Onika Tanya Maraj was born December 8, 1982 in Saint James, a suburb of Trinidad and Tobago's capital city Port of Spain. to parents Carol and Robert Maraj, an accounting clerk/gospel signer and an employee at American Express, respectively. Her parents are of mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian ancestry and she lived in Saint James with her grandmother. The Marajs have four children: Jelani Maraj, Onika, Micaiah Maraj, and the much younger Ming. Her mother would occasionally visit, and one day, when Minaj was five, her mother picked her up to move to the Queens borough of New York City. According to Minaj, her father drank heavily, took drugs, and once tried to kill her mother by setting the house on fire.
Minaj attended Elizabeth Blackwell Middle School 210, where she played the clarinet. She then graduated from LaGuardia High School, which specializes in music and the visual and performing arts. Minaj participated in the drama program and initially planned to sing at LaGuardia, but lost her voice on the day of the audition. Minaj had a passion to become an actress, but failed at attempts to pursue her career due to the lack of roles she received, and agents. In 2001, she was cast in the off-Broadway play, "In Case You Forget". After her acting career failed to take off, Minaj worked at Red Lobster in the Bronx at the age of 19 as a waitress and purchased her first vehicle, a BMW. Minaj was fired from Red Lobster because of her discourteousness to customers. She stated she had been fired from "at least fifteen jobs" for similar antics. Other jobs Minaj held were administrative assistant, customer service, an office manager position at an unknown business located on Wall Street.
2004-2007: Hoodstars and early career
After exploring other career options, Minaj rapped in a foursome group called "Hoodstars," which consisted of group members Scaff Beezy, Lou$tar, and 7even Up. The group recorded the entrance song for WWE wrestler Victoria titled "Don't Mess With"; it was featured on the compilation album ThemeAddict: WWE The Music, Vol.6. Minaj left the group, unsatisfied with their lack of success. During this time, Minaj uploaded a few songs on her Myspace profile and sent a few of her songs to people in the music industry. Fendi, CEO of the Brooklyn label Dirty Money Entertainment, who also found rapper Gravy, discovered the music and contacted Minaj, signing her to his label. Initially, Minaj adopted the pseudonym "Nicki Maraj", later changing to "Nicki Minaj", stating "My real name is Maraj. Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow! I eat birches!" Under Fendi's label, Minaj appeared on the popular street DVD "The Come Up Volume 11" that featured underground rappers from New York.
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, Nicki Minaj released a third mixtape and appeared in magazine. She won the Female Artist of the Year award at the 2008 Underground Music Awards. Nicki 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, Nicki 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 Nicki 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 theBillboard 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.
2010–2011: Pink Friday
After a major record label bidding war, Young Money Entertainment announced on August 31, 2009 that Minaj had been released from a 360 deal with the label in which she retains and owns all of her 360 rights, including merchandising, sponsorships, endorsements, touring and publishing. Minaj was featured on Rihanna's "Raining Men" from her album Loud, which would lead to a second collaboration on Minaj's "Fly" from her album 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, a nod to Black Friday.
Pink Friday was released on November 19, 2010. 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. She released a two singles in September 2010; one a joint single with The Black Eyed Peas front man, will.i.am titled, "Check It Out," and the other "Right Thru Me." The music videos for both were released in late October. "Moment 4 Life" was released as the fourth single on December 7, 2010, featuring Canadian rapper Drake, becoming a success on the Billboard Hot 100. The single peaked at number 5 on the Hot Rap Songs.
The album gained 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, Pink Friday reached number one on the Billboard 200 in its eleventh week on the chart. Minaj turned down an offer to become a judge on The X Factor, as rapped on her Roman Reloaded song, due to the salary for the gig. In June 2011, Minaj was 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 and singer Kesha were featured on the remix of Spears' track "Till the World Ends," 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 the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada, and later was certified as quadruple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song gained positive reviews from critics. Minaj went on to attribute the success of the single in part to Taylor Swift, saying in an interview with American radio station 102.7 KIIS FM, "Taylor Swift did her little interview about 'Super Bass' and [it] took off in the States with the people sort of knowing it...It’s just really uncanny how all that stuff happens...We didn’t plan it like that." Minaj voiced a character in the 3D animated film, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, as Steffie, a woolly mammoth. Minaj is also featured on French DJ David Guetta's 2011 album, Nothing but the Beat, on the singles "Where Them Girls At" and "Turn Me On".
2011–present: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and touring
Minaj's second studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, was announced through Twitter in November 2011 and was first released on April 2, 2012, two months later than initially planned. The album features collaborations with producers Hit-Boy, Dr. Luke, Rico Beats, Kenoe, RedOne and Oak. Cash Money A&R Joshua Berkman told HitQuarters that Minaj was extremely particular about the beats and music she used saying: "She wouldn't just rap or sing on anything – I could give her a thousand tracks and she may only like one or two." Preceding the album's release, three promotional singles were released: Roman in Moscow (which didn't make the final cut of the album), "Stupid Hoe," and "Roman Reloaded." The album's first single, "Starships," was released on February 14. It became Minaj's best-peaking single in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 2. It has also peaked at number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100, making it her second top 10 arrival following, "Super Bass" in 2011. The music video was released on April 26, 2012.
