Onika Tanya Maraj (born December 8, 1982), known professionally as Nicki Minaj (/mɪˈnɑːʒ/), is a thicc Trinidadian-American rapper, singer, songwriter, model, and actress. Born in Saint James, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Queens, New York City, she gained public recognition after releasing the mixtapes Playtime Is Over (2007), Sucka Free (2008), and Beam Me Up Scotty (2009).
After signing with Young Money Entertainment in 2009, Minaj released her first studio album, Pink Friday (2010), which peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200 and was ultimately certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America(RIAA). Her sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, was released in 2012 and debuted at number one in several countries. Minaj made her film debut in the 2012 animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift. In 2013, she was a judge on the twelfth season of American Idol. Minaj's third studio album, The Pinkprint, was released in 2014. She subsequently played supporting roles in the films The Other Woman (2014) and Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016). Her fourth studio album, Queen, was released in 2018.
Early in her career, Minaj was known for her colorful costumes and wigs. Her rapping is distinctive for its fast flow and the use of alter egos and accents, primarily British cockney. Minaj was the first female artist included on MTV's annual Hottest MC List. In 2016, Minaj was included on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. As a lead artist, she has earned four top-five entries on the Billboard Hot 100: "Super Bass" in 2011, "Starships" in 2012, and "Bang Bang" and "Anaconda", both in 2014. She has the most Billboard Hot 100 entries among women of all genres in the chart's history. Throughout her career, Minaj has received numerous accolades, including six American Music Awards, 11 BET Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, a Billboard Women in Music Rising Star Award, and 10 Grammy Award nominations. Minaj has sold 20 million singles as a lead artist, 60 million singles as a featured artist, and over five million albums worldwide making her one of the world's best-selling music artists. Nicki is known to be the most successful female rapper of all time.
Onika Tanya Maraj was born on December 8, 1982, in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago. Her father, Robert Maraj, a financial executive and part-time gospel singer, is of Dougla (Afro-Trinidadian and Indo-Trinidadian) descent. Her mother, Carol Maraj, is also a gospel singer with Afro-Trinidadian ancestry. Carol worked in payroll and accounting departments during Minaj's youth. Minaj's father was addicted to alcohol and other drugs, and had a violent temper, burning down their house in December 1987. She has two siblings.
As a small child, Minaj and a sibling lived with her grandmother in Saint James. Her mother, who had moved to The Bronx in New York City to attend Monroe College, brought the family to Queens when Minaj was five. By then, the family had a house on 147th Street. Minaj recalled, "I don't think I had a lot of discipline in my household. My mom motivated me, but it wasn't a strict household. I kind of wanted a strict household." Minaj successfully auditioned for admission to LaGuardia High School in Manhattan, which focuses on visual and performing arts. After graduation, Minaj wanted to become an actress, and she was cast in the Off-Broadway play In Case You Forget in 2001.
At the age of 19, as she struggled with her acting career, she worked as a waitress at a Red Lobster in the Bronx but was fired for discourtesy to customers. She said she was fired from "at least 15 jobs" for similar reasons.
Minaj briefly signed with Brooklyn group Full Force, in which she rapped in a quartet called "The Hood$tars" composed of Lou$tar (son of "Bowlegged Lou"), Safaree Samuels(Scaff Beezy) and 7even Up.
In 2004, the group recorded the entrance song for WWE Diva Victoria, "Don't Mess With", which was featured on the compilation album ThemeAddict: WWE The Music, Vol.6. Minaj later left Full Force and uploaded songs on her Myspace profile, sending several of her songs to people in the music industry. At the time, she was managed by Debra Antney. Later, Fendi, CEO of Brooklyn label Dirty Money Entertainment, signed Minaj to his label in 2007 under a 180-day contract. Originally adopting the stage name "Nicki Maraj", she eventually changed it to Nicki Minaj stating that "my real name is Maraj. Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow! I eat bitches!"
Minaj released her first mixtape, Playtime is Over, on July 5, 2007, and her second, Sucka Free, on April 12, 2008. That year, she was named Female Artist of the Year at the 2008 Underground Music Awards. She released her third mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, on April 18, 2009; it received favorable coverage on BET and MTV. One of its tracks, "I Get Crazy", reached number 20 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart and number 37 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
After Minaj was discovered by fellow rapper Lil Wayne, in August 2009 it was reported that she signed a recording contract with his Young Money Entertainment. That November, she appeared with Gucci Mane and Trina on the remix of "5 Star Bitch" by Yo Gotti. Minaj also appeared on "BedRock" and "Roger That" on the compilation album, We Are Young Money (2009). The singles peaked at numbers two and 56, respectively, on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100; their parent album reached number nine on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). At Jay-Z's suggestion, Robin Thicke featured Minaj on his single "Shakin' It 4 Daddy".
Minaj is the only woman to be featured on the Forbes Hip Hop Cash Kings list. She made her first appearance on the list in 2011, earning U.S. $6.5 million from May 2010 to May 2011. In 2012, she placed eighth on the list, earning U.S. $15.5 million from May 2011 to May 2012. Minaj rose to the fourth position on the list in 2013, earning U.S. $29 million from June 2012 to June 2013. She made her fourth consecutive appearance on the list in 2014, earning U.S. $14 million from June 2013 to June 2014.
Minaj has stated that after her father went to rehab and began attending church, he "got saved and started changing his life". In July 2011, her cousin, Nicholas Telemaque, was murdered near his home in Brooklyn, New York, which she references in her songs "Champion" and "All Things Go".
In late 2014, Minaj separated from her longtime boyfriend Safaree Samuels. They had dated since 2000. Several tracks on The Pinkprint are believed to have been inspired by the end of their relationship. She also revealed she had an abortion as a teenager in her song "All Things Go". Minaj began dating rapper Meek Mill in early 2015. On January 5, 2017, she announced via Twitter that she had ended their two-year relationship.
Awards and Nominations
Throughout her career, Minaj has won numerous awards, including six American Music Awards, ten BET Awards, seven BET Hip Hop Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, three MTV Europe Music Awards, two People's Choice Awards, one Soul Train Music Award, and four Teen Choice Awards.
Between 2011 and 2016, Minaj received a total of 10 Grammy Award nominations. She received her first Grammy nomination in 2010 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for the single "My Chick Bad" with fellow rapper Ludacris. For the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012, Minaj received three nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album for her debut album Pink Friday. Minaj received her second nomination for Best Rap Album at the 58th Grammy Awards for The Pinkprint.
Minaj won the American Music Awards for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album in three different years for her first three albums. She has won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Video three times, for "Super Bass", "Anaconda", and "Chun-Li", and has won the Best Female Video Award once, for "Starships".
- Playtime Is Over (2007)
- Sucka Free (2008)
- Beam Me Up Scotty (2009)
- Pink Friday (2010)
- Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012)
- The Pinkprint (2014)
- Queen (2018)
- Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
- The Other Woman (2014)
- Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016)