New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Rap superstar Nicki Minaj
has announced she's leaving the music business because she wants to make family life her priority. The 36-year-old Trinidadian-born rapper, who grew up in New York and is known for her outlandish outfits, bizarre alter egos and fast flow, made the announcement in a tweet on Thursday
morning: "I know you guys are happy now."
The early retirement seemingly comes out of nowhere. The rapper has been prolific as ever - appearing on popular tracks like Hot Girl Summer and BAPS this year and regularly hosting her Queen Radio
show. There is the sneaking suspicion Minaj might be pulling the biggest troll of 2019. But there's an even worse fear: she's telling the truth.
Minaj put a time limit on her musical career from the very start. "As long as seven years from now I'm taking my daughter to preschool," she rapped on her 2014 track All Things Go. And she frequently rhapsodized on what her influence and power would look like at the finish line. "I will retire with the crown, yes," she exclaimed on her 2010 anthem Moment 4 Life. There was a consistent through-line in these self-aggrandizing lyrics: a strong desire to open up doors for other female rappers to be proper stars, and not sidekicks or novelty acts. With a crop of new female wordsmiths in the game (Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Sawtee), it is very likely Minaj now considers her work done.
These new stars have adopted and improved on the qualities that made Minaj famous. There's the colorful hair, sex-positive lyrics, and empowering messages about hard work and education. These women are poised to achieve a cultural ubiquity - both commercially and critically - that was simply not available to Minaj at the start of her career.
Minaj frequently talks about ushering in a new era of female rap in her songs. But there's one thing she leaves out of the narratives: how bittersweet it is to see those who come after you have it easier. And as other female rappers have begun to shine, Minaj has grown increasingly outspoken and critical of the music industry and the media in general.
Despite releasing four studio albums, selling 20m singles, and delivering celebrated rap features like Monster, Minaj has yet to win a single Grammy. And yet Cardi B
won a Grammy for best rap album this February for her debut, Invasion of Privacy.
"The Grammys have brainwashed us for years into believing that the Grammys are about talent," Minaj responded to the snub, during a candid interview on The Joe Budden
Show last month. The remark felt like a sore loser declaring the game's rigged only when the fraud doesn't work out in their favor. She's also handed out "Cocksucker of the Day" awards on her radio show, the recipients frequently being journalists who dare to criticize her (as when a Forbes writer said she's fighting to remain relevant).
Other rappers have retired early, only to later return. Jay-Z
made a big hoopla of calling his 2003 record, The Black
Album, his final piece of work. He's released seven albums since then. The stark difference here is Jay-Z
walked out victorious, not still fighting tooth and nail for his accomplishments and influence to be properly recognized.
Like many successful people of color (and especially women of color), Minaj had to fight insanely hard to gain respect. But what were once sharp, perfectly timed callouts ("Miley, what's good?") have snowballed into almost nonsensical self-comparisons to Rosa Parks and long-winded verbal lashings. To a fan, it feels like Minaj no longer knows where to throw her punches. I would much rather see her step out of the ring with her head held high.