Nicki Minaj is arguably, the best female rapper of all time. Born in Trinidad and raised by her grandmother on the Caribbean island until the age of six, in 1989, Minaj left Trinidad and was flung into the cold and uncomfortable poverty of New York City public housing. Raised in South Jamaica, Queens, Minaj was exposed to all sorts of negative things growing up.
Minaj’s father fell victim to crack upon his move to the US from Trinidad in the mid-1980s, and his substance abuse led to physical abuse and domestic violence in the household. Minaj has recalled how sorry she felt for her mother, who would receive beatings from her father, who abused alcohol and crack cocaine.
During a narcotised rampage, Minaj’s father set fire to Minaj’s house to kill the rapper’s mother Carol Maraj. Carol, held several jobs in New York in order to make ends meet. She was an accounting clerk, a foreign exchange teller and also worked in retail on the side to make sure her children were well fed.
Minaj, from a young age, was always very theatrical. The rapper has said this is because she was trying to escape herself and her dire reality and loved to make other people laugh. By inhabiting and creating various fictional characters, Minaj claimed she was using her imagination to place herself outside of her immediate reality and into a fictional world that was much more pleasant and enjoyable than the one she lived in. She has also said that because she had to bottle in so much of herself in the household, at school, she felt liberated and free to express herself in any way she wanted, a luxury she wasn’t afforded at home.
With such a natural talent for acting, Minaj chose to attend Fiorello H. LaGuardia high school for performing arts. Here, the rapper (real name Onika Maraj) met people she felt were like herself. Kooky and a bit crazy. After graduating as a drama major, Minaj went straight into doing auditions and bagged the off-broadway play In Case You Forget in 2001. Performing in the evenings, during the day, Minaj held a hospitality job waitressing at the American restaurant chain Red Lobster.
However, tirelessly auditioning for new parts and not hearing anything, 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. After featuring on various mixtapes in New York, Minaj was asked by black entrepreneur Fendi if she wanted to appear on what was a popular underground hip hop DVD known as ‘The Come Up DVD’. She appeared on ‘The Come Up DVD’ several times between 2003 and 2006, and under Mizzay Entertainment, an Atlanta-based management company in 2007, Minaj’s segment appeared after Lil Wayne’s cameo. Noticing Minaj, Lil Wayne contacted Minaj’s management, and in 2007 Nicki signed a record deal with Young Money.
Releasing several mixtapes between 2007 and 2009, such as Scotty Beam Me Up and Playtime Is Over, 2009 Minaj featured on the smash-hit Young Money record ‘Bedrock’ alongside Lil Wayne, Lloyd, Drake, Tyga and Gudda. This exposed Minaj to the world, and the rest is history.
Since she entered the mainstream circa 2009, Minaj has sold over 100 million records worldwide and has earned 21 top ten singles in her career thus far. She has been accused of shady practices behind the scenes, such as paying off journalists to write bad reviews about her competition’s album sales, stealing record concepts and instrumentals from labelmates and blocking certain artists from appearing at award shows by blackmailing the organisers. With a cult following known as the ‘Barbz’, Minaj still has a viciously loyal fanbase.
With a hefty catalogue, below you can see our selection of the top five Nicki Minaj tracks of all time.
The five best Nicki Minaj songs of all time:
5. ‘Beez In The Trap’ ft 2 Chainz – Roman Reloaded, (2012)
One of the singles from Minaj’s 2012 album Roman Reloaded, ‘Beez In The Trap’ was the first trap song we heard from Minaj. Sonically her debut album was a pop-rap project with the occasional East Coast hip hop track on it. However, this was the first time we saw Minaj take a more southern approach to her music.
With her Pink Friday album, Minaj was a rapper that the hip hop community had written off as for the kids. However, when Minaj hit back with ‘Beez In The Trap’, she showed everyone that she was a real hip hop artist and not just a pop rap personality.
4. ‘Feeling Myself’ ft Beyoncé – The Pinkprint, (2014)
An extremely popular song, with Beyoncé on the hook, it was arguably the best collaboration track of the decade, considering it had the two most popular female performers of their generation on the same track.
However, upon the track’s release, most could not watch the music video as the music video premiered exclusively on the music streaming service TIDAL. Both artists at the time were major stakeholders in the company. However, the two performers faced severe backlash as fans insisted that with such high net worths already, to deny fans a music video unless they pay a subscription fee to TIDAL is a form of greed. Fans rewound the video and placed the track underneath to try and emulate how the video may have looked. However, all attempts to have the video on YouTube were struck down, and to this day, only the audio is available on YouTube, bar a 30-second clip.
3. ‘Chun-Li’ – Queen, (2018)
After a four-year hiatus, Minaj came back with a bang when she released ‘Chun-Li’. The track takes its name from a Street Fighter character of the same name, who was the first female playable character to appear in the game. Produced by Jeremy Reid, Minaj even filmed herself writing the lyrics as, a year prior, Remy Ma had accused her on ‘Shether’ of having several ghostwriters, including Lil Wayne, Drake and Safaree.
The single landed Minaj the award for ‘Best Hip-Hop Video’ at the 2018 VMA’s and peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.
2. ‘Moment 4 Life’ ft Drake – Pink Friday, (2010)
‘Moment 4 Life’ was the fourth single from Minaj’s 2010 debut album, Pink Friday. Featuring her Young Money counterpart Drake, the song was extremely successful, being certified platinum upon release. The song samples Sly, Slick and Wicked’s 1972 track “Confessin’ A Feeling”.
Talking to MTV news about the music video, Minaj discussed the marriage concept of the music video between her and her label-mate Drake, revealing, “Obviously, Drake and I, we’ve played around so much with the whole marriage thing and stuff like that, so people have come to be kind of intrigued about us and it’s where we’re shooting the video together. So I was like, there has to be some sort of romantic storyline. It’s Drake and me.”
‘Moment 4 Life’ was one of Minaj’s first singing releases and is considered by some an R’n’B record.
1. ‘Super Bass’ – Pink Friday, (2010)
Once labelled as a bubblegum pop-rap song, ‘Super Bass’ undeniably toes the line amazingly when it comes to the boundary between EDM and hip hop. Minaj strikes a balance on this track that most artists would not be able to. Although the beat draws influences from EDM, it also fits within the hip hop genre.
The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number eight on the UK Singles Charts but has always been the song that people point to as Nicki’s definitive song. It was the most impactful song of Minaj’s career as it brought her to a new audience that wasn’t hip hop.
‘Super Bass’ was certified Diamond by the RIAA as it is now over 11-times platinum. Speaking to MTV news about the video, Minaj declared, “I just wanted to do something real colourful and cutesy. This is an icy world, it’s a sexy world, it’s a playful world. Of course, I have lots of eye candy for my girls and my boys.”
The hit has been said to have been targeted at young girls, with the video very much centred around the colour “bubblegum pink”, however, Minaj denied she made the video for only one gender.
It appeals so much to young girls that Minaj performed the song on the Ellen show with the help of eight-year-old fan Sophia Grace Brownlee and her five-year-old cousin Rosie. The music video currently has 948.5 million views on YouTube and 573 million streams on Spotify alone. You can watch the video and live performance below.