“I just embrace all people of all lifestyles and I don’t tell them they are bad people. But I feel like people always wanna define me and I don’t wanna be defined.” Nicki Minaj
Five years ago, it would have been hard to find someone who knew anything about a talented young woman named Onika Tanya Maraj. In fact, very few still may recognize that name. Most likely, you know the young woman by the name Nicki Minaj. Minaj has risen to iconic status and all media feature her often. In fact, many people are talking about her without ever hearing one of her songs. She is widely recognized today because she is now an American Idol judge. Most recently, Nicki Minaj was acknowledged more for her verbal engagement with ex-Idol judge Steven Tyler than her music. I will go back to this incident later in the post, but now, I would like to look at how Nicki Minaj became a household name.
Minaj was born in Trinidad and Tobago and lived with her grandmother until her mother brought her to Queens, New York at a young age. In an earlier interview, she stated that her father drank heavily and her parents were constantly fighting, which contributed to making her childhood less than desirable. However, she would graduate from La Guardia High School, which specializes in music and visual and performing arts. Initially Minaj wanted to become an actor but her career failed to take off. After a variety of jobs came and went she would start her music career as a rapper. After she previously released several mix tapes, she signed a recording contract with Young Money Entertainment in 2009 and the rest is Rap history. The Platinum certifications of her albums are testimony to her popularity among fans to go along with the respect from other rappers. However, Nicki Minaj has really exploded not only onto the Rap world but also upon the mainstream audience. I knew that was the case last year as she was chosen as a guest on Saturday Night Live. I knew about Nicki Minaj and was aware of her music before SNL, but her comedic timing and overall stage awareness was astonishing. Most people might say the writers of SNL can make even the most boring persons comedians, but one look at some of Nicki’s videos and you will see a wealth of talent on display.
Many folks have varied opinions about Nicki Minaj and her level of talent, but I believe we can all come to one realization: Nicki Minaj can never be described by using a few words. Her fashion style and demeanor are if nothing else – original. The Huffington Post and Yahoo! have weighed in on her daring sense of style with the latter stating “the world would certainly be very quiet without Ms. Minaj”. Currently in the news is her response to Steven Tyler’s statements. Minaj took exception to Tyler saying, “she (Minaj) would send Bob Dylan to the cornfield if he were a contestant on American Idol today“. Minaj felt the statement was racist and responded via Twitter; implying she would judge Dylan adversely because she is black and a rapper. I choose not to weigh in on that debate but I am concerned with the effect of Twitter today. With over 14,000 tweets and 14 million followers, Billboard ranked Minaj the sixth most active user of micro logging website Twitter. I am positive Nicki Minaj says what she means and is a person who truly ‘keeps it real’. Nevertheless, I wonder if her statements get to the public via Twitter before she has an opportunity to explain or think about their full effects. Such a statement is part of a larger debate about the effect of social media on entertainers. Our time is very different because of technological advances and all of us, including musical superstars, need to go ahead with caution when it comes to comments made via social networks or electronic mail. For sure, Nicki Minaj will continue to raise eyebrows for her statements, fashion and definitely her music.