Nicki Minaj (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Onika Tanya Maraj (born December 8), known by her stage name Nicki Minaj (), is a Trinidadian-born American rapper, singer-songwriter, voice actress and television personality. She was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago. When she was five years old, she moved to the New York City borough of Queens. Minaj trained as an actress before she released three mixtapes between 2007 and 2009 and signed to Young Money Entertainment.
Minaj's debut studio album, Pink Friday (2010), peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) a month after its release. She became the first female solo artist to have seven singles on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time. Her seventh single, "Super Bass" has been certified quadruple-platinum by the RIAA, and has sold more than four million copies, becoming one of the best-selling singles in the United States. Minaj's second album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012), topped charts internationally, also spawning the top 10 singles "Starships" and "Pound the Alarm". The album became one of the best-selling albums of 2012, according to the Nielsen SoundScan, selling one million copies worldwide, as well as "Starships" becoming one of the best-selling singles of that year. Later in the year, she embarked on two worldwide tours, the Pink Friday Tour and the Pink Friday: Reloaded Tour, and reissued the album as Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded - The Re-Up. Minaj has tentatively announced plans for a third studio album to be released in 2013.
Minaj's artistry features fast-paced rapping, alter egos and accents, notably British cockney. Her outlandish and colorful costumes, wigs and clothing have given her recognition as a fashion icon. She featured as a voice actress in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, is currently serving as a judge on American Idol and has endorsed Adidas, MAC Cosmetics, and Pepsi. Minaj's work has earned her six BET Awards, four American Music Awards, two MTV Music Awards, an EMA and Billboard 2011 Rising Star. She is the first female artist included on MTV's Annual Hottest MC List, with The New York Times suggesting that some consider her "the most influential female rapper of all time." The Source named Minaj the Woman Of The Year for 2012.
Life and career
Early life and career beginnings
Onika Tanya Maraj was born December 8, 1982 in Saint James, a suburb of Trinidad and Tobago's capital city Port of Spain. to parents Carol and Robert Maraj, an accounting clerk/gospel singer and an employee at American Express, respectively. Her parents are of mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian ancestry and she lived in Saint James with her grandmother. Minaj is the middle sister to brothers Makiya and Jelani, as mentioned in her song "I'm the Best" on her debut album, Pink Friday. Her mother would occasionally visit, and one day, when Minaj was five, her mother picked her up to move to the Queens borough of New York City. According to Minaj, her father drank heavily, took drugs, and once tried to kill her mother by setting the house on fire.
Minaj attended Elizabeth Blackwell Middle School 210, where she played the clarinet. She then graduated from LaGuardia High School, which specializes in music and the visual and performing arts. Minaj participated in the drama program and initially planned to sing at LaGuardia, but lost her voice on the day of the audition. Minaj had a passion to become an actress, but failed at attempts to pursue her career due to the lack of roles she received. In 2001, she was cast in the Off-Broadway play, "In Case You Forget". After her acting career failed to take off, Minaj worked at Red Lobster in the Bronx at the age of 19 as a waitress and purchased her first vehicle, a BMW. Minaj was fired from Red Lobster because of her discourteousness to customers. She stated she had been fired from "at least fifteen jobs" for similar antics. Other jobs Minaj held were administrative assistant, customer service and a office manager position at an unknown business located on Wall Street.
Minaj breifly signed with Brooklyn group Full Force, in which Minaj rapped in a foursome group called "Hoodstars," which consisted of group members Lou$tar (son of "Bowlegged Lou"), Scaff Beezy (Minaj's current hypeman) , and 7even Up. In 2004 the group recorded the entrance song for WWE wrestler Victoria titled "Don't Mess With," it was featured on the compilation album ThemeAddict: WWE The Music, Vol.6. Minaj left the group, unsatisfied with their lack of success. During this time, Minaj uploaded a few songs on her Myspace profile and sent a few of her songs to people in the music industry she was managed by Debra Antney. Fendi, CEO of the Brooklyn label Dirty Money Entertainment, who also found rapper Gravy, discovered the music and contacted Minaj, signing her to his label. Initially, Minaj adopted the pseudonym "Nicki Maraj", later changing to "Nicki Minaj", stating "My real name is Maraj. Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow! I eat bitches!" Under Fendi's label, Minaj appeared on the popular street DVD "The Come Up Volume 11" that featured underground rappers from New York.
