Nicki Minaj Bio

Latest posts by Simoun Redoblado (see all)

Remember what you felt the first time you heard “Moment 4 Life?”

You may have bopped your head to the powerful beat crafted by star producer T-Minus. Or you could have marvelled at the braggadocious guest verse by pre-Take Care Drake. Or—and this is very likely—you became a huge fan of the Cinderella-esque music video helmed by veteran director Chris Robinson.

As for me, I went gaga over Nicki Minaj.

On her 2010 track “Moment 4 Life,” Minaj showcased it all—fierce bars, tantalizing flows, and relentless delivery. Having fallen in love with this song, I was by no means surprised when her career skyrocketed in the years that followed. Chart-toppers, industry accolades, and pop culture dominance came her way, and Minaj hasn’t looked back since.

I’d be the last to deny that worthy challengers have since challenged her Queenship. No matter, though: in the 21st century, you’d be hard-pressed to compile a long list of emcees that have attained the clout and the success earned by Her Majesty, Nicki Minaj.

Quick Facts

Birth Date December 8, 1982
Birth Place Trinidad and Tobago
Nick Name Cookie


Roman Zolanski


Nationality American
Zodiac Sign Sagittarius
Siblings Jelani Maraj (brother)


Brandon Lamar (half-brother)

Micaiah Maraj (brother)

Ming Maraj (half-sister)

Children “Papa Bear” (b. 2020)
Partner/Spouse Kenneth Petty (m. 2019)
Most Successful Songs “Super Bass”




Net Worth Estimated value of $100 million (as of 2022)
Social Media

Major Awards 10x Grammy Award nominee


12x BET Award winner

4x Billboard Award winner

8x American Music Award winner

Last updated September 11, 2022

Early Years

Queens, New York

She was born Onika Tanya Maraj on December 8, 1982, in the republic of Trinidad and Tobago. At the age of 5, her family moved to the South Jamaican neighborhood of Queens, New York. Young Onika had a musical heritage to draw from, as both her father Robert and her mother Carol had been gospel singers.

Sadly, a symphony of violence haunted her childhood, as Robert Maraj was a drug addict with a mean streak. In a 2011 appearance on Ellen, the rapper recounted how her mother Carol dreamt about their house burning down. Shaken by this premonition, Carol sent off her son Jelani and 5-year-old Onika to stay somewhere else.

To their horror, the nightmare came to pass: Robert set the house on fire in an attempt to kill Carol, who managed to escape. (For what it’s worth, Carol and Robert—who went through rehabilitation and spiritual transformation—eventually reconciled after the incident.)

Wanting to escape the reality of her parents’ intense fighting, Onika would retreat to her room and unleash her creative powers. She wrote music and created alter egos so that she could feel what it’s like to live in a world on her own terms.

Onika’s earliest personas included the childlike Cookie and the fashionista Harajuku Barbie. I am in awe of Minaj’s ability to spawn characters with rich backstories. However, I feel a tinge of despair when I remember that a lot of these personas were generated by a girl desperate to live an alternate life.

Onika continued to harness her artistic side as she entered her teenage years. She wrote her first rap at the age of 12, and she went on to enroll at the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art. Teen Onika dabbled in acting—going so far as to play a role in the Off-Broadway play In Case You Forget in 2001—but a full-time role in this industry was not in the cards for her. (She did, however, pick up a number of parts in live-action and animated films when her rap career blew up. The first of these roles was her stint on 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift, when she voiced the mammoth Steffie.)

Apparently, there were several other jobs that Onika wasn’t cut for, either. Office jobs didn’t suit her well, and her time as a Red Lobster waitress ended in disaster when she was fired for unpleasant behavior. Though Onika might not have realized it at the time, the stars were already aligning so that she could finally walk down the career path that would make her a household name.

Humble Beginnings: Minaj Enters the Music Industry

Nicky Minaj acouple years ago

Indeed, it was just a matter of time before Onika began her career in the music mecca of New York. In the early 2000s, she signed with the Brooklyn-based group Full Force. There, she teamed up with Lou$tar, Safaree Samuels, and 7even Up to form The Hoodstars.

