A Star Without A Hit: Nicki Minaj's Big Dilemma

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Nicki Minaj might be the most important female rapper right now, but she still doesn’t have a top ten hit to her name.

Nicki Minaj is arguably the top female rapper on the planet right now. She said it best herself on Kanye West’s “Monster” when she rapped, “My features and my shows ten times your pay/50k for a verse no album out!”

Since “Monster” came out, Minaj has released an album, Pink Friday. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard album chart, behind Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Coming second to the most critically acclaimed album of the year is nothing to be ashamed of, but in the long run, Minaj has even more to celebrate as her album has outsold Mr. West’s.

But for all the success Nicki Minaj has achieved in such a short time, it still seems that Minaj is lacking something. A friend of mine encapsulated Nicki’s problem when she tweeted that she liked the idea of Nicki Minaj more than she actually liked her.

Following in the footsteps of West, Drake and Kid Cudi, Minaj is challenging preconceived notions of what a rapper should be. She is flamboyant, unapologetic and loud, and that’s just one of her many personas. (She has five so far: Nicki, Barbie, Roman, Martha, and Rosa.) Her wild outfits and ever-changing hair evoke a hip-hop Lady Gaga, and her ability to land collaborations with big names before her debut album hit stores suggests that a lot of people have high expectations of the 25-year-old Queens rapper.

The interesting thing about the vast majority of her collaborations is that the songs she’s featuring on aren’t all that good. Just take a listen to “My Chick Bad” with Ludacris, “Bottoms Up” with Trey Songz, or “Raining Men” with Rihanna. The songs aren’t very good, but Minaj’s raps are out of this world. I even have a friend who fast forwards to Nicki’s rap time and time again without even listening to the full song.

The benefit of being that prolific was that Minaj got her name out. If an eccentric rapper who uses a handful of different accents starts popping up on songs with Mariah Carey and Usher, people will start to pay attention. People have been paying attention, but this marketing technique is different than the usual methods record companies use.

Traditionally, when a record label prepares to launch a new artist, they build a brand around this artist and figure out the best way to market them to a prospective audience. One of the most important components of this is the debut single. It’s the first impression of an artist and it plays a significant role in molding how the public views them as an artist for the rest of their career.

Hip-hop has always been a little different. It relies more heavily on underground mixtapes and guest spots, but you still can’t deny the importance of those first few singles on breaking artists. Look no further than Eminem’s “My Name Is” or 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” for proof.

Nicki Minaj is missing her own “My Name Is.” Despite skads of guest appearances and a full-length album, she doesn’t have her own “In Da Club” yet. The closest she’s come is Kanye’s “Monster,” which critics have been drooling over ever since it dropped. But it still isn’t hers.

Nicki, “Massive Attack” was forgettable. “Your Love” was boring. “Right Thru Me” wasn’t strong enough. People like you. They like the idea of you. They want you to succeed, but you need to bring the goods. Stop giving out your sickest raps to sub-par songs and save them for yourself.

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