2007-09: Mixtapes and Young Money
Minaj released her first mixtape Playtime Is Over in 2007 with Dirty Money Records. Her second mixtape, Sucka Free, was released on July 7, 2008 under the label Be. She won the Female Artist of the Year award at the 2008 Underground Music Awards shortly after. On April 18, 2009, Minaj released her third mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty under the label of Trapaholics Records; it received positive coverage on both BET and MTV. She also appeared in XXL magazine during this time.
In August 2009, Minaj signed a record deal with Young Money Entertainment, with distribution from Universal Motown Records, after fellow American rapper Lil Wayne discovered her on The Come Up DVD. Minaj generated significant attention when she first appeared on Yo Gotti's 5 Star Chick video, which gave her mainstream success with the urban community. At the request of Jay-Z, Minaj was asked to feature on Robin Thicke's single Shakin' It 4 Daddy. Following the guest appearance, Minaj was given a solo rap verse in the single "BedRock". The record garnered huge commercial success, reaching number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. She also appeared on "Roger That," which charted at number 56. The song, particularly Minaj, received positive reviews from critics. In December 2009, both songs were included in Young Money Entertainment's debut collaborative studio album We Are Young Money. The album charted in the top ten on the Billboard 200, reaching number 9 and later receiving a Gold Certification by the RIAA. Minaj was featured on Mariah Carey's "Up Out My Face" and its music video. The collaboration was well received by critics.
2010-11: Pink Friday and commercial breakthrough
See Pink Friday for more information
After a major record label bidding war, Young Money Entertainment announced on August 31, 2009 that Minaj had been released from a 360 deal with the label in which she retains and owns all of her 360 rights, including merchandising, sponsorships, endorsements, touring and publishing. Minaj was featured on Rihanna's "Raining Men" from her album Loud, which would lead to a second collaboration on Minaj's "Fly" from her album Pink Friday. Hip-hop rap artist and producer Kanye West was also confirmed for the album. On August 3, 2010, Minaj revealed on a Ustream.tv channel that the album's name would be Pink Friday, a nod to Black Friday.
Pink Friday was released on November 19, 2010. A buzz single, "Massive Attack", was released in April. In August, Minaj released "Your Love" as the first official single from her debut album. The single peaked at 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, 7 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and topped the Rap Songs chart. Minaj became the first female artist to be included on MTV's Annual Hottest MC List and the first female artist to top the chart unaccompanied since 2002. In October 2010, Minaj became the first artist to have seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously. She released a two singles in September 2010; one a joint single with The Black Eyed Peas front man, will.i.am titled, "Check It Out," and the other "Right Thru Me." The music videos for both were released in late October. "Moment 4 Life" was released as the fourth single on December 7, 2010, featuring Canadian rapper Drake, becoming a success on the Billboard Hot 100. The single peaked at number 5 on the Hot Rap Songs.
The album gained Platinum certification in the United States a month after the release. On January 29, 2011, Minaj appeared on Saturday Night Live as the musical guest, performing "Right Thru Me" and "Moment 4 Life". On February 9, 2011, Pink Friday reached number one on the Billboard 200 in its eleventh week on the chart. Minaj turned down an offer to become a judge on The X Factor, as rapped on her Roman Reloaded song, due to the salary for the gig. In June 2011, Minaj was an opening act along with Jessie and the Toy Boys and Nervo on Britney Spears' sixth concert tour, the Femme Fatale Tour, in support of her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale. She and singer Kesha were featured on the remix of Spears' track "Till the World Ends," which charted at number 3 in the US in April 2011.
