Barbz win: Nicki Minaj finally gets her Billboard Hot 100 flowers with Doja Cat
On Monday, Minaj - along with Doja Cat (Zandile Dlamini) - will receive her first number one single on the United States (US) Billboard Hot 100 chart. Doja’s hit single, Say So was sitting pretty in the chart’s top 10, and the remix of the song with Minaj is what took it all the way to the top. While this is a monumental time for both talented women, this achievement is a cherry on top of Minaj’s prettiest, pinkest cake after numerously just missing the number one spot on one of the biggest charts in the music industry.
FROM MARAJ TO MINAJ
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty - popularly known as Nicki Minaj - grew up in Queens, New York. Minaj first made her appearance on hip-hop scene in 2007 when she was featured in Big Fendi’s The Come Up DVD after he discovered her on MySpace in 2006. During that time, Minaj was still going by the name of Nicki Maraj but Fendi suggested that she should change it to Minaj, which is now her stage name. Fendi, as Minaj has repeatedly said in interviews, was the reason why Nicki Minaj was introduced to the world by Young Money/Cash Money Records rapper Lil Wayne. She signed up with Young Money Entertainment in 2009. Her first album in 2010 went triple platinum, and her sound has been stamping its pink print on hip-hop since. In a recent interview between Minaj and Fendi, it was revealed how they planned on ensuring Lil Wayne noticed Minaj during The Come Up DVD by strategically placing her in front of the camera so Wayne could spot her.
Now, such achievements for artists like 37-year-old Minaj are pretty much minor stepping stones, but here's why it’s such a big deal to have a number one song on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Having a song (especially higher up) on the Hot 100 and other Billboard charts means that your song is doing really well in that country, the home of hip hop, and is getting a lot of airplay, streams and downloads. Some of our own greatest artists who have featured on some of these charts, include the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo who appeared 10 times on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic charts, peaking at number one once, and appearing in the top 10 nine out of the 10 times between 1990 and 2012, as well as Hugh Masekela who topped the Hot 100 charts back in 1968 for his song Grazing In The Grass.
Despite having over 108 entries on the US Billboard Hot 100 - the most entries from a woman artist across all genres - Minaj was yet to land a song at number one. Until now.
She’s had a few close encounters to the number one spot without featuring others. The first was her multiplatinum-selling single Super Bass from her debut album. Despite the song selling over five million copies in the US, the song only reached number two on the Hot 100 charts in 2011. It also sold 13.75 million units worldwide. At the time, this was the highest-charting song on the Hot 100 in the last three years by a woman rapper.
The second time Minaj came close to tasting peak glory was in 2012, when pop smash hit Starships from her second album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded reached number five. The song, was one of many that showcased Minaj’s versatility as a musician, who could tap into different genres with ease. The third instance was when her racy and controversial single from her Pink Print album, Anaconda, hit number two on the charts in 2014.
BLACKBALLED, LABELLED ANTI-WOMEN: THE #NICKIHATETRAIN
Misogyny and patriarchy have always made it difficult for women to thrive as much as their men counterparts, and this has extended to the music and creative industry too. Minaj was no exception to this treatment. She had been labelled by some major DJs in the US admitting to intentionally not putting her songs on rotation, and Minaj claimed that some award ceremonies such as the Grammy's blackballed her. Many people accused her of being someone who was stopping other women rappers from achieving greatness, despite her songs with other rappers, such as reality show Love and Hip Hop star Trina, rappers Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B and also Doja Cat, to name a few. But such mindsets bred ground for Minaj to be ostracised in the music industry as more talent started flowing into the game. For some reason, the music industry and media believe there can only be one female rapper at a time, and many felt that Minaj’s time was over and pitted her against the new talent. Minaj and her fans made it clear that the rapper was not going anywhere, but in fact, there was enough space for more that one female rapper to co-exist.
THE BARBZ: MINAJ’S SUPPORTERS AND DEFENDERS
But, the blackballing, anti-woman rapper labels and the #NickiHateTrain proved to be futile as the rapper’s fan base, the Barbz, have always defended her. Minaj has one the most supportive fan bases in the music industry. She called her super fans the Barbz when she first came into the rapping game, inspired by her old alter ego’s name Nicki the Harajuku Barbie. After Minaj was blackballed on radio by some DJs such as DJ Self, who called on other DJs to stop playing Minaj's music due to their personal conflict, her fans continued to support her as she continues to break records, while her competitors received more radio play than her. The Barbz have proven time and again that they will forever be loyal to Minaj. She is the most awarded and richest woman rapper with an estimated net worth of $100 million, which some might argue makes her the most successful woman rapper of all time. Ten years into her career, the Barbz, together with Doja Cat’s fans, have shown their loyalty by giving them both their first Billboard Hot 100 number one song - the one achievement that has kept many doubting Minaj's capabilities. This achievement, 10 years after her first song release, speaks to Minaj’s longevity and versatility in the game. But more than anything, it also speaks to how Minaj is one of the women in hip hop who is ensuring that she is never erased or sidelined in the genre and music industry in general.
One hundred and nine Billboard entries later and now the only woman rapper with a number one song across all Billboard's charts, Minaj will surely be remembered among the best rappers.
Minaj and Doja are the first two women rappers to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. More is yet to come from these two phenomenal musicians.
Mihlali is an EWN content producer. You can follow him on Twitter.