After a six-year hiatus, Nicki Minaj dropped her highly anticipated fifth studio album, Pink Friday 2, giving barbs the perfect soundtrack to close out the year. Releasing the project on her 41st birthday, it spoke volumes to how far she’s come. The rapper was just 27 years old when her debut Pink Friday dropped, establishing her as a powerhouse in Hip-Hop.
According to Forbes, “Pink Friday 2 [opened] at No. 1 with 228,000 equivalent album units. That sum includes 92,000 pure purchases, but the title really succeeded best on streaming platforms.” In her verse on “FTCU” (the third track from PF2), Minaj raps, “Spotify ain’t gotta’ lie, / they really streamin’ my music.” That bar rings true as “the songs featured on the new project earned nearly 170 million plays on Spotify.” Considered the “Queen of Rap” by many because of her unique and animated flow, heavy-hitting punchlines, and wordplay, there’s really no question why Minaj is seen as a leader of the pack. With the recent commercial success of her latest project, we can’t help but take a look back at how she’s gotten to where she is today—how she’s grown not only as an artist but a person.
After being briefly signed to the group Full Force, where she was part of a quartet called the Hoodstars, Minaj signed to the Brooklyn label, Dirty Money Entertainment in 2007. There she and CEO of the label, Fendi, developed the stage name ‘Nicki Minaj’. “My real name is Maraj” she says, “Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow!”
Nicki released a mixtape every year from 2007 to 2009, ultimately gaining traction as she received favorable attention from many different outlets like BET and MTV, which landed her the opportunity that skyrocketed her to stardom. The Trinidadian-born rapper was discovered by Lil Wayne and signed to Young Money Entertainment. The next year, she went on a feature run, collaborating with artists like Robin Thicke and Mariah Carey and becoming the “go-to girl for artists who wanted to add some skank to their tracks without sullying themselves in the process,” according to theWashington Post.
Debut album and more
When it came to being featured on songs, Nicki had a particular je ne sais quoi that couldn’t be matched or beat. She proved this with her verse on Kanye West’s “Monster.” Despite the song also featuring Jay-Z and Rick Ross, in 2013 Complex rated her verse as the number one best rap verse in the past five years. To say that verse put her on the map would be an understatement.
On her debut album, Pink Friday, on Apple Music, the notes read: “Nicki Minaj’s guest verse on Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ established her as a gargantuan MC, but her debut album solidified her star.” We have to agree! Pink Friday (released in 2010) debuted at number two but later took the number-one spot on the Billboard 200. The album went certified platinum less than a month after its initial release having sold 1 million units in the U.S., according to Rap-Up.
In 2012, Minaj released her second studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, marking her crossover appeal with the lead single, “Starships,” a venture into pop that won her ‘Best Female Video’ for the song in 2012 at the VMAs.
A woman that does it all…
That same year, 2012, marked the start of Nicki’s acting career. Her first film was the animated feature Ice Age: Continental Drift as the voice of Steffie; followed by the live-action theatrical release of The Other Woman (2014), Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016)—alongside Ice Cube and Cedric The Entertainer, and The Angry Birds Movie 2 where Minaj voiced the character Pinky (2019).
In addition to diving into acting, Nicki faced some major life shifts as she and longtime boyfriend, Safaree, separated after nearly 11 years together. She went on to release her third album, The Pinkprint, in late 2014, which had fans speculating if songs like “I Lied” and “Pills N Potions” were about their relationship.
A day before the release of her fourth album, the rapper launched her own radio show, Queen Radio. The album, Queen, debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and went certified platinum after selling over 1 million units. “Barbie Dreams” and “Chun-Li” were some of the popular songs from the project—the latter reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Marriage, Motherhood and Controversy
After a year of dating her childhood best friend, Kenneth Petty, the two married in 2019. Minaj once referred to Petty as the “Clyde to [her] Bonnie.” The pair fell under heavy scrutiny when news broke of Kenneth’s failure to register as a sex offender after having been convicted of attempted rape. In 2021, Jennifer Hough, the woman who Petty was convicted of attempting to rape, filed a suit against the couple, alleging that they “directly and indirectly intimidated, harassed and threatened [Jennifer Hough] to recant her legitimate claim that Defendant Petty raped her,” according to Rolling Stone. However, Hough dropped Minaj from the suit in January 2022.
In 2020, the rapper and her husband welcomed their first child together. She initially announced her pregnancy on Instagram in July and revealed that she birthed her son on September 30. While the baby’s birth name is still unknown, Minaj often refers to him as Papa Bear. In an interview with Vogue, she said, “I look in my son’s face, and my whole soul lights up. He has no clue how nerve-racking it’s been for me to be a mother and an artist.” Nicki initially thought she would have to retire after having children, but she revealed that another mother helped her find her way back to making music after the birth of her son.
The year following the birth of her son, Minaj suffered the loss of her father, Robert Maraj. According to The Guardian, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking along the streets of New York. Nicki said in a letter penned to her fans that the loss of her father has been the “most devastating” in her life.
Another Feature Run Before Pink Friday 2
At the start of 2022 and after a break from social media, Nicki went on to be featured on several commercially successful tracks, including Lil Baby’s “Do We Have a Problem?”, Coi Leray’s “Blick Blick”, Yung Bleu’s “Love in the Way”, and YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s “I Admit”—just to name a few.
In the first quarter of 2023 during an episode of her Queen Radio show, the Queen Barb herself announced that she’d launched her own record label, Heavy On It. Nicki joined New York rapper Ice Spice for a remix of Spice’s “Princess Diana,” and the track became the first-ever release on Minaj’s label. That boosted Minaj into becoming the first woman to reach most number ones on the Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart. She went on to snag more features, from Sexxy Red’s “Pound Town 2” to collaborations with Kim Petras on “Alone”, and again with Ice Spice and euro-pop band Aqua on “Barbie World” for the Barbie movie soundtrack.
If you think Pink Friday 2 was long overdue, you’re not wrong. In addition to being Nicki’s first studio album in six years, the project also had delays. It was initially set to be released on October 20 but was rescheduled to November 17; then, it was pushed back again and finally released on December 8.
Having only been out for little over a month, Pink Friday 2 is already giving Minaj bragging rights. According to Billboard, “With a third No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Minaj breaks out of a tie with Foxy Brown for the most leaders among female rap artists. Minaj is also the first female rapper with No. 1 albums in two different decades, as she logged her first two leaders in the 2010s, and her third came in the 2020s.” The 22-track album garnered the largest sales week for a female rap album, according to Rolling Stone. “Its vinyl sales are also impressive,” the publication reported, “with 25,000 copies, marking the largest week for a rap LP by a woman since Luminate began tracking sales electronically in 1991.”
In support of the album, Nicki will be embarking on the Pink Friday 2 World Tour on March 1 in Oakland, California, and will end in Berlin, Germany, on June 7. In addition to her own tour, the “FTCU” rapper will be headlining Rolling Loud California in March.
She is also up for two nominations at the 2024 Grammy Awards, ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Song Written for Visual Media’ for “Barbie World.”
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