As a pro wrestling fan, I geeked out when I realized that I’d been hearing Nicki Minaj’s voice way before her ascent to stardom. Apparently, it was The Hoodstars (with “Nicki Maraj” on vocals) who recorded the entrance music of former WWE Women’s Champion Victoria!

After her short stint on Full Force, Nicki focused on creating songs that would be uploaded to her Myspace profile and sent to music insiders. Her presence on social media paid off as Fendi, CEO of Dirty Money Entertainment, signed her to his label after discovering her Myspace work.

Was it Fendi who was responsible for “Nicki Maraj” becoming “Nicki Minaj?” In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Nicki narrated, “One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be Minaj and I fought him tooth and nail. But he convinced me. I’ve always hated it.” My money is on the highly influential Fendi as the culprit of the name change. (Honestly, I think “Minaj” is better than “Maraj.” But what do I know? I’m not Nicki.)

In any case, Minaj’s affiliation with Fendi paved the way for the biggest break of her career. Minaj appeared on Dirty Money’s “The Come Up” DVD series, where she showed a glimpse of the hip-hop beast that she could be. Her appearance on “The Come Up” caught the attention of none other than Lil Wayne, who asked if she’d be interested in making music with his Young Money label.

And the rest, indeed, was history.

Mixtapes and Maiden Album

Beam Me Up Scotty

Through a joint venture byDirty Money and Young Money, Minaj released three mixtapes in the late 2000s. These were Playtime is Over (2007), Sucka Free (2008), and Beam Me Up Scotty (2009). The first two mixtapes consisted mostly of Minaj rapping over other emcees’ instrumentals, while the third mixtape contained more songs with original production.

On these mixtapes, Minaj put the hip-hop community on notice with her hard-hitting lyrics, colorful alter egos and potent wordplay. Backing her up was a star-studded list of collaborators, which included her mentor Lil Wayne, her childhood idol Jadakiss, and her soon-to-be nemesis Lil’ Kim. (Hey, it was fun while it lasted!)

By 2010, Minaj already had a sizable following and enough notoriety to land her features with A-list musical acts. She appeared on platinum-certified tracks like “Bottoms Up” with Trey Songz, “Monster” by Kanye West, and “My Chick Bad” with Ludacris. (The year before, she was a guest on the remix of Mariah Carey’s “Up Out My Face.”) These features, however, were merely the calm before the storm. On November 22, 2010, a tempest from Trinidad and Tobago swept up the hip hop nation.

Released by Young Money, Cash Money, and Universal Motown, Pink Friday won over the hearts of fans and critics alike to the tune of a triple-platinum certification. Minaj’s debut record is effortlessly versatile in that it has more than enough substance to satisfy hip-hop purists while flaunting an undeniable pop appeal.

Minaj sounds at home rapping alongside Eminem and Kanye West as she is singing vis-a-vis Rihanna. Don’t get me started on the producers, either: the likes of Swizz Beatz and join T-Minus in this all-star team.

Pink Friday spawned eight singles. Four of these made the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, with none bigger than the pop-rap phenomenon “Super Bass” (which earned a rare diamond certification).

Pink Friday peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, thereby cementing Minaj’s status as an elite emcee of the current generation. Forget the distinction between male rappers and femcees: thanks to Pink Friday, Minaj was able to command the respect of all hip-hop artists.

A Wave of Momentum

Pink Friday

Showing no signs of letting up, Minaj continued to craft commercial hits over the next couple of years. In 2011—the year after she released Pink Friday—she appeared in top 10 hits like David Guetta’s “Turn Me On,” Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$),” and Drake’s “Make Me Proud,” which happens to be another low-key favorite of mine. I’d like to think that, in an alternate universe, Nicki Minaj and Drake released a full-length collaborative album. Their bars and their vocals go perfectly well together!

