SHIAVON’S JAWN: Nicki Minaj is the true artist of the decade

Put ‘Sucka Free’ on Apple Music


Robbie Pierce

Photo illustration

Shiavon Chatman, Opinion Editor

A jawn. Pronounced jôn. Noun. A person, place, thing, or event that doesn’t need a specific name. An indescribable, but memorable entity.

I’m Shiavon and this is Shiavon’s Jawn. (If these two words don’t rhyme, then you’re saying my name wrong.)

I’ve seen a lot of people discussing the artist of the decade. Names like Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Drake have been thrown around. 

Drake is the king of one-liners and Instagram captions. In the words of the beautiful Y’lan Noel, “every Black girl that went to college likes Drake.” 

Fun fact: Drake was my second celebrity crush (Kel from “Kenan and Kel” can always slide in my DMs) and his first mixtape still holds a special place in my heart. 

But none of these answers are correct. Nicki Minaj is the greatest artist of the last decade. Single-handedly. A queen of a generation, if you will. 

Disagree and argue with me if you’d like. My feelings aren’t easily hurt – I’m New York-born and Beyoncé raised. 

I was 12-years-old when I first heard “Playtime is Over,” Nicki’s first mixtape. With samples from artists like Biggie Smalls, Mr. Cheeks, Terror Squad and The Lox, it was as New York as it gets. 

I had no idea who this girl that couldn’t go five seconds without reminding me that she was from Jamaica, Queens was – but I was excited to find out. 

She was a magical hybrid between Lil’ Kim and Biggie. I was hooked. 

A year later, I patiently waited for her second mixtape, “Sucka Free.” She sampled classics and produced one herself, but then she topped it with “Beam Me Up Scotty.”

Every Black girl knows the words to “Itty Bitty Piggy.” It’s a rite of passage. But it was “Can Anybody Hear Me?” that made me a Nicki fan for life. She rapped about how she was told she couldn’t sing and rap on the same song because women are usually confined to one or the other.

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Then came the album.

I am in no way an Eminem fan. I’m actually disgusted by his entire rap career’s existence, but getting an Eminem feature on your debut album is huge because he hates women and rarely hops on a song that isn’t his. But they went bar for bar in what felt like a cypher.

AND a Kanye verse on your first album? And your verse had more heat? People confidently saying Nicki Minaj is not the most consistent and talented rapper of the last 10 years are just irresponsible at this point.

“Pink Friday” was the album that made Nicki mainstream. It’s not that she suddenly became popular, but her target audience grew exponentially. 

A beautiful alliance and solidarity between ghetto Black girls and gay white dudes was formed. 

“Pink Friday” meant the world to me, but to Nicki, it was a way of opening the door for other women rappers. 

“They won’t look to sign other female rappers and I don’t want that to happen, so I’m doing this for all the girls,” Nicki said in a 2010 interview right before the album dropped. 

Hip-hop isn’t always a welcoming place for women and it’s hard for them to coexist in the same culture. 

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Much like Beyoncé’s “I Am Sasha Fierce,” Nicki’s sophomore album “Pink Friday: Romans Reloaded” gave birth to a different sound. “Romans Reloaded” was divided into two halves – hip-hop and funky pop music with a sprinkle of dancehall. 

I play “Fire Burns” after every breakup and it still sounds as sweet and vengeful as the first time. You know what that is? Consistency. 

Respect is everything in the rap community and it’s much harder for a woman to gain because misogynoir runs rampant in every corner from the lyrics to the culture. That album has features from Cam’ron to Jeezy to Nas to 2 Chainz. She may or may not have their respect, but she’s better than more than half of them.

In that instance, respect doesn’t matter when you can take any male veteran bar for bar. 

“The Pinkprint,” her third album, was a collection of Nicki’s most vulnerable and most personal songs. Her melodic voice hugs every lyric as she sings, about an abortion she had as a teenager, blaming herself for her cousin’s murder, advocating for women’s sexual dominance, talking about failed relationships or paying homage to my personal favorite, Biggie Smalls. A damn classic. Without question. 

Her fourth album, “Queen,” was a masterpiece. Don’t let the critics or album sales tell you differently. I remember listening to the album for the first time in my car and I screamed at the top of my lungs when I heard “Barbie Dreams.” She freestyled 90 percent of that song in ONE TAKE. Goat. 

A rapper who writes her own raps? In this economy? Completely unheard of. 

Her foot hasn’t let up not once on my neck this entire decade. If there was a gun to my head and I had to recite a song word for word without messing up, put Nicki on shuffle. I know every word and every adlib. She gave a voice to the silenced and made every Black girl feel at home one song at a time. 

Let’s give Onika her flowers while she is still here to accept them. Thank you, queen. 

This is my weekly column where I’ll keep you updated on my straight-to-DVD life, my hip-hop snob opinions, being uncomfortable in this political climate and being a Black woman in predominantly white spaces.