Onika Tanya Maraj (born December 8, 1982), known by her stage name Nicki Minaj, is a Trinidadian-born American musician. She was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, and moved to the New York borough of Queens when she was five.
After releasing three mixtapes between 2007 and 2009 and being signed to Young Money Entertainment in August 2009, Minaj released her debut album, Pink Friday, in November 2010. It quickly became a commercial success, peaking at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and being 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 second single, "Your Love", reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart, making Minaj the first female artist to top the chart unaccompanied since 2002. She also became the first female artist to be included on MTV's Annual Hottest MC List. Minaj was named the 2011 Rising Star by Billboard. Her second studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded will be released on April 3, 2012.
Maraj was born in 1982 in Saint James, a suburb of Trinidad and Tobago's capital city Port of Spain. Her parents are of mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian ancestry and she lived in Saint James with her grandmother until age five, because her parents were looking for a place to live in the Queens borough of New York City at the time. Her mother would occasionally visit, and one day, when Minaj was five, her mother picked her up to move to Queens. According to Minaj, her father drank heavily, took drugs, and once tried to kill her mother by setting the house on fire.
She attended Elizabeth Blackwell Middle School 210, where she played the clarinet. She graduated from LaGuardia High School. At LaGuardia, a school specializing in music and the visual and performing arts, Minaj participated in the drama program. She had initially planned to sing at LaGuardia, but lost her voice on the day of the audition.
2007–09: Mixtapes and Young Money
Minaj released her first mixtape in 2007 after releasing Playtime Is Over with Dirty Money Records. She released another mixtape on July 7, 2008, titled Sucka Free, under the label Be. On April 18, 2009, Minaj released a third mixtape and appeared in XXL magazine. She won the Female Artist of the Year award at the 2008 Underground Music Awards. Minaj released Beam Me Up Scotty, another mixtape, in April 2009 under the label of Trapaholics Records; it received positive coverage on both BET and MTV.
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 and secured the record deal. She then had a solo rap verse in their single "BedRock," which became a commercial success, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Minaj also appeared on "Roger That", which charted at #56. The song, and in particular Minaj, received positive reviews from critics. Both songs were included in Young Money Entertainment's debut collaborative studio album We Are Young Money, which was released in December 2009. The album charted in the top ten on the Billboard 200, reaching #9 and later receiving a Gold Certification by the RIAA. She was then chosen by Mariah Carey to be featured on her single and music video for "Up Out My Face". Critics praised her collaboration for helping to maintain Carey's feminine image and providing a polite track for the female R&B singer.
2010–present: Pink Friday and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
After a major record label bidding war, Young Money Entertainment announced on August 31, 2009 that Minaj had been released a 360 deal with the label in which she retains and owns all of her 360 rights – including merchandising, sponsorships, endorsements, touring and publishing. In an interview with 95.8 Capital FM, Rihanna stated that after the two collaborated on "Raining Men" from her album Loud that the duo would be teaming up together for a possible second collaboration on Minaj's 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, in reference to Black Friday.
Pink Friday was released on November 19, 2010 in both standard and deluxe versions. 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. Minaj released a joint single with The Black Eyed Peas front man, will.i.am titled, "Check It Out", which is Minaj's most successful single to date in Europe. "Right thru Me" was released September 24, 2010; the music video was released in late October. "Moment 4 Life" was released as the fourth single. The track featured Canadian rapper Drake and was released on December 7, 2010, becoming a success on the Billboard Hot 100. The single peaked at number 5 on the Hot Rap Songs. The album gained a 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, it was announced that Pink Friday had reached number one on the Billboard 200 in its eleventh week on the chart. It was hinted by Simon Cowell that Minaj would join the judging panel of the American version of the The X Factor. Starting in June 2011, Minaj will be supporting Pink Friday by serving as 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 also was featured on the official remix of Spears' track "Till the World Ends" along with Spears and singer Kesha, 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; United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada and more. The song gained positive reviews from critics. Minaj will voice a character in the 3D animated film, Ice Age: Continental Drift, as an unknown character. Minaj is also featured on French DJ David Guetta's 2011 album, Nothing but the Beat on "Where Them Girls At" and "Turn Me On". She will be featured alongside Madonna and M.I.A. on an upcoming single from Madonna's twelfth studio album, for which a music video has been directed by Megaforce. The trio performed "Give Me All Your Luvin'" from Madonna's new album for the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show.
Minaj's second studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, was announced through Twitter in November 2011 and is set to be released on April 3, 2012. The album's first single, "Starships", was released on February 14. On February 12, 2012, Minaj debuted her song "Roman Holiday" at the 54th Grammy Awards. The exorcism-themed perfomance drew a mixed response online.
Musical style and image
In an interview with Vibe Minaj discussed her sexual image stating, "hen 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." In an interview with Interview, Minaj commented on her sexual image again stating, "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’ve got to have something else to go with that.” Minaj has a tattoo in Chinese characters that reads "上帝與你常在" (shangdi yu ni chang zai) on her left arm, meaning, "God is always with you."
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. In an interview with New York she stated, "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."
For her debut album, Minaj created another alter-ego named "Roman Zolanski". She stated that in songs like "Bottoms Up" with Trey Songz it is not Minaj rapping, but instead Roman Zolanski, and claims that Roman is her "twin sister". She claims that he 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 the song Roman's Revenge, with a British accent. 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.
On November 18, 2010, Minaj assumed a different 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).
Minaj has stated that artists who have influenced her musical style include Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Lil Wayne, Lauryn Hill, Jadakiss, Natasha Bedingfield, Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim and Missy Elliott. She was also inspired by Janet Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Jones, M.I.A., and Cyndi Lauper.
While some songs and interviews have implied that Minaj is bisexual, she has said that she does not date nor have sex with women, but added in an interview with Out magazine, "I don’t date men either." In an interview with Vibe she commented, "I just embrace all people of all lifestyles and I don’t tell them they are bad people. And I say girls are beautiful and girls are sexy and they need to be told that, and if they don’t have anyone to tell them that and mean it, I’m gonna tell them that. But I feel like people always wanna define me and I don’t wanna be defined." She reiterated her dislike of being labeled in an interview with Out, saying: "The point is, everyone is not black and white. There are so many shades in the middle, and you’ve got to let people feel comfortable with saying what they want to say when they want to say it."
During an interview in the May 2010 issue of Details, Minaj was asked if she felt hip-hop was becoming more gay-friendly. She responded, "I think the world is getting more gay-friendly, so hip-hop is too. But it's harder to imagine an openly gay male rapper being embraced, people view gay men as having no street credibility. But I think we'll see one in my lifetime."
In July 2011, Minaj's cousin Nicholas Telemaque was murdered near his home in Brooklyn, New York City.