to perform at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors but you claim that you weren’t even invited. Which is it?
Nikki D: [Actually] I had got a call from somebody at VH1 and was asked to perform and I said, “Sure no problem,” but after trying to get in touch with him for two weeks after we weren’t getting callbacks, emails or anything. It just didn’t make sense that he would offer it and then turn around and say no. So I said, “Oh, well, cool, whatever, it won’t be a performance, fine. I’ll just go to the show, show my face, get my press and represent,” but thereafter I didn’t even get an invite.
XXLMag.com: Were you invited to participate in the Def Jam documentary?
Nikki D: I found out that they were doing the 25-year documentary through a friend [who] asked me was I doing a VH1 documentary and I was like, “What documentary?” and they were like, “They’re doing a Def Jam 25” and I was like, “Well, nobody called me.” [The producer Jack Benson] told me that he was looking for me but no one could find me I said, “I don’t know how no one could find me. I worked in Russell’s office for the last eight or nine years.”
XXLMag.com: Wow, so how did you feel about the slight? Were you mad?
Nikki D: I was Def Jam’s first female rapper. That was a big deal back then. So it baffled me [that] none of these people thought to contact me. People were saying, “Oh, that’s your PR person.” I don’t think when you’re creating a history of hip-hop that you would need to actually get in touch with a PR person just to get somebody on the show… Nikki’s always been around Russell. I’ve never not been around him. Not to blame Russell for it but at the same time if somebody shows you a list, Russell, and shows you who is performing and how it’s going down, I was his pet project, you would think he would say, “Oh, shit where’s Nikki D?” I just thought that was a shitty deal from all angles.
XXLMag.com: Did you have a good relationship with Def Jam back in the day?
Nikki D: Nikki D: I had a new budget but I chose to be released from the label because back then that they didn’t understand women. They were trying to market me like the guys and I wasn’t a guy. I was a hardcore rapper but you couldn’t tell by the commercial single… I love “Daddy’s Little Girl.” I just felt like after “Daddy’s Little Girl” I should’ve been able to do me, which once again didn’t happen… I never got to make my own decisions and since I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own career I wanted to step out. That’s just the kind of person I am… I know my vision and I know what I want and if I can’t get it from you then what am I supposed to do? That’s why I left the brand back then but what I decided to do was to work for the brand and say, “Hey, you know what? Maybe [I’ll] take an executive position and work it out.” I might have given up too soon on myself as an artist but I think they just left a sour taste in my mouth.
XXLMag.com: Based on your vlog, a lot of people were trying to make it seem like your anger was more geared toward Foxy Brown’s presence than anything else.
Nikki D: That’s not it at all. The point is, I felt like I should have been there as well. I felt like [West Coast rapper] Boss should have been there… Boss is the second female rapper signed to Def Jam. Foxy’s like the fourth. You got other women that were on that brand before. And I felt like that was a disrespect to everybody. I couldn’t vent for Boss and I couldn’t vent for BWP so I vented for myself.
XXLMag.com: So there’s no beef with Foxy then?
Nikki D: I [don’t] want people to think I was bitter. I wasn’t bitter at anything. I’m not mad that I’m not on the label. I’m not mad that other female rappers came out after me. I embrace the whole roster thereafter. I embraced every person that came including Foxy Brown, who turned out to be a really nasty bitch in the end. I was never a hater. I just wanted to make sure people knew my place ’cause I really worked hard to find that place. That was my mission after high school—to become the first female rapper on Def Jam. I was so passionate about it and everybody around me knew that so when I didn’t even get an invitation it just really pissed me off.
XXLMag.com: So what do you think about some of the new female MCs that are out now?
Nikki D: There aren’t any out! Who’s out? You mean, Nicki Minaj? That’s not a rapper. That’s a girl with her ass on the screen. Nice hairdo and she’s saying some things but she’s not a rapper. She’s not an MC. She’s an artist. She’s an entertainer. There’s a difference. She can go out there and open her mouth and say whatever but people ain’t listening to her. They looking at her. And rapping is about the skill. It ain’t about your fat ass. It ain’t about your set of titties. It ain’t about that long-ass weave.
XXLMag.com: Damn, Nikki, want to let off any more steam?
Nikki D: I would like to say to everybody involved at the VH1, whoever was involved in Hip Hop Honors, all of the executives, everybody who had anything to do with that shit, you’re wrong for sitting there and watching that shit happen like that. It ain’t just about me but it’s about me and all the other people who were not included in that bill. There are a lot of other people besides Nikki D that wasn’t there but to just leave out the first female rapper signed? Yeah, that was some shitty shit. —Brooklyne Gipson