Footnotes: Our Favorite Nicki Minaj Moments

In Footnotes, we shout out our favorite moments in the career of one of the issue’s featured artists. This time, it’s our queen of rap cover star.

August 07, 2014

From the magazine: ISSUE 93, August/September

In Footnotes, we shout out our favorite moments in the career of one of the issue’s featured artists. This time, the staff of The FADER looks back at the many times we’ve fallen for Nicki Minaj. Read our cover story with the queen of hip-hop here.

Nicki Minaj, “Intro” Beam Me Up Scotty (Trapaholics 2009)

MATTHEW TRAMMELL: Her voice arrives light and conversational, as if in the middle of an interview. “It’s not going to be about my talent.” But of course, this couldn’t have been an interview, because it was 2009, and the world hadn’t begun to ask her questions. “It’s not going to be about my connections.” Faint tongue smacks punctuate a New York drawl that drips with sex. “It’s not going to be about my looks.” When Nicki opened her breakout mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, with a solemn, a cappella intro, few could foresee the heights she would ascend to—except her. “It’s going to be about who wants it the most,” she warned. “And I want it the most.”

Lil Wayne f. Nicki Minaj, “Knockout” Rebirth (Young Money 2010)

DUNCAN COOPER: Two years before Nicki broke Peter Rosenberg’s brain with “Starships,” and a full nine months before tiptoeing into pop with her debut, Pink Friday, she guested on an even further not-rap record, Lil Wayne’s Rebirth. In the parlance of Wikipedia, Lil Wayne’s rock LP received “generally negative reviews,” meaning it had most critics scratching their heads with yard rakes, but something about Wayne’s say-anything Auto-Tune and third-tier blink-182 riffs struck me as so unabashedly wrong that the record did a full orbit and felt kind of right. More important, though, is what wholly unasked-for tracks like “Knockout” say about the artists making them and how delightfully few fucks Lil Wayne and Nicki give about what anyone else thinks they should be doing with their careers. I don’t want my favorite artists to pick the right door to walk through next; I want them to pick a spot and run through the wall.

Drake f. Nicki Minaj, “Up All Night” Thank Me Later (Young Money 2010)

PATRICK D. MCDERMOTT: For about 24 hours in the summer of 2010, Nicki and Drake convinced a bunch of people they were married. I think we, as a people, wanted to believe it because it fit with their budding iconography: young, fun, a little bit reckless. As for me, I’d been blasting their near-perfect collab “Up All Night” that whole damn summer in smoky cars, at loud parties and on mornings when I hadn’t slept for even a second and had to make it to my shitty part-time job by 7AM. Nicki’s ultra-cheeky guest verse is maddeningly quotable; I look like yes, and you look like no is still one of the purest put-downs in recent memory. So when she tweeted, “Yes, it’s true. Drake and I tied the knot,” I just turned the song way up, like, “Yes, Nicki, yes—whatever you say.”

Nicki Minaj, My Time Now (MTV 2010)

RUTH SAXELBY: A clip from this 2010 MTV documentary did the rounds a couple of years ago. A little over two minutes long, it featured the rapper all dolled up and dropping bombs about equality. “When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss,” she says. “[There’s] no negative connotation behind ‘bossed up,’ but lots of negative connotations behind being a bitch.” While this is hardly news to anyone who’s ever tried to navigate life, having Nicki spell it out while wearing a fluorescent pink wig felt like a new kind of radical. In a time when some young women still steer clear of calling themselves feminists for fear of being seen as the wrong type of girl, we need bullshit-calling like Nicki’s. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched that clip, but I do know I won’t be accepting any pickle juice anytime soon.

Big Sean f. Nicki Minaj, “Dance (A$$) (Remix)” (Def Jam 2011)

DEIDRE DYER: Whether she’s fending off a nosy interviewer or jumping on a track with rap’s male titans of the day, Nicki Minaj is the queen of holding down what could potentially be a hostile situation. Consider Big Sean’s “A$$”: this truly should’ve been a deplorable song, reducing the female sex to a single body part, but Nicki puts a boot in the misogynistic club banger’s rear when she wrangles the mic. Between questioning Big Sean’s dick size and dropping the classic Couldn’t get Michael Kors if you was fuckin Michael Kors, she takes the song’s subject matter head-on, flawlessly addressing society’s obsession with her butt and proceeding to hunt down the best candidate to literally eat her ass. By the end of her sexually explicit, lyrically cunning verse, you won’t be thinking about her derrière so much as wondering how Nicki holds out the word WAIKIKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII for that long.

Sophia Grace and Rosie Sing with Nicki Minaj, The Ellen Degeneres Show (NBC 2011)

ALEX FRANK: Bullied middle schoolers and gay tweens will remember 2011 as the magical year that “Firework,” “Born This Way” and “Run the World (Girls)” filled pop radio with messages of empowerment, with Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé converging like a flying band of superheroes to eradicate hate and save us all from low self-esteem. And when Nicki Minaj surprised audiences by showing up to hug her littlest superfans Sophia Grace and Rosie on national daytime television, she not only became the sort of pop culture star and household name that only Ellen Degeneres could anoint, but also joined her diva peers in the pantheon of protectors. It’s so special to think of the first generation of girls that will be raised in a world in which Nicki is a given, one where you can wear pink wigs and be a boss at the same time, and when rap is as alternately girly and gangster as we desire. There was so much cultural promise in those little kids’hugs from 2011: you could grow up to be anyone you wanted.

Footnotes: Our Favorite Nicki Minaj Moments