Nicki Minaj: From Jeffree Star to Starships

It’s the 8th of April 2012 and ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’ has just become the first album by a female rap artist to chart at number one in the United Kingdom, and on its debut too. Just as ‘Starships were meant to fly’, so it seems, was Nicki Minaj. Racetrack rhymes dipped in a form of chaotic genius (never mind the occasional odd peculiar noise), this is a woman that tightly fastens a new meaning to the word ‘rap’ – accompanied with ribbons, rainbows and an acid high that would make Liam Gallagher ditch the credit card and pipe. As eccentric and inventive as Gaga, Minaj is a woman that can emulate the unpredictability and entertainment value of bigger names – but without taking herself too seriously.
July 2007 saw the release of her first mixtape, a grassroots rap, edgier collection and light-years away from the technicolor trollop her critics accuse her of. New Nicki fans won’t find a vocalist, let alone a popstar on this thing. ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ features the already prominent Lil’ Wayne and with other gems like ‘Dilly Dally’, ‘Sunshine’, and ‘I’m Cumin’ – the release was a success, just not commercially. Her further two EPs ‘Sucka Free’ and ‘Beam me up Scotty’ both included Lil’ Wayne again – and the first, an appearance from Lil’ Kim & Gucci Mane on ‘Wanna Minaj?’. Nicki’s a girl who’s had a healthy contacts book from the word go, hardly a ‘starship’ but certainly a metaphorical jetpack.

If you’d have found yourself stalking the digital halls of Myspace in 2008, strapped in skinny jeans and doused in hair colourant, you’d have noticed a certain ‘Queen of the Internet’ who’d have shared your passion for trashy electro and anything ‘cunt’. Jeffree Star was for any emo/scene child of the noughties (and still is to an extent) a must-know, must-be or must-hate gender-bending Internet antihero. Pete Burns without that particular surgery shenanigan. Minaj was just the character for Star’s crude n’ crazy ‘Lollipop Luxuries’ – an otherwise egotistical, self-glamourising, pseudo-controversial piece of shit. And discounting the opinions of the deluded – and those without a braincell – she was the best bit on it.

From 2010’s ‘Pink Friday’ is where the Nicki we know was born, her notable style and vocals to boot. The subsequent release of this piece of pop-genius provoked her place on MTV’s Annual Hottest MC List – the first woman to ever be included. In October 2010, Minaj became the first artist to have seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously, released ‘Check it Out’ with, toured with Britney, featured with Madonna, played Times Square for the Nokia Lumia 900 release and is on course for a second album release this year. Now for any 29 year old, that’s one hell of a fuckin’ CV, and consider that she’s only achieved mainstream success in the past two years – it makes Adele’s sombre contribution to the world of music a little grey, to say the least.

Future female rappers will look to Minaj and know she threw open expectations, wiped her arse with boundaries. Despite sometimes appearing like a Christmas tree on crack (at the inconvenient time Katy Perry and GaGa decided to do the same thing) she’s made some hits and pissed on the idea that women MCs can’t ‘genre swap’ – she did, and she did it unapologetically, and most importantly; she did it well.