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The Life of Nicki Minaj

How the rapper is making unexpected advancements both socially and musically

Athena Diamantidis, Contributor

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On Dec 8, 1982, a legend was born. Onika Tanya Maraj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago. Maraj immigrated to the United States when she was 6 and lived in Queens, New York. She grew up with an abusive alcoholic father who burned down her house in a failed attempt to kill her mother when she was a toddler. Luckily, she happened to be next door with her neighbor at the time, so she survived. Maraj attended La Guardia, a magnet high school for the arts, where she specialized in music and acting.

 

Maraj then began taking on backup singing roles for rappers in New York City. She was discovered through her MySpace page by Dirty Money CEO, Fendi, who immediately signed her on. This connected her to Lil Wayne, who she collaborated with on several mixtapes. She had become famous simply featuring on other artist’s songs before she even came out with her own album. She soon released her first single, “Massive Attack”, which led her to win Best Hip Hop Female at the BET awards not even two months later.

 

Her fame only grew over time. She was an American Idol judge for quite a while, famously feuding with Mariah Carey. She also performed at the Super Bowl in 2012 along with Madonna. A short time later, she released her first and long awaited album: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, and “Starships” was her breakout single. Her original stage name was “Nicki Maraj”, however she adopted Nicki Minaj, stating that “My real name is Maraj. Fendi [CEO of Dirty Money, Inc.] flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow!”

 

Minaj actively speaks out about how hard it is to make it in the music industry and exactly what it takes. In an interview she explained, “As a little girl growing up in Southside Jamaica Queens, if anyone would’ve told me I’d have my own perfume one day, and be able to inspire young black girls everywhere, to go into Macy’s or Nordstrom’s and see their face staring back at them – I wouldn’t believe them.” She added, “I always feel it’s important for me to show females that they can be in charge of their own situation. I came into the game creating my own brand. I was doing things very early on that set me apart from people who just took orders and allowed their brand to be created for them. I love women who take control, who set standards, and who believe in themselves enough to lead the way in terms of their career. I’ve done that.” Clearly Minaj has reason to motivate women- after growing up with an abusive father, she’s stated that her main motivator for success is so that she’ll never have to end up in a similar situation again, and neither will her family.

 

Minaj also mentions the double standards within the industry. She hates the stereotype that a woman is either smart or promiscuous and can’t be both, and she wants women to have the freedom to be one, the other, neither, or both. She said, “I’m a grown-ass f***ing woman! I stand for girls wanting to be sexy and dance, but also having a strong sense of themselves. If you got a big ol’ butt? Shake it! Who cares? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be graduating from college.” Minaj continued, “If you’re sexy, or like doing sexy things, some people subconsciously negate your brain. They think you’re stupid.”

 

Unfortunately, many people don’t take Minaj seriously due to her vulgar lyrics and revealing outfits. Contrary to popular belief, Minaj is a wise and kind individual. She brings up good points about how women should be able to express their sexuality the same way that men do. In an interview she said, “You never know how much is too much — too much emotion, too much vulnerability, too much power. Everyone wants me to be something different. Women in the industry are judged more. If you speak up for yourself, you’re a b*tch. If you party too much, you’re a wh*re. Men don’t get called these things.” Minaj also explains how people comment on her expressing her sexuality with revealing clothes and inappropriate lyrics, she’s criticized, however when men use naked models in their music videos nobody criticizes them. In a V magazine interview, Minaj said, “If a man did the same video with sexy women in it, no one would care…  They don’t say anything when they’re watching the Victoria’s Secret show and seeing boobs and thongs all day. Why? Shame on them. Shame on them for commenting on ‘Anaconda’ and not commenting on the rest of the oversexualized business we’re a part of.”

 

Minaj is an unexpectedly good role model. At her concerts she urges her fans to study hard and stay away from drugs and alcohol. In fact, she emphasizes how education helped her escape her abusive father. She recently went on a Twitter scholarship spree, where several people tweeted Minaj photos of their straight As and Minaj paid their tuition, student loans, or textbook fees. When someone tweeted Minaj saying they’d miss school to see her concert, she urged them not to. More recently, a new trend started on social media where people would tweet Minaj photos of their Minaj-inspired graduation caps. It’s clear that education is a priority for Ms. Minaj.

 

 

Minaj’s talent is undeniable. Even Kanye West admitted that he nearly cut her verse from his hit song, “Monster”, because it would make his album look worse in comparison. Kanye said, “I thought about taking Nicki’s verse off of ‘Monster’ because I knew people would say that was the best verse on the best Hip Hop album of all time or arguably top ten albums of all time. And I would do all that work, eight months of work on “Dark Fantasy” [his album] and people to this day… say to me ‘My favorite thing was Nicki Minaj’s verse.’” Kanye West himself was reluctant to keep her verse because he didn’t want to put months of work into his album just for Minaj to overshadow him with a single verse.

 

Her awards are countless- winning 6 AMAs and nominated for 3 more, 11 BETs and nominated for 10 more, 4 Billboard awards and nominated for 19 more, 3 VMAs and nominated for 6 more, 1 iHeartRadio Music Award and nominated for 4 more, nominated for 10 Grammys,- the list goes on and on.  Minaj is a favorite- revolutionizing rap with her different personas, accents, and costumes. She features in many popular pop, hip hop, and rap songs, and her verses often being the highlight of the track. She is changing the rap industry.

 

It’s so refreshing to see an artist so passionate, wise, positive, and down to earth. Minaj has been open about her struggles with racism and sexism, and her emphasis on education. She expresses her sexuality openly and calls out sexist people who criticize her but not the oversexualized industry she’s in. Many people have a negative image of Minaj in their mind- seeing her as trashy, rude, and more. However hopefully, people will realize that she’s only expressing her sexuality just as much as other males in the industry, she just gets criticism because she’s female. She isn’t rude, she’s determined and focused on her career and success. Minaj is a talented rapper and amazing role model, and hopefully people will recognize her for that.

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The Life of Nicki Minaj