“THROUGHOUT HER CAREER, Minaj has demonstrated a discipline and intelligence that is rare among other pop stars of her generation. She has what she describes to me as “the X-factor, which is just the thing you can’t put into words.” Onika Tanya Maraj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1982, and immigrated to Queens, N.Y., with her family at the age of 5. She began her music career singing with various rappers and working odd jobs. When she waitressed, she wrote lyrics constantly on the notepad she used to take orders. There is genuine pleasure in her voice as she reminisces about this. “I would take people’s order and then a rap might come to me just by what they’re wearing or what they said or did, and I would go in the kitchen and write it down, put it in the back of my little thing or my apron, and by the time I was done I would have all of these sheets of paper thrown around everywhere with raps.

Minaj’s music is characterized by urgent lyrics, spitting in a range of voices and accents. Her rhymes range from bold and aggressive, to coquettish, to wanton and sultry, with a soupçon of women’s empowerment. The pace of her rapping is often breathless but her diction is impeccable. There is wit and sly humor in her work. Take the 2014 single “Only” where Minaj raps, “My man full, he just ate, I don’t duck nobody but tape/ Yeah, that was a setup for a punch line on duct tape.” She quite simply broadened the definition of hip-hop, making it more joyful, energetic and robust.”

-T Magazine excerpt

Written by Teiler

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