"Super Bass" was released from Pink Friday in May 2011. The single charted within the top 10 in many countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada, and later was certified as quadruple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song gained positive reviews from critics. Minaj went on to attribute the success of the single in part to Taylor Swift, saying in an interview with American radio station 102.7 KIIS FM, "Taylor Swift did her little interview about 'Super Bass' and [it] took off in the States with the people sort of knowing it...It"s just really uncanny how all that stuff happens...We didn"t plan it like that." Minaj voiced a character in the 3D animated film, Ice Age: Continental Drift, as Steffie, a woolly mammoth. Minaj is also featured on French DJ David Guetta's 2011 album, Nothing but the Beat, on the singles "Where Them Girls At" and "Turn Me On".
2011-12: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and touring
See Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded for more information
Minaj's second studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, was announced in November 2011 through Twitter and was released on April 2, 2012, two months later than initially planned. The album features collaborations with producers Hit-Boy, Dr. Luke, Rico Beats, Kenoe, RedOne and Oak. Cash Money A&R Joshua Berkman told HitQuarters that Minaj was extremely particular about the beats and music she used saying: "She wouldn't just rap or sing on anything - I could give her a thousand tracks and she may only like one or two." Preceding the album's release, three promotional singles were released: Roman in Moscow (which didn't make the final cut of the album), "Stupid Hoe," and "Roman Reloaded." The album's first single, "Starships," was released on February 14. It peaked at a new best for Minaj of number 2 in the United Kingdom, and reached number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming her second top 10 success, after 2011's "Super Bass". The music video was released on April 26, 2012.
On February 12, 2012, Minaj debuted another electropop song, "Roman Holiday", at the 54th Grammy Awards, becoming the first solo female rapper to perform a song on the Grammy stage. The exorcism-themed performance drew a mixed response online. She was featured on "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (with M.I.A.) and "I Don't Give A," both songs (the first being the lead single) from Madonna's 2012 album MDNA. The trio performed the former during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in February. The album's second single, "Right by My Side," which features Chris Brown, was released on March 27, 2012. Following the album's release, it peaked at number 24 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart. It also peaked in the lower regions of the UK singles chart, at position #101. The third single, an electro-hop song called "Beez in the Trap", which features 2 Chainz was released to U.S. Urban radio on April 24, 2012 and premiered on DJ Flex's radio show at Hot 97 on March 20, 2012. It peaked at number 24 on the US Billboard Rap Songs Chart. The video was premiered on April 6, 2012 on Minaj's VEVO account.
Minaj began her first worldwide tour, the Pink Friday Tour, on May 16, 2012. It was followed by the Pink Friday: Reloaded Tour, which began in October. Minaj cancelled her appearance at the 2012 V Festival in the United Kingdom and the final show of her Pink Friday Tour in Dublin due to the damage of her vocal chords. Minaj was scheduled to headline during Hot 97 Summer Jam in New Jersey on June 3, 2012 at MetLife Stadium, but pulled out of her performance the day of after one of the station's DJs (Peter Rosenberg) criticized "Starships" as not being "real hip-hop." Her mentor Lil Wayne heard the remark and pulled his Young Money labelmates from the show. Minaj was scheduled to bring out hip-hop artists Nas, Lauryn Hill, Cam'ron, Foxy Brown, among others. She spoke to Hot 97 with Funkmaster Flex, which ended the dispute with the radio station and DJ Peter Rosenberg.
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded was re-released as Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded - The Re-Up on November 19, 2012. The three-disc box set is packaged with the standard version of the original album, an disc with eight additional songs, and a DVD with behind-the-scenes footage. The first single from the re-release, "The Boys", with Cassie, was released on September 13, 2012. Its music video debuted on VEVO on October 18, 2012. "Va Va Voom" was released as the fifth single from Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded on October 23, 2012. Its music video premiered on E! News on October 26. The second single from The Re-Up, "Freedom", was released on November 3, 2012. Its music video premiered on November 19.
