Nicki Minaj painted hip-hop a new shade with 'Pink Friday' The 2010 Nicki Minaj album Pink Friday brought vibrant new shades to hip-hop.

Nicki Minaj paints hip-hop pink — and changes the game

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In the late 2000s, hip-hop was king, but there was a sameness to what was at the top and a whole lot of dudes. Then came a Technicolor blast named Nicki Minaj. Culture critic Kiana Fitzgerald is looking back at a few of hip-hop's game-changing moments. Today, how Nicki Minaj painted the world pink.

KIANA FITZGERALD: It was her appearance on Kanye West's 2010 song "Monster" that really took Nicki from zero to a hundred.


NICKI MINAJ: (Rapping) First things first, I'll eat your brains. Then I'ma start rocking gold teeth and fangs.

FITZGERALD: On "Monster," she just said, I'm going to do what I want to do. A standard verse is eight or 16 bars, and Nicki blew past that in such a major way for over 30 bars. She was rapping about everything from Willy Wonka to "Child's Play."


MINAJ: (Rapping) So let me get this straight. Wait, I'm the rookie? But my features and my shows ten times your pay? Fifty K for a verse, no album out. Yeah, my money's so tall that my Barbies got to climb it.

FITZGERALD: That's how confident she was. I was - on a side note, the past 10-plus years, I've heard so many people recite this "Monster" verse from front to back, and that's just how influential she was right off the bat. And that's how hungry people were for a new female emcee. This kind of creative fearlessness is what prepared Nicki for the next step, which was the release of "Pink Friday."


MINAJ: (Rapping) This one is for the boys with the boomin' system, top down, AC with the cooler system. When he come up in the club, he be blazin' up - got stacks on deck like he savin' up.

FITZGERALD: It is not an exaggeration to say that "Pink Friday" changed hip-hop at its very core. She used a lot of traditional hip-hop elements, but she also took certain aspects of other genres like pop and R&B, but very much pop, and it became this very fun, bubblegum, neon-pink experimental playground.


MINAJ: (Rapping) Somebody please tell em who the F I is. I am Nicki Minaj. I mack them dudes up, back coupes up and chuck the deuce up. (Singing) Boy, you got my heartbeat runnin' away.

FITZGERALD: She uses her voice as, like, a production tool. If you listen to "Pink Friday" from front to back, you won't hear her use her voice in the same way. She may want to sing and then rap immediately after. Or she may want to make strange noises that don't really make sense in a song. But then when you hear it in totality, it's like, oh, I'm glad she did this. That makes a lot of sense.


MINAJ: (Rapping) I am not Jasmine. I am Aladdin, so far ahead, these bums is laggin'. See me in that new thing, bums is gaggin'. I'm startin' to feel like a dungeon dragon. Rah, rah, like a dungeon dragon.

FITZGERALD: "Roman's Revenge" is a prime example of Nicki using her voice in a completely different way than any hip-hopper had done before.


MINAJ: (Impersonating English accent) Roman, Roman, stop it, stop it. You've gone mad.

FITZGERALD: Depending on your barometer of humor, you might think that her personalities within her music are funny. Or you might think that they're offensive 'cause she does a lot of accents. So, yeah, she's always using her voice just in a very singular way that nobody had done before.


MINAJ: (Impersonating English accent) Come on. Wash your mouth out with soap, boys.

FITZGERALD: Nicki Minaj knew that not everybody would immediately get or understand her, and she still swung for the fences because she knew that in being herself 1,000%, she would have an effect on future artists and give them the ability to be weird or goofy or serious or vulnerable without being side-eyed or without being skipped in a playlist.


MINAJ: (Rapping) Yo. Everybody wanna try to box me in, suffocatin' every time it locks me in.

ESTRIN: That was Kiana Fitzgerald. Her new book is called "Ode To Hip Hop: 50 Albums That Defined 50 Years Of Trailblazing Music."

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