In addition to her top-tier music catalog, which deserves a different conversation of its own, Onika Tanya Maraj, also popularly known as Nicki Minaj, is a talented, sassy, big personality with the extreme, spirited chutzpah of a typical New Yorker and a petite wonder. Minaj is an inspiration to many women worldwide, often encouraging them to stay in school, work hard, and make their own money. While these are all attributes I admire in Minaj, the "Do We Have A Problem?" rapper's music saved my life many years ago, and because of that, I will always be a Barb.
I first got introduced to Minaj in 2010 when she released the much-talked-about and dreamy "Moment 4 Life" alongside Drake. At the time, I was in the 11th grade in Nigeria, and I immediately fell in love with her colorful, animated personality and the pastel colors that flooded the video.
When I moved to McBain, a small city in Michigan, in the fall of 2011 as a 12th-grade exchange student, I felt like a round peg in a square hole, and that was largely from being one of the only Black girls in the area for a few miles. A few months after my arrival, I found out that my former boyfriend at the time had been dating another girl for two years. Two weeks before I found out, he had ended the relationship. Understandably, I slipped into a deep depression that was only intensified by the extreme winter and cold weather at the time. I remember feeling as though there was no future in near sight. My 16-year-old self suffered greatly at the time, and there were days that I could not go without bursting into tears at the drop of a pin.
I turned to music for solace and strength, and it worked.
While my playlist was loaded with hits from different artists, Nicki's music made the biggest impact on me. Every song, every beat, and every tempo seemed to speak directly to me. I remember the first time I listened to "Dear Old Nicki," I was completely in awe of her musical prowess, lyricism, and talent. It was as though she was speaking directly to me through the words of her song. I remember that during those years, I grew so intrigued by this woman whose music was speaking directly to me that I began to scour YouTube for more content on Nicki.
I watched as many interviews, live shows, and podcasts as I could find.
Her strength of will, guts, and ability to keep her head high spoke so poignantly to me in ways that I still struggle to articulate. There were nights when I felt like completely giving up on life as I knew it. I was in a lonely, negative, dark place and a new country with completely different ways than what I was used to. In a town where I stood out like a sore thumb, where I was treated differently because of my skin color, I always felt a certain comfort listening to Nicki songs. When people talk about the enigma of Nicki Minaj, I acknowledge that, but there is also a part of me that will forever be thankful to her for the impact that she made on me at what I would call one of the darkest moments of my life. She made me believe that even though I was different, depressed, and thousands of miles away from home, my life mattered, I mattered and I could certainly bring something to this world. I'll never forget that.