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Nicki Minaj knows how female rappers electrify fans; after all she used to be a fan herself. “I know I was always excited by whatever female was hot at the time,” Nicki says.
Today, millions of music fans are now saying the same thing about Nicki Minaj, part comic, part sex symbol and all-the-way lyrical assassin. She has everyone talking about her fiery verse on Kanye West’s “Monster,” which also features Jay-Z, as well as her infectious, standout appearances alongside Lil Wayne (“Knockout”), Usher (“Lil Freak”), Trey Songz (“Bottoms Up”), Robin Thicke (“Shakin’ It 4 Daddy,”), Sean Kingston (“Letting Go”), Christina Aguilera (“WooHoo”), and as a member of Young Money. All this has catapulted Minaj to the forefront of the music industry.
Her appeal is undeniably intoxicating, which is why her first single “Your Love,” from her debut album “Pink Friday,” hit number one on the Billboard rap charts, a feat last achieved by a female hip-hop artist in 2003. “Pink Friday” features production from the heavy-hitters Will.i.am and Swizz Beatz, among others.
Born in Trinidad and raised in Queens, New York, Nicki had to deal with life-threatening attacks during her childhood. Her father was in the borough’s drug scene. He would have violent outbursts and punch holes in walls. Her mother would leave him, only to return after relocating the family multiple times and putting Nicki in an almost untenable position. “It was just really, really volatile and it made me kind of have a lot of anger issues because I wanted to be able to stop it, to be able to protect my family, but unfortunately I was just a child and I couldn’t do anything,” she says. “That always bothered me.”
Nicki was able to draw strength from her chaotic home life. “It gave me this undying drive,” she explains. “Out of everyone that wanted success, I always felt like I wanted it more because my reason for wanting this was never about money or fame. Since I was five years old, I would pray and ask God to make me a successful entertainer, so I could help my mother. It made me just go above and beyond.”
Instead, Nicki found herself in a string of dead-end jobs. After becoming disenchanted with her employment opportunities, she decided to pursue her dreams. She began writing raps and was dared by her then-manager to write three freestyles over other people’s beats. He was floored. “From then on, I just always remember having a goal to accomplish, whether it was shooting my first DVD video, putting out my next mix-tape or getting an original song done,” Nicki recalls. (Her singles “Itty Bitty Piggy” and “Still I Rise” showcased, respectively, her braggadocio and introspective sides, endearing her to millions of fans around the world.)
Soon after Nicki made a DVD of her songs, Lil Wayne flew her to North Carolina for a meeting. “I just remember it being the best moment of my life because I never really even knew if I would get mainstream, or if I would ever be recognized by a mainstream person and I’d always been a Lil Wayne fan, so it was like a double whammy,” she says.
Lil Wayne was impressed. Though no paperwork was signed at this point, Wayne named-dropped Nicki on his freestyle over Beyonce’s “Upgrade” and appeared for the first time with Nicki on “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” the standout selection from her “Playtime Is Over” mix-tape. “Once I heard Nicki, I knew I had to meet her and once we talked I knew she had to be a part of Young Money, with her skills and her personality,” says Lil Wayne.
As Nicki’s notoriety began to rise, her vivid personalities began to catch on. Nicki Lewinsky, Nicki the Ninja, Nicki the Harajuku Barbie, and Nicki the Boss each hold their own place in Nicki Minaj’s creative, ever-expanding mind. She refuses to be pigeon-holed because she uses people’s preconceived notions about female entertainers to her advantage.
Another testament to her astounding cache: Nicki hosted BET’s Rip the Runway 2010 and pulled in the highest ratings ever for the show, setting the stage for a performance on the 2010 BET Awards, where she took home trophies for Best New Artist and Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, and for Best Group as a key member of the super-group Young Money. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Award, she stole the spotlight with a show-stealing performance of her duet “Check It Out” with will.i.am.
Image Courtesy of Nicki Minaj