Check our list counting down the best from Nicki Minaj!
Nicki Minaj, the oft-disputed current queen of rap, recently talked about her place in music history during an XXL interview, saying that she helped resurrect the idea of a female rapper and bring it back to the mainstream. Based on the receipts she has to back up that kind of claim, it's hard to argue. With the most Billboard Top 100 Hits (80 in total) among women from all genres as well as the most top 10 tracks of any female rapper (14), Minaj is no stranger to tucking titles under her Gucci belt. Also hailed as the first female solo artist to have seven singles simultaneously on the Billboard 100 chart, the rapper who seamlessly transcends genre lines from hip hop, to R&B to bubblegum pop and back, Minaj has made incredible strides since the release of her 2010 debut studio album.
While the "Roman Holiday" rapper was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, Minaj cites growing up in Queens, NY as supremely influential in the development of her signature fast-flow and swagger. She credits her early struggles with poverty, living with a violent, drug-father, and lack of discipline as the bedrock that motivated her relentless pursuit of success. I've always had this female-empowerment thing in the back of my mind," she revealed to the now-defunct Details magazine,"because I wanted my mother to be stronger, and she couldn't be. I thought, 'If I'm successful, I can change her life.'"
It was this need to escape from the suffocating realities of her day-to-day life that led Minaj to create alter egos outfitted with outlandish costumes as a way to dichotomize her pain from her ability to create. With technicolor wigs and statement-making fashion draped over her diminutive five foot two frame, Onika Tanya Maraj gave birth to "Cookie" and "Harajuku Barbie" before finally settling on Nicki Minaj. Chasing her love of performance art, Minaj successfully auditioned for entrance into the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, an institution that inspired the Fame movie. Met with a failed acting career following her graduation, Minaj turned to a variety of low-paying jobs like working as a Red Lobster waitress and administrative assistant before being fired for her "discourtesy to customers." Reflecting on her bad attitude, Minaj dished to Billboard that she'd "been fired like 15 times" for the same reasons.
Minaj's passion for performance wasn't diminished in full however, and the Queens MC turned to rap as her next outlet. Minaj originally signed with Brooklyn rap group Full Force, rapping in a quartet called "The Hood$stars" which boasted members like Lou$star, Safaree, and 7even up. In 2004, the group recorded the track "Don't Mess With" which served as the entrance song for WWE Diva Victoria. After leaving Full Force, Minaj branched out in pursuit of solo discovery, uploading tracks to her Myspace profile and sending out industry feelers while managed by Debra Antney. It was Minaj's Myspace page that led to her discovery by the CEO of Brooklyn label Dirty Money Entertainment, Fendi, in 2007. After signing, the rapper changed her stage name from "Nicki Maraj" to "Nicki Minaj," revealing to Ear To That Streetz, "My real name is Maraj. Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow! I eat bitches!"
It was this added exposure that led Minaj to Little Wayne, who collaborated with her on three mixtapes, Playtime is Over (2007), Sucka Free (2008), and Beam Me Up Scotty (2009), before signing her to his Young Money label in 2009. Minaj's debut studio album Pink Friday featured singles like "Right Thru Me" and "Check It Out" and showcased Minaj's range from lyrically vulnerable R&B to commercialized gloss-pop. "Super Bass," Pink Friday's fifth single was Minaj's first break into the coveted top 10 chart ranking, hitting number three and now octuple-platinum in the U.S. Minaj followed up this massive feat with the release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded in 2012 and The Pinkprint in 2014.
The Queen Barbz has been teasing her followup album for most of 2017, telling Shade 45's Whoolywood Shuffle “I’m not telling [the Barbz] when my album is coming out but I just know that it’s going to be amazing because I want to thank the people who rocked with me all these years. Like my fans are a different level of diehard! I always feel like I gotta make them proud. I gotta go hard, I gotta impress them, because they’re always waiting for me. That’s a blessing in itself.”
With Minaj's penchant for lyrical acrobatics, inflection, and chart-topping hits, there's no question her next album will be "a classic album that people will never forget," just as she promised.