Christopher Polk for Variety
When you think of rap music, and especially female rappers, you think of Nicki Minaj. The Trinidadian artist has more than a decade’s worth of hits. From her acclaimed 2010 debut studio album, “Pink Friday,” up to now with the top-10 hit single “Barbie World,” Minaj has outlasted many of her contemporaries while holding her own against the new generation of rappers. However, while Minaj has an extensive list of achievements, there’s still one thing she lacks: a Grammy. That could change, perhaps, at the upcoming 2024 awards.
Minaj’s lack of a Grammy is weird, but explainable. Throughout her career she has picked up 10 nominations, mostly in the rap field. Her first was Best Rap Duo/Group Performance as a featured artist on Ludacris’s “My Chick Bad.” They lost, but Minaj was back the very next year with three nominations for “Pink Friday” including Best New Artist, plus an additional nomination as a featured artist on Rihanna’s “Loud” for Album of the Year. It was unlikely that Minaj would beat Grammy darlings Jay-Z and Kanye West in the rap field; they were enjoying massive success and acclaim with their joint album “Watch the Throne” and West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” But she did have a fighting chance for Best New Artist. However, that award went to Bon Iver.
Three years later Minaj was up for two Grammys: Best Rap Song for “Anaconda” and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Bang Bang” (alongside Jessie J and Ariana Grande). Again, Minaj was unlikely to win either: in rap, “Anaconda” might’ve been considered too lightweight (Kendrick Lamar won instead for “I”), and in pop, she was up against the undeniable Grammy-bait ballad “Say Something” by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera. A year later “The Pinkprint” got Minaj a couple of rap nominations, but Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” predictably swept.
So one could argue that Minaj is Grammy-less more because of strong competition than because of any active bias against her. This is important because this year it’s Minaj who might be the strong competition. Her hit “Barbie World” is one of the biggest rap songs of the year, topping the US Spotify chart and peaking in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Whether it goes pop or rap, it could end up being the biggest hit in the lineup, which would boost its winning chances.
Another advantage for Minaj is her protégé Ice Spice, whom she collaborated with on “Barbie World.” Ice’s popularity this year is undeniable, and voters might be excited to give her their stamp of approval. It would be similar to Megan Thee Stallion’s rap field wins in 2021, which were helped by her collaboration with Beyoncé on the remix of “Savage.”
Competition (or a lack thereof) is also a key factor, as there is no rap darling eligible this year: Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Jay-Z are currently between albums. 2023 has also been notoriously slow for hip-hop, but Minaj and Ice have succeeded in spite of that, with both achieving multiple top-10 hits this year. As such, it’s going to be much easier for them to face newer stars like Lil Durk, Gunna and Doja Cat than the Grammy favorites Minaj has faced off against in the past.
So, Barbz, you might soon be able to call your favorite star a Grammy winner at last. A Minaj win is surely overdue at this point, especially considering that newer female rappers like Doja Cat, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are all winners already. With such an impressive hit catalog and such great influence on hip-hop music, it’s clear she should join her peers in being honored with music’s biggest award.
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