An influential, inspiring figure in hip-hop, Nicki Minaj has mapped out a pinkprint on how to be a successful rapper without comprising integrity. In 10 years, the Queens, N.Y.-raised MC has proven that she is an all-around entertainer and businesswoman. From headlining major tours around the world to entering Hollywood via movies to launching her own clothing line and fragrances, Nicki has ruled over her empire with a golden crown and colorful wigs, all while making sure she gets her respect along the way.
"My role in hip-hop has been super unique because when my first album [Pink Friday] came out, there had been so much time where there wasn't a female rap album out that went platinum," she told XXL in 2010. "There wasn't a big female presence right before I got in. So, my role was reintroducing the female rapper to pop culture."
"I think female rappers have always been dope and influential," she continued. "But I think I sort of came in a time where big business was paying attention, so I was able to capitalize off a lot of deals and business ventures."
Nicki Minaj, born Onika Tanya Maraj, rose to prominence on the mixtape circuit. Her first mixtape, Playtime Is Over, in 2007, offered a glimpse of her fiery delivery and sharp bars over popular rap and R&B tracks at the time. Her second mixtape, Sucka Free, in 2008, earned her a Female Artist of the Year honor at the annual Underground Music Awards. Her third mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, in 2009, solidified Nicki as hip-hop's fiercest female MC and the next artist to watch.
In the summer of 2009, under the tutelage of Lil Wayne, Nicki signed with Young Money Entertainment, and the rest, as they say, is hip-hop history. Since dropping her multiplatinum debut album Pink Friday in 2010, Nicki has broken Aretha Franklin's record for the most Billboard Hot 100 Songs chart appearance by a female artist of all time, at 113.
The 37-year-old new mom is also the first female rapper to have sold 100 million units across albums, singles and features certified by the Recording Industry Association of America. In short, Nicki is the undisputed Queen of Hip-Hop.
In celebration of the Harajuku Barbie's career-defying accomplishments, as well as her plethora of bangers, XXL highlights the most essential Nicki Minaj songs that every fan needs to know. Check them out below.