Twelve years ago, Nicki Minaj was an unknown female rapper about to break the scene, who gained a substantial notoriety with a following that garnered the attention of Robin Thicke and Gucci Mane through her debut mixtape Playtime Is Over. It featured tracks with rapper Lil Wayne, someone she would eventually collaborate frequently with. Lil Wayne mentored her throughout her startup and specifically on her second mixtape, Sucka Free, which ended up putting the artist on the map and allowing her to achieve Female Artist if the Year at the Underground Music Awards.
The award paved the way for Beam Me Up Scotty, Nicki’s highest rated mixtape that started to assemble the fan base she knows today. The mixtape is known to be some of Minaj’s greatest work as an artist, and it was the lead song, “I Get Crazy,” that launched the artist into the mainstream industry. That is when Nicki Minaj’s career started to change, as well as the rapper’s craft in music.
By 2010, Nicki Minaj was starting to record material for her debut album, Pink Friday. She released what would be the lead single from the album “Massive Attack,” to mixed reviews and an underwhelming chart performance. It was ultimately decided not to include that track on the album. That same year, however, she was featured on singles with User and Christina Aguilera to help her push in the mainstream market. Eventually “Your Love” was released and it became Minaj’s first solo charting song on the Hot 100.
For the reminder of the year, Nicki kept releasing single after single until the release of Pink Friday, which debuted at number 2 on the Billboard charts selling 375,000 copies, marking the second highest sales week for a hip hop artist after Lauryn Hill. Once the artist reached this level of success, there came a pressure to maintain that stability within the mainstream media.
At that moment Nicki Minaj started to gear more toward a pop sound, straying away from the rap influenced roots she was known for. By 2014, Nicki Minaj wanted to honor those roots, and so she released Pinkprint with the lead single “Anaconda,” a track that sampled Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back.” The album charted well for the artist and became the seventh most popular album of the year, according to Billboard. However, while successful, the album’s pop sound was still more commercial than her original roots, which helped the album’s success, but didn’t carry the sound that the artist was originally aiming to achieve.
The period after this release was marked by unnecessary feuds between Nicki Minaj and other pop artists, such as Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, Travis Scott, and ultimately with up and coming female rapper Cardi B. Nicki Minaj released her latest album, Queen, to underwhelming reviews and ranked second the week the album launched, falling behind Travis Scott. The artist could not coming in behind Scott, and decided to let it be known on her station, Queen Radio, dissing manager Irving Azoff and Pitchfork along the way. She was to co-headline a tour to promote the album with Future, but Future withdrew and was replaced with rapper Juice Wrld for 19 shows only in Europe. The artist decided not to tour the album in the United States.
Nicki Minaj has paved the way for female hip hop artists in the 2010s, like Iggy Azalea and Cardi B, but it is her evolution in both music and attitude that has ultimately gotten her to where she is today. Making the decision to retire to start a family could be the time she needs to reinvigorate the passion needed for a future return, perhaps a return to her original rap roots. It will allow her to make the music she truly wants to make as an artist. However, only time will tell as she will dive into the details of her announcement on Queen Radio. For now, we will go back to those original mixtapes to honor Nicki Minaj.