Also Credited As:Onika Tanya Maraj, Roman Zolanski
|December 8, 1982|
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She was born Onika Tanya Maraj on Dec. 8, 1984 in St. James in Trinidad and Tobago, and spent her formative years in Queens, NY. Minaj was raised by an alcoholic father who reportedly tried to burn their house down with her mother still inside. Music and acting gave her an outlet to escape her troubled childhood. After graduating from LaGuardia Arts High School in New York, the future hip-hop star tried to hold down regular 9-to-5 jobs, but she was fired from each one - reportedly due to her tough attitude and potty mouth. She spent all her free time pursuing a music career, singing background vocals and hooks for various local rappers. Minaj then made the rounds on the mixtape circuit and posted steamy promo shoots on her MySpace page, catching the attention of rapper Lil' Wayne, who signed her to his label Young Money Entertainment. In 2007, Minaj released the mixtape "Playtime is Over," featuring Lil' Wayne on the track "Can't Stop, Won't Stop." Under different labels, Minaj released two more mixtapes, "Sucka Free" (2008) and "Beam Me Up Scotty" (2009).
In 2010, Minaj released her highly anticipated debut album Pink Friday, featuring a blend of hip-hop ("Roman's Revenge"), bubblegum pop ("Check it Out," a duet with rapper will.i.am), and smooth R&B ("Right thru Me," "Here I Am") sounds. The album was the perfect vehicle to showcase her multiple alter egos - including belligerent temptress named Roman Zolanski and spiritual healer Nicki Teresa - silly voices, and playful looks like skin-tight Barbie Doll dresses, zany Japanese anime outfits, and neon accessories. Pink Friday was a commercial success, with seven singles landing on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time. Her single "Your Love" was also the first song by a female rapper to reach the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Rap chart in seven years. While Minaj's album garnered mostly positive reviews, it also sparked rumors that the rhymes on "Roman's Revenge" were directed at rapper Lil Kim, who reportedly targeted Minaj for not paying homage to female rap predecessors. Minaj denied those rumors.
Following the success of Pink Friday, Minaj became one of the industry's most sough-after collaborators. She also showcased her range and effortlessly reconfigured her raps to blend in with club songs like "My Chick Bad" (2010) with Ludacris, "Lil Freak" (2010) with Usher, and "Monster" (2010) with Kanye West. In July 2011, Minaj denied rumors that she was involved in an altercation with her assistant that resulted in her being struck in the face with a briefcase. The hip-hop star claimed that the celebrity news website TMZ made up the rumors, even after the Dallas Police Department confirmed the original story and TMZ produced a copy of the police report online. Meanwhile, Minaj was the opening act on Britney Spears' Femme Fatale Tour in 2011 and released her fifth - and most successful - single from Pink Friday, "Super Bass," which peaked at No. 3 on the charts and earned considerable praise for its catchy hook.
The following year, Minaj released her second album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012), which featured the singles "Starships," "Right by My Side" with Chris Brown and "Beez in the Trap." The album received mixed reviews and performed moderately well as compared to her debut record. At the time of its release, Minaj performed another song, "Roman Holiday," on the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, sparking mixed reactions for her elaborate "Exorcist"-themed performance. Whether people loved or hated her performance, they were certainly talking about it the next day. After breaking into feature films by voicing Steffie in "Ice Age: Continental Drift" (2012), word circulated that Minaj might be joining Mariah Carey as a judge on "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) in replacing outgoing judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. In September, it was announced officially that Minaj, Carey and Keith Urban would join veteran Randy Jackson at the judge's table for the program's 12th season.