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Nicki Minaj may be the most famous female in hip-hop, but she's about to attract an entirely new audience when "American Idol" launches its 12th season premiere Jan. 16 on FOX.

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Before she officially joined the talent competition, however, the 30-year-old rapper had a number of reservations. "I had a lot of talks with people -- my family, my best friends, my label, Lil Wayne, management and then the producers," Minaj tells The Hollywood Reporter in its Jan. 11 issue.

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Noting that there is often "a judgmental culture in hip-hop," Minaj explains, "Sometimes you are afraid of being too famous because it's almost, like, is that even cool? Being that accessible, someone you see on TV every week? I never pictured myself as that type of person. I'm still surprised that I decided to do it."

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The "Va Va Voom" rapper decided to join new judges Mariah Carey and Keith Urban (and veteran judge Randy Jackson) after talking to Mike Darnell, FOX's president of alternative entertainment.

"He was so lovable and made me feel so comfortable and confident," Minaj recalls. "He kept saying, 'I promise we're going to protect you; you're going to love it, we're a big family.'"

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Minaj flat-out refuses to discuss her much-publicized spat with Carey during the fall auditions. The "Obsessed" singer, meanwhile, offers a diplomatic explanation. "Sometimes things get heated for their own reasons," Carey tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I don't think the panel has an issue."


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