Why Nicki Minaj Outsells Kanye West

Why is it that Nicki Minaj is outselling Kanye West? Yeezy’s album was loved by critics, the sames critics who slammed him previously. What gives?

The two albums came out on the same day, November 22nd. Both artists performed at the VMAs and had excellent turns on “Saturday Night Live.” Kanye has had to overcome a ton of negative press, while Nicki had the benefit of “newness” and a blank slate. But how could West, a bona fide international superstar on his fifth platinum release — an album that topped dozens of critics’ lists and received almost universally glowing reviews — get passed by Minaj, a newcomer with an uneven debut that received almost universally meh reviews?

• Nicki’s Twitter Will. Not. Quit.

Kanye West’s Twitter is a spazzy inner monologue, mostly filled with energetic proclamations of greatness (“WE THE NEW STONES WE THE NEW BEATLES!”), furious rants (“No more Bush questions … no more Taylor questions…” ), and his famous non sequiturs (anything about credenzas). It makes us laugh, it makes us snarkily retweet him, and it makes us write stories about his wacky world. But it doesn’t make us run to the store to buy albums.

Nicki Minaj‘s Twitter, by contrast, is an endless stream of self-promotion and direct communication with her fans. “DALLAS!!!! Tonite we @ AVALON!!! Tomorrow Nite @ ENCOUNTER!!!! Let’s GOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she reminded fans this week. During the month leading up to her album’s release, she tweeted its name and release date almost daily. Now she frequently retweets fans’ testimonials about the disc’s greatness and announcements about her upcoming appearances on TV, radio, and clubs. If you follow Nicki, you can never forget what her product is and where she’ll be selling it.

• Minaj Actually Puts Out Music Videos

Last week Minaj dropped her new clip for “Moment 4 Life,” which was proceeded by “Your Love,” “Right Thru Me,” and “Check It Out,” not to mention the half-dozen videos she made appearances in before her own album came out (like Usher’s “Lil Freak” and Trey Songz‘s “Bottoms Up”). Each of these was accompanied by mounds of press filled with quotes from Minaj about the concept and shooting experiences.

West released his “moving painting” for “Power” in August, and his short film based around “Runaway” in October. It’s February. No finished version of his “Monster” video has been released (though leaked footage revealed it to be a grisly, arty product that is likely to be banned from conventional venues like MTV), and while he’s reportedly at work on a clip for “All of the Lights,” we haven’t heard much about that, either.

• Nicki Is On the Road, In Your Face

We have no idea where Kanye is right now — Abu Dhabi? Japan? Chicago? But we know exactly where Minaj is, because she is on her own tour, after which she’ll join Lil Wayne on the road and get even greater exposure. West will headline Coachella in April — five months after “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” first hit stores — and is a good bet to anchor a handful more summer festivals. But one of them, Lollapalooza Chile, is not even in the U.S.

• Merchandising, Merchandising, Merchandising

Nicki Minaj teamed up with Mac cosmetics to sell a special Pink Friday lipstick, and now she’s got an iPhone/iPod app for $.99 that includes her Nictionary — a glossary of the insular terms she uses with her devoted fans. It’s almost impossible to figure out what Kanye is selling on his beautifully designed website. In fact, he probalby won’t be spotlighting “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” much longer — he’s already starting to push “Watch the Throne,” his collaborative album with Jay-Z, and a new album of his own is coming in mere months.

While West may be known for having an epic ego, he’s never held back in his praise of Nicki’s skills. In fact, he may have predicted his own predicament: “The scariest artist right now is definitely Nicki Minaj,” he said in a radio interview over the summer. “I think she has the most potential to be the Number Two rapper of all time. Nobody’s gonna be bigger than Eminem.”


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