Some of Nicki Minaj’s best verses are loaded with complex wordplay, unique rhymes, and clever metaphors. Since the release of her debut mixtape in 2007, she has impressed the world with her lyrical prowess. Hip-hop and pop fans welcome and respect how she successfully fuses these genres together. As a result, she is a 10x Grammy-Nominated artist, with 10 BET Awards and 7 BET Hip-Hop Awards.
The 5 verses I’ve explored reveal Nicki’s lyrical rawness and emotional authenticity. The use of different cadences, melodies and alter egos demonstrate Nicki Minaj’s passion for telling her story.
1. Playtime Is Over
“Playtime Is Over” is the 6th track on Minaj’s first mixtape, Playtime Is Over. This song is a playful track that answers the question, “who is Nicki Minaj?” She shamelessly gloats for about 40 bars straight. After the first 8 bars, we know Nicki Minaj is not here just rapping for fun—hence the song’s title. She is well aware of her skill and is confident that she is the greatest rapper in the game.
Nicki showcases her unique style of pronunciation and manipulation of words to construct vivacious lyrics such as these: “(Kyuh) just when they thought it was safe to play, I/ Hit ’em with the N-I-C, the K-I/ I’m Tinkerbell, he’s Peter Pay-ai/ To these rap b——, I’m Mother May I”. Impressively, she has a bar of her spelling out her name and rhyming it with an altered pronunciation of Peter Pan! Her playful flow keeps audiences intrigued and gives us a fun listening experience.
She refers to herself as “Mother May I”, declaring to be the blueprint for other female rappers. In a short interview on The Come Up DVD, Nicki sits in a stairwell with Big Fendi, boasting about her rap skills. Then she pulls a stack of cash out of her purse saying, “When I come through I do it big!” She warns rappers, “Y’all b—— better sharpen y’all motherf—– number 2 pencils, ‘cause I stay on point!”
2. Hello Good Morning (Remix)
Diddy’s “Hello Good Morning (Remix)” features Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross. This song predates Nicki’s debut album, so it is one of the first verses that introduced ‘Nicki Minaj’ to the mainstream. Given that this is a self-celebratory track, Nicki’s boastful rap style compliments it well. Her ability to seamlessly switch between multiple voices and cadences throughout the verse proves her impeccable versatility and lyrical skill.
“What the fuck I look like? B—-, I run this town/ I ain’t coming out for less than a hunnid thou’/ Man, the last time I checked, I was bubbling out/ ‘Bout to turn down shows out in Dublin now”
Certainly, Nicki is infamous for featuring in songs with respected male MCs, such as Diddy, Eminem and Lil Wayne and receiving the same respect they do. In a 2014 interview with MTV News, Nicki says, “I do not see myself as a female rapper anymore…I see myself as a rapper.“
3. Dear Old Nicki (1st Verse)
“Dear Old Nicki” is the 11th track on Minaj’s 2010 debut album, Pink Friday. With pop elements in songs like “Superbass”, “Your Love”, and “Check It Out” ft. will.i.am, this album differentiates itself from her mixtapes. Consequently, people noticed this shift from all bars to melodic pop choruses and questioned her loyalty to hip-hop. “Dear Old Nicki” is a response to this dispute.
She raps lyrics in the style of a heartfelt letter and is overcome with emotion provoked by nostalgia of her early rap days. “Maybe you died ’cause everybody ask me where you at/ I tried to channel you in hopes that I could steer you back/ But it’s like every intersection we just missed each other/ You got your fans waitin’, tell me you ain’t six feet under”. If she separates from the tough, confident persona, will she receive the same respect from hip-hop/rap audiences?
Towards the end of the verse, she prides herself on never losing sight of expressing honesty in her music. “You was the brave heart, you stole Wayne heart/ You never switched it up, you played the same part/ But I needed to grow, and I needed to know/ Were there some things inside of me that I needed to show?” Certainly, Nicki’s exploration with pop music was not a detriment to her career. The aforementioned album, Pink Friday, holds a 3x Platinum certification and is Grammy-nominated.
4. Pills N Potions (2nd Verse)
“Pills N Potions” is the lead single off of Minaj’s 3rd studio album, Pinkprint. Nicki leaves behind quirky metaphors and alter egos to dive into the intense emotions of heartbreak. She raps about self-seeking people who are only around to reap the benefits of her success. Rather than allowing pain to generate animosity, she leans on the power of love.
Although she speaks of forgiveness, remnants of pain crawl through this verse: “Yo, people’ll love you and support you when it’s beneficial/ I’ma forgive, I won’t forget, but I’ma dead the issue/ Soon as you outta n—– lives is when they start to miss you/ They see you doin’ good, now it’s kinda hard to diss you/ N—– be sick when they remember all the bad they wished you/ N—– be mad when they can’t come and live lavish wit’ you”
In a 2009 interview, Minaj shares a Rev. Run tweet that inspired her, “If you don’t have any critics, then you probably don’t have any success either.” She continues, “People criticize Nicki Minaj because Nicki Minaj is POPPING-TON!” Basically another way of saying “haters gonna hate”.
Maybe we were all going through some sort of heartbreak in 2014?! The undeniably infectious chorus still has us singing. It still feels so dreamlike 7 years after its release. In fact, there is rawness and passion in Nicki Minaj’s voice that is hard not to be moved by when listening to this song.
5. Nip Tuck (3rd Verse)
“Nip Tuck” is the 13th track on Nicki Minaj’s 4th studio album, Queen. The title of the song is a play on the term, “nip and tuck”, which refers to ridding the body of unwanted features in cosmetic surgery. Nicki uses this metaphor in reference to cutting a man out of her life. After her love and care is taken for granted, she confidently express that she’s ready to move on.
In these 6 bars, she mocks her man’s lack of commitment and failure to appreciate her for who she is. “You ain’t got the drive, my n—- ya pedal stalled/ You said you wept, aww, every day, a queen you slept on/ And I ain’t talkin’ ’bout your mattresses/ But um, you the type of player I press eject on/ I can’t believe you played for that long/ I never re-respected nobody”
Without reservation, Nicki shares a lesson with fans—prioritizing self-respect to avoid being repeatedly mistreated by the same people. This mindset is not unusual for someone in the entertainment industry where so few people have her best interest in mind.
Nicki ends the song with these final lyrics: “‘Cause a true bad b—- ain’t weak or bitter.” This lyric represents that ‘boss up’ moment you get when realizing your self-worth. When I hear this, I want to cheer for her and hype her up! I also want to thank her. It’s comforting to hear Nicki Minaj speak about self-love and self-respect. Music with messages as genuine as this helps fans find their own strength and confidence.