Two months before Nicki Minaj released her debut project, she was holding her own on Kanye West’s “Monster” record featuring fellow Hip Hop heavyweights, JAY-Z and Rick Ross.
The Queens raptress, born Onika Tanya Maraj, outshined everybody on the track and was already charging “50k for a verse, no album out.”
But on November 22, 2010, the price went up exponentially when Nicki dropped Pink Friday.
After signing to Lil Wayne’s Young Money record label in 2009 following the success of her Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape, she began working on her pink print.
The freshman project had a star-studded lineup featuring, Eminem, Rihanna, Drake, will.i.am, Kanye West and Natasha Bedingfield. This is an impressive guest list for a new artist, but her extensive, show-stealing feature appearances and buzz from her mixtapes proved she was here for her moment for life.
Pink Friday spawned eight singles including “Super Bass”, and US Billboard Hot 100 top 40 singles “Your Love”, “Check It Out”, “Right Thru Me”, “Moment 4 Life”, and “Fly.”
She called her “Roman’s Revenge” collaboration with Eminem “the most fun” song on the album and was still shocked that it happened after its release. “I remember I kept talking about it, and I thought, ‘It can’t hurt.’ I sent him one record, and he didn’t love it. He didn’t say, ‘I don’t love it’; he just said, ‘Can you send me something that’s a little more me?’ I sent him an e-mail and thanked him for that, just having enough respect. Sometimes people don’t respond. He had the respect, at least, to treat me like a peer,” she said of the making of their collab on Sway’s Rap Fix Life.
She already completed the Swizz Beatz-produced record and originally wanted it for herself, but thought Slim Shady would add value to it.
The album went on to sell 375,000 copies in its first week and was the biggest debut from any female rapper at the time. It went on to sell 3 million units and is 3x Platinum.
The release of Pink Friday was a cultural shift and set the standard for the current state of female rap.
Thanks to all the femcees for opening the doors for Onika, especially Lil’ Kim because Nicki took the baton from her and ran with it.
Nicki has the longest-running music career as a female rapper. She also influenced the Megan Thee Stallions, Mulattos, and Cardi Bs that we see today.
Before the reign of the Queen rapper, there was a basic recipe for a successful femcee in the 1990s: Get an attractive woman whose witty and raunchy bars make women idolize her and men fantasize her. Plus, a co-sign by an influential male rapper(s).
But these women were often disposable because music only has a 3-5 year shelf life and the time to build their personal brands outside of music wasn’t allotted by these male-dominated record labels.
Other iconic female rappers like Missy Elliott had her songwriting and producing skills to lean on, meanwhile, Queen Latifah had her acting skills. Nicki understood the importance of building a brand on top of having the lyrical prowess, and there was room for her.
She had all the ingredients plus her exaggerated camp aesthetic kept all eyes on her, and it was influential!
The fashion style during the 2010s was already a wild time and Nicki Minaj was pushing the boundaries just like Lady Gaga before her.
Everything screamed camp down to Nicki’s larger than life ass shots. With the exception of Megan Thee Stallion, every rap girl’s body looks more developed after they get a buzz.
The City Girls even openly talk about the desire for body enhancements. “Want a brand new whip, all black, gotta be new body / Wanna get my teeth done and get a new body,” Young Miami rapped on the Girl Code cut, “Season” featuring Lil Baby.
Male rappers are even encouraging the new culture that was arguably influenced by Nicki Minaj. Lil Baby said in his song “First Class,” Yeah, Fifty-five hunnit for a new pair of titties, I’ll buy ’em like Jordans / Give her a couple of thousand, now she feelin’ important / Dick her down, she’ll be gone by the morning / She got them ass shots that I like.“
Dream Doll has an album series titled, Life In Plastic, where she showcases her body enhancements right on the cover art.
Dream spoke candidly about getting sick after getting plastic surgery in Colombia. “It started, like, rejecting of my skin. It was the worst experience in my life,” the rapper and reality star said on YouTuber, Bloveslife’s Mukbang video. She added, “I was in pain. It was red, it was warm, it was hard. I was sick.”
It’s no coincidence that the female rappers topping the charts are the ones who have followed Nicki’s footsteps. Meanwhile, the Lauryn Hill-like present day rappers such as Rapsody, Tierra Whack, and Chika are acknowledged for having the ability to rap. But the numbers aren’t adding up.
I’m not saying that Nicki invented cosmetic surgery. In the early 2000s, many celebrities were experimenting with it, but it was taboo to talk about it. That’s before Onika came on the scene. “Guess them ass shots wore off,” she rapped on her Big Sean collaboration “Dance.” According to a recent report from ASAPS (American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery), the number of butt lift treatments in America increased by 20% from 2015 to 2016 and has risen an entire 342% since 1997.
But some of her more positive influences include the pride that the upcoming female rappers take in their artistry thanks to Nicki.
Megan Thee Stallion, Mulatto, Asian Doll, Kash Doll, Erica Banks, and many of the emerging female rappers credit Nicki Minaj for being their influence.
Her appeal to women of all races and the LGBTQ+ community developed a cult-like fanbase notoriously known as the Barbs, who will find your address and workplace if you mess with the Queen.
A feature from the Pink Friday rapper has become a milestone for young artists and even had a career-boosting Drake-like effect on artists such as G-Herbo, Sada Baby, and the late Pop Smoke.
As she enters her tenure, it’ll be a pleasure to see her open more doors for rising artists and be a mommy to her baby boy.
On a personal note, I’m from New York and Nicki was the “it” girl since “Itty Bitty Piggy.” Every girl was coming to school with pink tracks and bangs, using a marker to write Chinese letters on their arm.
For my sweet sixteen, “Roman’s Revenge” was on the playlist for my choreographed performance with my court.
I’m a proud Barb and it’s dope to see Onika get her flowers while she can smell them.