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Nicki Minaj Explains What Makes a Rapper Great

"Jay, Em, Wayne—you can hear it, you can hear they are intelligent people by the way they rap."
Nicki Minaj, 2018

In order to be considered among the greatest rappers of all-time, an MC must be wholly original, possess an unparalleled work ethic and display the perfect blend of charisma, character, and uniqueness. 

In a new Genius Live interview, Nicki Minaj, in promo mode for her newly-released album, Queen, highlighted an obvious but nonetheless necessary trait for rap greatness: brains.

"You have to have some sort of brain power to be a great rapper," Nicki told Genius Live host Rob Markman. "All of our favorite rappers are intelligent: Jay, Em, Wayne—you can hear it, you can hear they are intelligent people by the way they rap."

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Setting aside the fact that Lil Wayne might have a line or two—okay, fine, a lot of lines—in his discography that makes no fucking sense, Nicki's assessment, as well her stated examples, are spot on. In order to be able to cleverly deliver substantive lyrics, using a combination of witty punchlines, metaphors, similes and double entendres—all common characteristics among the greatest to ever pick up a pen and a pad—a certain level of intelligence is required. 

Though Nicki didn't list herself, she did use the opportunity to toot her own horn, praising rhymes she wrote for 2017's "Changed It," a collaboration with Lil Wayne, in which she flipped the name of actress Lisa Bonet ("No, you can't bone it, nigga, ain't no Lisa here").

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