For practically a decade, Nicki Minaj has existed on an island. Many felt it was one of her own making. On the contrary, it was merely a reflection of the on-goings of male-driven hip-hop in the early Aughts where women were celebrated yet hardly given ample room to grow.
Minaj’s second mixtape, 2008’s Sucka Free, set a subtle tone for what her future would bring, and with the blink of an eye it was 2010 and she was a full-fledged Young Money star with debut album Pink Friday. In the midst of the Barbie madness, the barriers to entry were still unusually high for women at the time, planting Nicki on that aforementioned island. Sure, we had a number of prominent female rappers swimming in hip-hop’s undercurrent, yet at the mainstream level it was just Nicki wading along. She paddled right into the pop space, hanging with Madonna, Beyoncé, and later Ariana Grande. Yet by the time she turned back around to see what hip-hop was doing in her absence, a new crop of female talent was growing in the space, arguably eclipsing at times what she thought she had a firm grasp on.
It’s a harsh reality to face, though her fifth studio album Queen reinforces exactly what it is that Minaj uniquely brings to the table that no other rapper, male or female, can touch.