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Nicki Minaj's new game could make you a rap star

The 'Anaconda' singer will highlight app users' best work on her social media channels.
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It's hard to believe anyone that's not a Kardashian, a Jenner or a Ramsay can successfully make a game about their careers, but Nicki Minaj's new app actually sounds like fun. Through a collaboration with Glu Mobile -- the same company behind those Kim Kardashian, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and Gordon Ramsay games -- Minaj made The Empire, a game that focuses on rap music and lets players create their own songs. In addition, you can record your own voice (rapping your own words) into the app, and Minaj herself (or her minions, anyway) will select the best few to showcase on her social media accounts. The Empire is now available on iOS and Android, and from my few days playing a beta preview, it seems like more than just another celebrity-branded app.

Gallery: Nicki Minaj: The Empire press images | 15 Photos

Unlike other celebrity apps like the Kendall and Kylie game, which simply let you style your own character and follow a predetermined story line, The Empire also offers an outlet for creativity. For starters, as mentioned, you can create your own rap lyrics and record yourself singing your words over what Glu says are "studio-quality custom beats."

Those who aren't as confident or eloquent can choose, as I did, to use a template and fill out some keywords, Mad Libs style. The app offers some word options with which to fill in the blanks, but you can also enter your own. They can turn out pretty wacky too, which adds to the fun of the game. I wouldn't call the songs I created "inspired" per se, but at least they sort of rhyme. You can choose to go straight to rap mode to avoid the hassle of watching the built-in story line unfold or stick around for the drama in Story Mode.

The story line in The Empire largely follows the blueprint laid out by other celebrity games: You're a nobody who, by some miraculous stroke of luck, befriends the titular celebrity. She takes you under her wing, helping you record your first single and giving you tips on how to promote it. The goal is to earn song sales and grow your number of fans. All the while, the game tries to inculcate values. In the Jenner game, it was the importance of friendship; in The Empire, it's the power of believing in yourself.

The game's graphics have a distinctive style that's strongly reminiscent of street art. Characters are rendered in bold colors and wear hip, urban outfits, which is apropos for the Queens, New York, neighborhood you start out in. As a New Yorker, I found that setting one of the most endearing things about Minaj's game, compared to the LA backdrop in the Kendall and Kylie app. Your tastes might be different than mine, of course.

Gallery: Nicki Minaj: The Empire game screenshots | 59 Photos

The thing I enjoyed most during my time with The Empire was its soundtrack. I normally disable background music in my games, but because the app pipes in Minaj's own tunes, including "Starships" and "Pound the Alarm," the sound was surprisingly enjoyable. Of course, that's mostly because I already like Minaj's music, but players of the game are likely going to be fans anyway. The app also offers chat rooms where you can meet other fans -- people who could eventually become an audience for the songs you create.

Whether anyone will actually become a breakout rap star because of Nicki Minaj: The Empire is unclear (heck, it's unlikely), but if Minaj keeps her promise of showcasing the best rapper of the app each month, she might indeed find some talent among her fans. That potential exposure is solid motivation for aspiring rappers to start sharing their works in the app (although ownership of your tracks isn't clear). Think of it as American Idol on a smaller but easier-to-access stage. And if the thrill of potential stardom isn't fun enough for you, then perhaps the sly anaconda jokes will have to do.

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