Uwith her smart, funny and brutal bars and over 100 million records sold, Nicki Minaj established itself as one of the greatest rappers of all time since breaking out with the viral hit “Itty Bitty Piggy” in 2009. She also set the standard for music videos, combining glamor and beauty with determination and intelligence in each one, conveying the message of each song while looking like Barbie. The femininity she brings to each of her videos is a welcome palette cleanser in the male-dominated rap industry. On Sunday, Minaj will be honored with the Video Vanguard Award at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, joining Missy Elliott, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson and other icons who have received the honor. She is also set to host the event with LL Cool J and rapper Jack Harlow.
Minaj “broke down barriers for women in hip-hop with her versatility and creative prowess,” Paramount+ music executive Bruce Gilmer said in a statement, “She changed the music industry and cemented her status as a global superstar with her crossover appeal, genre-defying style and continuing to be unapologetically ‘Nicky’.”
Here are the five best music videos from the last decade of Minaj’s career.
“Monster” by Kanye West featuring JAY-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver
Yes, “Monster” is a Kanye West a song. But Minaj went up against rap heavyweights like Jay-Z and Rick Ross and still delivered the song’s best verse. Even West said he was nervous about including Minaj’s villainous verse on the record. In an interview with genius, Minaj said she was excited to showcase her talent to West, considering she’s coming into an industry where female rappers are ignored. After delivering her verse, she said West called and said he knew it would be hailed as a highlight on the song. While Minaj said she didn’t know if her verse would make the final cut of the album, West kept it, and it has become one of the most recognizable verses in rap.
Her appearance in the video perfectly encapsulates the dialogic nature of the verse. There are two versions of her – one with a pink wig and white dress, and the other with a black lace bodysuit. The two trade bars (rumored to be aimed at Lil Kim since this was at the height of their beef), and Minaj doesn’t hold back on letting her inner monster deliver the lyrics.
“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj
The Barbz, Minaj’s dedicated fanbase, have been there to support the rapper since she arrived on the scene. They came out in full force for the release of “Anaconda” in 2014, which broke Vevo’s record for most views in 24 hours at the time with 19.6 million views, and has nearly doubled, garnering a total of 37 million views within on the first week. It was one of the most talked about music videos of the year due to its overtly sexual nature and focus on Minaj’s assets. This helped her break the record of becoming the first solo female rapper to reach one billion views on a single video, cementing it as one of the rapper’s most iconic videos to date.
“Itty Bitty Piggy” by Nicki Minaj
“Itty Bitty Piggy” is where it all began. Minaj’s hot pink skull and crossbones splattered jeans, her equally hot pink platform heels and pink extensions peeking out from her jet black hair were instantly memorable. Although it wasn’t her debut single, it introduced her to the world on a global scale and became an instant hit on YouTube. Barbz would agree you’re not a real Nicki fan if you can’t rap all the lyrics to this song.
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“Moment 4 Life” by Nicki Minaj
Minaj has always shown an interest in being larger than life. “Moment 4 Life” was a testament to her ability to be friendly and still deliver sharp lyrics. During the video, Minaj dons a variety of colorful wigs and fancy dresses in what looks like a Cinderella play with a young (bearded) Drake playing the character of Prince Charming. It became one of the most popular songs from her debut album, Pink Friday, and as Minaj’s star rose, she had to prove her place in the rap game and show that she could balance entertainment with her talent as a rapper. With this video, she managed to do it.
Barbie Dreams by Nick Minaj
The aggressive nature of “Barbie Dreams,” which names men like Drake, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Tekashi 6ix9ine and 50 Cent, led the public to believe the track was an outright diss song. But the rapper claimed it was all just a joke on her Beats 1 radio show, Queen Radio. “It’s just some funny shit. I love them,” Minaj said, “I’ve said things about people that I know can take jokes and not be emotional about it.” In addition to poking fun at men, the video is filled with vibrant, rich colors that make it nice to watch.
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