The memorable Minaj features wouldn’t stop there. In 2012, she lent extra sauce to Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” (“X in the box, ’cause ain’t nobody checking me”), Madonna’s “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” (one of the first songs where I was not incredibly irritated by the Bieb’s vocals).

Minaj, of course, wouldn’t stay in the backseat for long. The time was ripe for Minaj to drop her next album. In the two years leading up to the sequel’s release, everyone and their mother had to wonder: would Minaj be able to top the insane success of Pink Friday? Given that the sophomore album was entitled Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, would it play out as a body of work desperately trying to reach the heights of its predecessor?

Roman Reloaded squashed all this doubt in a quick fashion. Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, the album exuded the abundance of fun that Minaj had during the recording process. Not a single soul on earth, for instance, can possibly listen to “Starships” and not reach an emotional high, whether there’s anything to celebrate or not. Small wonder, of course, that this track was certified 6x platinum, making it her most successful single since “Super Bass.”

Like Minaj’s debut record, Roman Reloaded is awfully well-balanced, playfully jumping in and out of the hip hop and pop realms like one of Minaj’s bubbly alter egos. She casually dismisses her entire competition in the 2 Chainz-assisted “Beez in the Trap”; she had DJs around the world licking their lips with the party anthem “Pound the Alarm”; and she hit the right notes in the romantic track “Right by My Side” (a collab with Chris Brown).

Though it’s clear to me that Pink Friday is a superior record, Roman Reloaded achieved something that the previous album didn’t: debuting at number one on the Billboard 200. Minaj’s second album was the crown jewel of her 2012 (which, unfortunately, was slightly bogged down by her disastrous stint as a judge on American Idol. Mariah vs. Minaj on a weekly basis? Hard pass.)

The Pinkprint: Heartbreak and Triumph

Bang Bang album

By 2014, Minaj was essentially competing with herself. Having set the bar unbelievably high with her first two albums and exceptional features, she needed to find ways to match or even surpass the success of her previous outputs.

That year, Minaj struck gold even before dropping her next full-length project. “Bang Bang,” of course, is one of those ubiquitous tracks that are virtually impossible to elude. In the second half of 2014, you couldn’t walk a few blocks in your neighborhood without hearing this song blaring from someone’s window!

While Jessie J and Ariana Grande hit those high notes, Minaj made the song her own the second she launched her rapid-fire verse. On the strength of these three fierce women, “Bang Bang” went 8x platinum and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. (Why it didn’t hit number one, I haven’t the faintest idea.)

On December 15, 2014, Minaj dropped her third album The Pinkprint. First, the title was 100% inspired by The Blueprint, which is widely considered the magnum opus of rap mogul (and Minaj’s all-time favorite rapper) Jay-Z.

I do find it funny that, as far as hip-hop preferences go, Minaj prefers Hov to her fellow Queens native Nas. (What about personal preferences, though? Minaj reportedly dated Nas in 2017. Talk about a power couple!)

So, what ‘blueprint’ would Minaj follow in order to reinvent herself in her latest album? The answer: taking an unprecedented introspective approach by confronting episodes of heartbreak head-on. Listen to the emotion of songs like “Pills n Potions,” “Bed of Lies,” and “The Crying Game,” and you’d find Minaj more vulnerable than she’s ever been in her entire discography.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Nicki Minaj album without adrenaline-pumping tracks and songs oozing sex appeal. Three of these singles (“Anaconda,” “Bed of Lies,” and “Truffle Butter”) cracked the top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself went double platinum, continuing Minaj’s streak of studio albums reaching multi-platinum certification.

Staying on Top

Rake it up album

Though Minaj wouldn’t release another album for four years, her relevance in the music industry did not wane one bit. From 2015 through 2018, she stayed busy with her sought-after features that, more often than not, propelled other artists’ songs to commercial success.

For one, I bet David Guetta’s 2015 track “Hey Mama” wouldn’t have gone triple platinum without Minaj’s guest verse. Ditto for Yo Gotti’s 2017 hit “Rake it Up” and YG’s 2018 banger “Big Bank.” While I wouldn’t dare suggest that Ariana Grande can’t land a top 5 hit on her own, I’d still contend that “Side to Side” wouldn’t be the same without Minaj in it.

