Onika Tanya Maraj (born December 8, 1982), known by her stage name Nicki Minaj, is a Trinidadian-born American recording artist. She was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, and moved to the Queens borough of New York City when she was five years old.
After releasing three mixtapes between 2007 and 2009 and being signed to Young Money Entertainment in August 2009, Minaj released her debut album, Pink Friday in November 2010. It quickly became a commercial success, peaking at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and being certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) a month after its release.
She became the first artist to have seven singles on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time. Her second single, "Your Love", reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart, making Minaj the first female artist to top the chart unaccompanied since Missy Elliott accomplished it with Work It in 2002. She also became the first female artist to be included on MTV's Annual Hottest MC List. Minaj was named the 2011 Rising Star by Billboard.
Maraj was born in 1982 in Saint James, (a suburb of Trinidad and Tobago's capital city Port of Spain). Her parents are of mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian ancestry and she lived in Saint James with her grandmother until age five, because her parents were looking for a place to live in the Queens borough of New York City at the time.
Her mother would occasionally visit, and one day, when Minaj was five, her mother picked her up to move to Queens. According to Minaj, her father drank heavily, took drugs, and once tried to kill her mother by setting the house on fire.
She attended Elizabeth Blackwell Middle School 210, where she played the clarinet. She graduated from LaGuardia High School. At LaGuardia, a school specializing in music and the visual and performing arts, Minaj participated in the drama program. She had initially planned to sing at LaGuardia, but lost her voice on the day of the audition.
Minaj released her first mixtape in 2007 after releasing Playtime Is Over with Dirty Money Records. She released another mixtape on July 7, 2008, titled Sucka Free, under the label Be. On April 18, 2009, Minaj released a third mixtape and appeared in XXL magazine. She won the Female Artist of the Year award at the 2008 Underground Music Awards.
Minaj released Beam Me Up Scotty, another mixtape, in April 2009 under the label of Trapaholics Records; it received positive coverage on both BET and MTV.
In August 2009, Minaj signed a record deal with Young Money Entertainment, with distribution from Universal Motown Records, after fellow American rapper Lil Wayne discovered her and secured the record deal.
She then had a solo rap verse in their single "BedRock," which became a commercial success, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Minaj also appeared on "Roger That", which charted at #56. The song, and in particular Minaj, received positive reviews from critics. Both songs were included in Young Money Entertainment's debut collaborative studio album We Are Young Money, which was released in December 2009. The album charted in the top ten on the Billboard Hot 200, reaching #9 and later receiving a Gold Certification by the RIAA.