Before They Were Famous: Nicki Minaj

It’s a pretty big thing if you can still be provocative in this day and age. Among all the female pop stars with plastic Barbie body parts, Nicki Minaj outshines them all, and pulls off the look of the black Barbie doll better than anyone else.

She was born in Onika Tanya Maraj in Trinidad and Tobago, 1982. Her mother worked in payroll and her father was a part time gospel singer with a massive drug addiction and a history of violence. It was only when Minaj was 5 years old that he set their house on fire to try to kill her mother. She has admitted in interviews that she had wished he were dead. They eventually moved to Queens, New York, living on the west side.

As a child, Minaj read voraciously. Sitting in her room to escape her parents.

“In all the books I read, there were big houses and they had all this nice stuff and I always wished that could be my family.”

She also admits to making up her own characters and dreaming of being a soap opera star at the age of 6.
She later auditioned and was admitted to LaGuardia High School for acting. She was later kicked out for singing and disrupting classes.

She was making personas for herself in her fantasies of fame and glamour. The first being Cookie and the next being Harajuku Barbie. She had written her first rap song at the age of twelve and by the time she left school, she was attempting a career as an actress in off-Broadway plays such as In Case You Forget. The acting seemingly went nowhere and Minaj was working jobs at seafood restaurants and in office buildings.

“The last job I had was as an office manager in a little, tiny room where I literally wanted to strangle this guy because he was so loud and obnoxious. I would go home with stress pains in my neck and my back. That’s when I went to my mother and said, ‘Look, I’m not going back to work.’ I’d been fired like fifteen times because I had a horrible attitude. I worked at Red Lobster before that and I chased a customer out of the restaurant once so I could stick my middle finger up at her and demand that she give me my pen back. I swear to God I was bad.”

She then moved on to backup singing for the up and coming rap artists in New York and was starting to create a profile for herself. She published all her work on her Myspace profile and was seen by the CEO of Dirty Money Entertainment, Fendi, who asked her to appear in his DVD magazine, The Come Up. After appearing in a few issues, Minaj was introduced to fellow rapper, Lil Wayne.

Lil Wayne almost immediately signed her to his record label, Young Money Entertainment. In 2009, the label brought out a compilation album called We are Young Money, the single ‘Bedrock’, which featured Minaj, reached number 2 in the charts and earned her a respectable name in the game.

After collaborating with artists such as Mariah Carey and Robin Thicke, Minaj released her album, Pink Friday, in 2010. After the huge success of the album, Minaj was the first female artist to have 7 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously and was the first woman in MTV’s annual hottest MC list.

Nicki has said of the album:

“When I started rapping, people were trying to make me like the typical New York rapper, but I’m not that. No disrespect to New York rappers, but I don’t want people to hear me and know exactly where I’m from. I wanted the album to be universal and versatile. It really feels like it speaks for every one of my personalities.”

It is true that when you listen to a Nicki Minaj track, her rapping and singing isn’t distinguishably New York or Boston. She takes her own strange brand of vocals along with her trademark Barbie pinks that contrast her South American skin tone.

She’s sensual and fun. The feminine yet scarily masculine heartbreaker that has caused controversies everywhere she goes. It seems pretty evident that nothing has changed in her attitude since she worked at a Red Lobster. She’s still blunt, and a bitch when she needs to be, but her passion in her music is so much fun, that we can ignore all that.

We’ll end this story with a quote from Nicki, on something that is evident from merely a still image of her, and that is the figure of a powerful woman:

“My advice to women in general: Even if you’re doing a nine-to-five job, treat yourself like a boss. Not arrogant, but be sure of what you want – and don’t allow people to run anything for you without your knowledge.”

Happy listening, Vultures.

Jacob Reid


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