By 2018, all that Minaj had to do was to crown herself. Queen, her fourth studio album, is an unambiguous statement of the spot that she’s earned on the summit of the industry. On the Eminem-assisted “Majesty,” she brags: “I got the money and the power now/The G5’ll get me out there in an hour now.” This is no empty brag: Minaj has earned the credibility to spit lines like this after nearly a decade of dominating the rap game.

Though some critics panned the length of the album—from opening track to outro, the project is 19 tracks deep—Queen packs powerful punches from Minaj and her collaborators.

The album’s stronger efforts include the lead single “Chun-Li,” the ballad “Come See About Me,” and the Lil Wayne-assisted “Rich Sex.” When the dust settled, Queen became Minaj’s fourth straight album to reach the platinum mark—a testament to Minaj’s staying power in the industry.

Angry Birds - Pinky
Image from Angry Birds Fandom

Minaj wrapped up the 2010s by finding more dance partners and exploring opportunities in the film industry. Most notable are her team-ups with South Korean group BTS and up-and-coming star Megan Thee Stallion, along with her voice role in The Angry Birds Movie 2 and her appearance on the song “Bad to You” off the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack.

Showing no signs of aging whatsoever, the veteran Minaj continued to knock it out of the park as a featured artist in the 2020s. She pulled off collaborations with musical acts as diverse as Meghan Trainor, Doja Cat, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Baby, and (gasp) Sir Elton John.

No matter who she’s rapping or singing next to, Minaj can never, ever be overshadowed. How can true hip-hop royalty ever be upstaged by any peer or foe? Nicki Minaj has always been an irresistible character whose multitudes will inundate the hip hop world for as long as she wants to. In other words, the moment belongs to Minaj for life.


Nicki Minaj will go down in hip hop history as one of the most colorful emcees to ever bless a mic. Whether it’s her vibrant lyricism or her flashy costumes during live performances, Minaj leaves an indelible mark on the minds of her audience.

Why is Nicki Minaj Influential?

I daresay that there wouldn’t be a Cardi B or a Megan Thee Stallion if there hadn’t been a Nicki Minaj that paved the way for their emergence. Ever since the release of Pink Friday, Minaj has made it cool—sexy, even—for today’s female rappers to be fearless in such a male-dominated rap industry. Her music declares, in no uncertain terms, that she won’t let any emcee get away with any transgression. Whether they prefer the pronoun “he,” “she” or “they” is of no significance.


Question: Does Nicki Minaj have a family of her own?

Answer: In 2019, Minaj got married to her childhood friend Kenneth “Zoo” Petty. On September 30, 2020, the couple welcomed their first child (a son nicknamed “Papa Bear”).

Question: What products has Nicki Minaj endorsed?

Answer: Minaj has partnered with brands like Pepsi, MAC Cosmetics, Adidas, Mattel, and H&M. She also has a fragrance line that often ties in with her studio album releases. In addition, she is a co-owner of the streaming service Tidal.

Question: Which artists has Nicki Minaj feuded with?

Answer: Minaj has gotten into verbal jousts with renowned rappers Lil’ Kim and Remy Ma and pop icons Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. As far as the Queenship of the hip-hop industry goes, a fierce rivalry has unfolded between Minaj and fellow cultural phenomenon Cardi B.

Bottom Line

At this point, do genres even matter for an artist of Nicki Minaj’s caliber? Certainly, some hip-hop fans are hesitant to give Minaj her props, as she seems too comfortable with crossing the boundary between rap and pop. On the other hand, certain music lovers in the pop lane might not consider her their cup of tea, either. I’d rather simplify it this way:

Nicki Minaj is an artist who wields the poetic beauty of hip hop, the magnetic charm of pop, and the supreme confidence to put it all together. And, when all is said and done, her career will perhaps be summed up by an alter ego claimed by many but earned by few: proven winner.



Looking for more interesting readings? Check out:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top