Nicki Minaj Flaunts Her Best Adele, Gets Vulnerable, and Plays Clarinet on ‘Carpool Karaoke’

When it comes to her music, the Queen of Rap Nicki Minaj is used to being in the driver’s seat. But on Wednesday, James Corden took the wheel for the return of his beloved “Carpool Karaoke” segment on The Late Late Show after two years. In between cackles, rap-alongs, and her best British accent, Minaj candidly spoke about struggling with anxiety and how she’s faced scrutiny as a public figure.

“I think when I was younger, probably my more natural state was to be more confident. But I think when you are a woman and you’re in the public eye all the time, if you’re not careful, you can become less confident because you’re being constantly scrutinized,” she said, after explaining how chewing ice relieves her anxiety. “It’s not natural for a human being to just always feel like everyone’s critiquing them.”

Minaj explained that she had “an amazing sense of freedom” when she first started because “nobody gave a fuck” about what she was doing. “It goes from that to the complete, complete opposite where if I blink my eye wrong, they’ll have a story made up about why I blinked my eye that way,” she said.

The Karaoke segment with Corden marks one of the first times in a long time that the rap star — who has rarely given interviews since giving birth to her son in late 2020 — has shared a more vulnerable side of herself on camera. “We talked for a long time about anxiety and how difficult it can be being Nicki Minaj,” Corden told reporters at a virtual press conference on Wednesday. “Sometimes we can look at an artist like Nicki Minaj and think that she’s bulletproof and anything that anybody says won’t affect her. And it was quite refreshing, how open and honest she was.”

“Whenever I am off of social media and I take that shit off my phone, I have this enormous sense of peace. And then you realize what really matters… You’re like, ‘Who cares?’ ” Minaj said, later adding that having her son played a big role in that. “When I look at my son, I’m like just magically in love. He just makes me laugh, makes me smile, makes me happy. Like, he’s just so cute and cuddly.”

The “Carpool Karaoke” segment opened with a sing-along to “Anaconda,” before Minaj and Corden delved into why she loves doing her silly British accent, reminiscent of Adele. “People pay for these sort of viral moments, you know what I mean?!” Minaj said, mimicking the singer’s voice. Corden then asked her for her thoughts on Adele’s rendition of Minaj’s “Monster” verse on a previous segment. “It made me so, so happy. She embodied Nicki Minaj!” she said, later adding, “She’s singing these sad songs so you don’t expect it from her.” (The late night host and rapper then sang along to “Someone Like You” a cappella.)

After singing along to “Blick Blick,” Corden got a lesson in street slang as Minaj taught him what the term “ops” meant. “James, if you’re going to hang out with me, you have to at least know the lingo!” she said with a silly eyeroll. Corden replied, “Ops means opportunities?” (It means opposition if you’re wondering.)

Following a failed beatbox by Corden (“On the white scale, that wasn’t that white,” Minaj joked), and a laugh-filled singalong to “Superbass” and “Do We Have a Problem?“, Corden pulled out a clarinet from the backseat and asked Minaj to play a few notes as she jokingly honked some notes to start “Chun-Li.“

When talking to reporters, Corden said there was just so much content that “there’s probably a 45-minute” of the segment. “It was all just far beyond my wildest dreams of it really,” he said. “She was so open… I don’t think I’ve ever seen her crack up laughing the way that she was.” He also teased an upcoming episode with Camila Cabello.