Nicki Minaj, original name Onika Tanya Maraj, (born December 8, 1982, St. James, Trinidad and Tobago), Trinidadian-born singer, songwriter, television personality, and actress who was known for her flowing quick-spoken rap style and for her provocative lyrics. She complemented her music with a bold persona that included colourful wigs and risqué clothing. Maraj was about five years old when her family moved to Queens, New York, from Trinidad and Tobago. Her childhood was dominated by a violent drug-addicted father, and she spent time creating fantasies for herself that would allow her an escape from her tumultuous life. She adopted a new name, Nicki Minaj, from that practice. Other creative outlets included writing her first rap song when she was 12 years old and pursuing acting at New York City’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
Minaj entered the music business as a backup singer for local aspiring rap singers in New York City. She included videos of her work on her Myspace page, which was seen by a local record label. Minaj eventually came to the attention of rapper Lil Wayne, and the two worked on some mixtapes (recordings), the first of which, Playtime Is Over, appeared in 2007. As other mixtapes were released, Minaj’s exposure grew, and the next year she was named Female Artist of the Year at the Underground Music Awards. In 2009 she signed with Young Money Entertainment, the label founded by Wayne. Her first album for Young Money, Pink Friday (2010), made it to the top of the Billboard 200 chart. It featured sexually explicit lyrics—which were common in her recordings—and Minaj embraced the shock value of her work. The title also reflected her preference for the colour pink, a predilection that she used in branding her albums and such later consumer items as her Pink Friday perfume and Pink Pill speakers.
In 2012 Minaj released her second album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which featured a number of pop songs, notably the hit single “Starships.” The following year Minaj became a judge on the reality TV singing competition American Idol. She caused controversy with her blunt opinionated judging style and with her frequent disputes with fellow judge Mariah Carey. After one season Minaj left the program. Also in 2013 she claimed title to a record 44 appearances—the most by a female rapper—on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her third studio album, The Pinkprint, was released in 2014. It notably contained several breakup songs as well as “Anaconda,” which was a return to her earlier rap style. Queen (2018) featured collaborations with such performers as Eminem and the Weeknd.
Minaj also occasionally acted, and her movie credits included The Other Woman (2014) and Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016). She lent her voice to the animated comedies Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) and The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019).