Nicki Minaj is the highest-selling female rapper of all time and one of contemporary hip-hop’s most iconic figures. Minaj first exploded into the mainstream in 2009. However, the ‘Super Bass’ emcee was around long before that.
Born in Trinidad and raised in South Jamaica, Queens, as an adolescent and young woman Minaj dreamed of being an actor. Although she starred in some off-broadway productions, after years of casting rejections, Minaj knew she was failing in her pursuit.
Desperate to make something of herself, Minaj began rapping full-time in 2003 alongside her friends Loustar, Seven Up, and Safaree Samuels as part of the Hood$tars. But that was short-lived.
Following this, Minaj moved to Atlanta to see if she could succeed under Mizzay Entertainment’s management. Here the lyricist (real name Onika Maraj) began to make some waves as she rubbed shoulders with other artists such as Gucci Mane and Jeezy. However, although she had management, represented by Mizzay Entertainment, she was yet to bag a record label.
After featuring on various mixtapes in Atlanta, Minaj was asked by black entrepreneur Fendi if she wanted to appear on his popular underground hip-hop DVD known as ‘The Come Up DVD.’ The rapper appeared on ‘The Come Up DVD’ several times between 2003 and 2006 and got spotted by an A&R named Randy’ Ransom’ Nichols.
Nichols, who was working for Def Jam, recently appeared on the Rap Radar podcast and revealed that when he pitched Nicki Minaj to Def Jam and highlighted her talent, they shut him down and rejected the notion that Minaj could ever be successful. Nichols explained to the hosts Elliott Wilson and B.Dot, “We went to Def Jam, like, ‘Yo, you should probably sign her! But they was like, Nah, that shit will never work!'”
Maraj has previously alluded to being rejected by Def Jam in her lyrics rapping, “Def Jam said I’m no Lauryn Hill/Can’t rap and sing on the same CD/ The public won’t get it, they got A.D.D,” in her song ‘Can Anybody Hear Me.’ Shortly after the Queens rapper was turned away from Def Jam, she got signed by Lil Wayne to Young Money.
You can watch Ransom explain his efforts in the video below.