Women's History in Hip Hop: Nicki Minaj
By Niki McGloster
Those who overlook the accomplishments of women in hip-hop view the genre through a broken prism. Sure, lyrical men's bars gleam brightly at the top of charts, but the femmes have exceptionally achieved royal heights in the rap world and beyond. Women like Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, and Rapsody have elbowed through sexism and misogyny to garner critical acclaim, rack up Grammys and build undeniable empires. There are a few women who’ve bounced back better than Big Sean to become rhyme queens. Earlier this week, we took a closer look at female rapper Lauryn Hill and mogul Queen Latifah. Lastly, here’s a close-up look at one of today’s hottest female rappers, Nicki Minaj.
The Trinidadian Queens-bred MC’s trajectory to pop stardom started with gritty, street-satisfying mixtapes. Once she caught the eye of Young Money chief, Lil Wayne, her colorful wigs and over-the-top sartorial choices (and alter egos) amassed millions of loyal followers and a heap of firsts. From multi-million dollar endorsement deals—MAC Cosmetics, OPI, Adidas, Pepsi, etc.—to magazine covers, the self-proclaimed Barbie shattered quite a few glass ceilings. Though it’s been proven that the competitive lyricist can hang with the guys, dominating her own lane has had a multitude of twists and triumphs.
2007: Nicki officially introduced herself to music with three independent mixtapes, 2007’s Playtime Is Over, 2008’s Sucka Free and 2009’s Beam Me Up Scotty. Soon after, she signed to Lil Wayne and Young Money, the beginning of a history-making rap career.
2010: Her platinum-selling debut, Pink Friday, reached no. 1 on Billboard and spawned a handful of hit singles. She was the first female rapper to accomplish the feat since Lil’ Kim. With the album’s lead single “Your Love,” Minaj also became the first female artist to top the Hot Rap Songs chart without a feature since 2002.
2012: Minaj’s 54th Grammy Awards performance of “Roman Holiday” was met with overwhelming controversy. What was supposed to be a Catholic exorcism turned into viral backlash. She defended the on-stage act though the general consensus thought it was terrible: “It’s funny because it was the most comfortable I’ve ever been on stage in my entire life.”
2013: After revealing her more natural look for ELLE earlier in the year, Minaj posed for the August 2013 issue of Marie Claire becoming the first rapper to do so.
2011: Joining the male rap pantheon—Jay Z, Diddy, Kanye, Lil Wayne and more—Nicki became the first female rapper to make the Forbes’ Hip-Hop Cash Kings list.
2012: The world welcomed Nicki Minaj’s first fragrance line, Pink Friday. She also made her film debut in silver screen animation, Ice Age: Continental Drift, as Steffie.
2014: Minaj starred in the comedy The Other Woman alongside Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton. Months later Minaj split from longtime boyfriend and collaborator Safaree Samuels in a headline-grabbing breakup, which inspired much of the material for her most vulnerable album to date, The Pinkprint.
2015: The Pinkprint Tour was one of the highest-grossing tours of the year, making $13 million.
2017: After releasing “No Frauds” featuring Lil Wayne and Drake, “Regrets in Your Tears” and “Changed It”, Minaj surpasses Aretha Franklin for the most entries by a woman on the Billboard Hot 100, and breaks history with a total of 76 Billboard Hot 100 hits.