With her whip-smart, funny, and brutal bars, and over 100 million records sold, Nicki Minaj has established herself as one of the greatest rappers of all time since breaking out with the viral hit “Itty Bitty Piggy” in 2009. She has also set a standard for music videos, combining glamor and beauty with grit and intelligence in each one, conveying the message of every song while looking like a 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 Elliot, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, and other icons who have received the recognition. She is also set to host the event with LL Cool J and rapper Jack Harlow.
Minaj has “broken barriers for women in hip-hop with her versatility and creative artistry,” Paramount+ music executive Bruce Gilmer said in a statement, “She has shifted the music industry and cemented her status as a global superstar with her crossover appeal, genre-defying style and continuing to be unapologetically ‘Nicki.’”
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 song. But Minaj went toe-to-toe with rap heavyweights like Jay-Z and Rick Ross and still delivered the best verse on the track. Even West has said he was nervous about putting Minaj’s villainous verse on the record. In an interview with Genius, Minaj said she was excited to show her talent to West, given that she was coming up in an industry where female rappers go ignored. After she delivered her verse, she said West called and said he knew it would be hailed as a highlight of the track. While Minaj said she didn’t know if her verse would make it on the album’s final cut, West kept it, and it became one of rap’s most recognizable verses.
Her appearance in the video perfectly encapsulates the dialogic nature of the verse. There are two versions of her—one in a pink wig and white dress and the other in a black lace bodysuit. The two trade bars (which are rumored to be aimed at Lil Kim as this was in the midst of their beef), and Minaj doesn’t hold back from 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 the Vevo record for most views in 24 hours at the time with 19.6 million views, and it was close to doubled, garnering a total of 37 million views within the first week. It was one of the most talked about music videos of the year because of its overtly sexual nature and the focus on Minaj’s assets. It helped her break the record of becoming the first solo female rapper to reach one billion views on one video, solidifying 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 started. Minaj’s splatter paint jeans with a bright-pink skull and crossbones, her equally bright pink platform heels, and pink extensions that peeked out of her jet-black hair all became instantly memorable. While it wasn’t her debut single, it introduced her to the world globally and became an instant hit on YouTube. The Barbz would agree that you’re not a real Nicki fan if you can’t rap all the lyrics to this song.
“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 campy and still provide sharp lyrics. Throughout the video, Minaj dons different color wigs and couture gowns in what looks like a play on “Cinderella” with a young (beardless) Drake playing the Prince Charming character. It became one of the most popular songs off of her debut album, “Pink Friday,” and while Minaj’s star was rising, she had to prove her place in the rap game and show she could balance entertainment with her talents as a rapper. With this video, she was able to do so.
“Barbie Dreams” by Nick Minaj
The aggressive nature of “Barbie Dreams,” which named men like Drake, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Tekashi 6ix9ine, and 50 Cent, led the public to believe that the song was an outright diss track. But the rapper claimed it was all just a joke on her Beats 1 radio show, Queen Radio. “It’s just some funny sh-t. I love them,” Minaj said, “I said things about people who I know can take a joke and won’t be emotional about it.” In addition to making fun of men, the video is filled with vibrant, rich colors that make it delightful to watch.
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