2012-present: American Idol and upcoming projects
Minaj revealed the bottle design for her fragrance, "Pink Friday," through Twitter. The bottle bears a pink wig, a gold-platted bust, and a chain that hangs from the neck, bearing her name, similar to the cover of her debut album, Pink Friday. On August 24, 2012, Minaj premiered the music video for "I Am Your Leader" through Vevo. She was featured on Lil Wayne's mixtape, Dedication 4, in September 2012. Minaj won the award for Best Female Video at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, and performed "Girl on Fire" with Alicia Keys and special guest gymnast Gabby Douglas. In August 2012, speculation emerged that Minaj would join the judging panel for the twelfth season of American Idol, though Minaj commented at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, "You know what? At this time, I have no comment on that one." On September 16, 2012, it was confirmed that Minaj would join the panel alongside Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Keith Urban, beginning immediately with the auditions starting the same day. Minaj and Carey have received much media attention for their on-set tension, with a video released of the two in the midst of a heated argument during auditions in Charlotte. The following day, in a statement to Barbara Walters of The View, Carey alleged that Minaj had threatened to "shoot her" during an argument that had occurred earlier that week, though Minaj and producer Nigel Lythgoe denied such claims.
Minaj starred in a three-part E! documentary special, titled Nicki Minaj: My Truth. It aired from November 4, 2012 until November 18, 2012. At the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards, Minaj was nominated for three awards: Best Hip-Hop, Best Female, and Best Look. Minaj won Best Hip-Hop, but lost to Taylor Swift in the other two categories. In November 2012, Minaj announced plans to launch her own record label, and has already signed singer-songwriter and producer Parker Ighile, rapper Brinx, and singer Keisha. The title "Pink Friday Records" was intended, but was scrapped because it was "Not fair 2 (sic) the dudes", Minaj revealed in a press release, clarifying that she would release the new name "very soon". In November 2012, Minaj announced plans to release her third studio album in 2013. She described its concept as "a continuation of the Re-Up with a lot more."
On December 4, 2012, MAC Cosmetics revealed that Minaj, who previously backed the campaign alongside Ricky Martin, would front the Viva Glam 2013 campaign, releasing a new shade of lipstick "Nicki 2" and matching lipglass. Minaj announced her clothing line would be launched through retailer Kmart January 9, 2013.
Minaj has been noted by the media for her curvaceous figure. In an interview with Vibe Minaj discussed her sexual image stating, "when I grew up I saw females doing certain things, and I thought I had to do that exactly. The female rappers of my day spoke about sex a lot... and I thought that to have the success they got, I would have to represent the same thing. When in fact I didn"t have to represent the same thing," later adding, "I made a conscious decision to try to tone down the sexiness, I want people"especially young girls"to know that in life, nothing is going to be based on sex appeal. You got to have something else to go with that." Minaj has made "signing boobs" part of her movement to empower women. In an interview with The Guardian, Minaj says she is competing with both male and female rappers. "That's why I say stuff like, 'Dick in your face', because I don't even wanna refer to female genitalia any more. I just feel I have bigger balls than the boys," Minaj said, referencing the song "Come on a Cone" from Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded In her "Moment 4 Life", song she refers herself as a king instead of the term "queen".
Minaj is known for wearing outlandish costumes and wigs, which leads to comparisons to Lady Gaga, and is often called "the black Lady Gaga"; Minaj refutes comparisons between the two. She cites Alexander McQueen, Versace, and Christian Louboutin as her favorite designers. The Huffington Post described Minaj's fashion as "risk-taking", "bold sartorial choices", and "far-out", with Yahoo! commenting that her costume was "colorful", "crazy" and stated that "the world would certainly be very quiet without Ms Minaj". Minaj has been invited to attend various events for fashion designers. Donatella Versace invited Minaj to perform for the launch of the collaboration of Versace for H&M alongside Prince. She also performed "Super Bass" at a Victoria Secret fashion show in November 2011. Minaj was personally invited to be sat with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour during New York Fashion Week to see designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera.