On February 12, 2012, Minaj debuted her song "Roman Holiday" at the 54th Grammy Awards, becoming first song performed on the Grammy stage by a solo female rapper. The exorcism-themed performance drew a mixed response online. She was featured on "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (with M.I.A.) and "I Don't Give A," both songs (the first being the lead single) from Madonna's 2012 album MDNA. The trio performed the former during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in February.
The album's second single, "Right by My Side," which features Chris Brown, was released on March 27, 2012. Following the album's release, it peaked at number 24 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart. It also peaked in the lower regions of the UK singles chart, at position #101. The third single, "Beez in the Trap", which features 2 Chainz was released to U.S. Urban radio on April 24, 2012. It was premiered on DJ Flex's radio show at Hot 97 on March 20, 2012. It peaked at number 24 on the US Billboard Rap Songs Chart. The video was premiered on April 6, 2012 on Minaj's VEVO account.
Minaj was scheduled to headline during Hot 97 Summer Jam in New Jersey on June 3, 2012 at MetLife Stadium, but pulled out of her performance the day of after one of the station's DJs (Peter Rosenberg) criticized "Starships" as not being "real hip-hop." Her mentor Lil Wayne heard the remark and pulled his Young Money labelmates from the show. Minaj was scheduled to bring out hip-hop legends Nas, Lauryn Hill, Cam'ron, Foxy Brown, among others. She called into Hot 97 to speak on the incident with Funkmaster Flex, which ended the dispute with the radio station and DJ Peter Rosenberg. Minaj cancelled her appearance at the 2012 V Festival in the United Kingdom and the final show of her Pink Friday Tour in Dublin due to the damage of her vocal chords. Reports have emerged speculating that Minaj will be joining the twelfth season of American Idol as a judge, though Minaj commented at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, "You know what? At this time, I have no comment on that one."
Minaj revealed the bottle design for her fragrance, "Pink Friday," through Twitter. The bottle bears a pink wig, a gold-platted bust, and a chain that hangs from the neck, bearing her name, similar to the cover of her debut album, Pink Friday. On August 24, 2012, Minaj premiered the music video for "I Am Your Leader" through Vevo. She was featured on Lil Wayne's mixtape, Dedication 4, in September 2012.
Minaj announced at 2012 MTV Video Music Awards that Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded will be re-released in November as Pink Friday Roman Reloaded: The Re-Up. The project will include several new songs, one of which will be released as a single during the week of September 10. Minaj also revealed through Twitter that the re-release will have different album artwork than the original. Minaj won an award for Best Female Video at the awards that evening, and performed "Girl on Fire (Inferno version)" with Alicia Keys and special guest gymnast Gabby Douglas.
The lead single of the re-release,"The Boys" will be released onto iTunes on September 11, 2012.
Products and endorsements
Minaj has signed contracts with a variety of corporate interests and manufacturing companies. In 2011, she helped launch Casio's TRYX digital camera in Times Square, along with The Roots. She launched the Nokia Lumia 900 in Times Square followed by an performance of "Starships," "Super Bass," and "Right by My Side." Minaj contracted an promotional deal with Pepsi in which she appeared in a commercial, which was shot in Argentina for the global LiveForNow campaign, and internet advertisements. The commercial featured a remix of "Moment 4 Life." Mattel produced a custom Nicki Minaj-themed Barbie to be auctioned on charitybuzz and was valued at an estimate of $US15,000 dollars.
MAC Cosmetics collaborated with Minaj on many business ventures, such as a limited edition lipstick called Pink 4 Friday that went on sale for four consecutive Fridays starting November 26, 2010 to promote the release of Pink Friday, and also as part of the Viva Glam campaign with Ricky Martin in Latin America, which has raised $US250 million dollars for MAC AIDS Fund. Minaj has collaborated with OPI Products on a six-piece nail polish collection with colors named after her songs.
With designer Jeremy Scott, Minaj signed an endorsement deal with Adidas' fall and winter 2012 campaign to appear in Internet advertisments and commercials for Adidas Originals. The ad was filmed in a disclosed location in Brooklyn, also featuring Big Sean, Derrick Rose, Sky Ferreira and 2NE1, all around the world wearing Adidas attire. The commercial used Minaj's song "Masquerade" as the theme song for the ad. Minaj plans to launch her own clothing line in 2013, and described it as "Harajuku Barbie." Minaj revealed via Twitter that she is working on two books. Minaj has teamed up with Give Back Brands to launch her new fragrance "Pink Friday" in September 2012, which will be sold under exclusive license to Macy's in the United States and Elizabeth Arden internationally.
While some songs and interviews have implied that Nicki Minaj is bisexual, 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, Nicki 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.