With over 17,000 tweets and 15 million followers, Billboard ranked Minaj the sixth most active user of microblogging website Twitter. In March 2011, Billboard named Minaj the fourth most active musician on social media, through their Social 50 chart. The chart tracks Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Instagram usage. On Twitter, she is the most followed rapper in the world. Upon Twitter and in public appearances and interviews, Minaj refers to her fans collectively as "Barbz" and her male heterosexual and LGBT following as "Boyz" and "Ken Barbz," respectively, alluding to her "Harajaku Barbie" persona. Minaj deleted her Twitter account for eight days in April 2012, following a dispute between her and fans who wanted to leak snippets of her then-unreleased album. At the time, she possessed 11 million followers and lost over a million followers as a result of the ordeal.
In 2012, amateur cartoonist David Monger authored a popular web series based on Nicki Minaj called The Nekci Menij Show. Featuring pop icons from Madonna to Marina and the Diamonds, the characters are illustrated in an intentionally crude manner accompanied by SMS language so as to mirror the internet meme Dolan Duck. Since September 2012, the show had garnered more than 600,000 views on YouTube. Primarily crafted using Microsoft Paint, the show is intended as a satire of celebrity syndrome and stan culture. Minaj is the first, and only female rapper to reach over one billion video views on Youtube.
While growing up, Minaj's home life was often chaotic, with her parents constantly fighting. As a means of escape, she would create characters and live her life through them, saying, "To get away from all their fighting, I would imagine being a new person. 'Cookie' was my first identity - that stayed with me for a while. I went on to 'Harajuku Barbie,' then 'Nicki Minaj'. Fantasy was my reality." Minaj also introduced "Point Dexter" on her skit on SNL as an alter-ego, but she has since mentioned Point Dexter as one of her alter-egos.
On November 18, 2010, Minaj assumed an alter ego named "Nicki Teresa". Wearing a colorful scarf around her head, she went around as the "healer to her fans" as she visited them at The Garden of Dreams Foundation at Fuse studios in New York City. Minaj made an appearance on Lopez Tonight on December 6, 2010 and presented a different alter-ego for the Spanish-inspired occasion, named "Rosa" (pronounced Rrrrrosa).
For Pink Friday, Minaj created another alter ego, "Roman Zolanski," which Minaj claims is her "twin brother" that was born inside her, out of rage, and becomes him when she is angry. She has also said he is "a demon inside her." Roman has been compared to Eminem's alter ego Slim Shady, and on the song "Roman's Revenge" from Pink Friday, Minaj and Eminem collaborate, using these alter egos. On the collaboration, she said "The new album is going to have a lot of Roman on it ... And if you're not familiar with Roman, then you will be familiar with him very soon. He"s the boy that lives inside of me. He's a lunatic and he's gay and he'll be on there a lot." Roman also has a "mother" called "Martha Zolanski," who also appeared on "Roman's Revenge," with a British accent, and on "Roman Holiday", singing for the first time. Martha appears in the video for "Moment 4 Life" where she appears to be Minaj's magical godmother. In songs such as "All I Do Is Win (Remix)" it is Minaj rapping. Minaj stated that on her debut album, fans will get to "meet" Nicki, Roman and Onika. Minaj also produces with her management team and personal friends as Pink Friday Productions, most notable for producing in her second studio album.
Minaj is known for her animated rapping style, particularly her flow. She often combines metaphors, punchlines, and wordplay into her work, which has received comparisons to her mentor, Lil Wayne. The New York Times described Minaj as "a sparkling rapper with a gift for comic accents and unexpected turns of phrase. She's a walking exaggeration, outsize in sound, personality and look. And she's a rapid evolver, discarding old modes as easily as adopting new ones." While many critics describe her technique as bubblegum rap, Minaj explained, "What people don't know is that before I was doing that craziness I was doing me, I was just doing regular sounding rap that anyone could hear and identify with. But once I started doing all that weird shit"im not mad at it because it got everyone"s attention".