Nicki Minaj announces her retirement – or is it the biggest troll of 2019?

Rapper has paved the way for other women but struggled to accept a changing industry

Nicki Minaj: ‘I’ve decided to retire & have my family. I know you guys are happy now.’ Photograph: Rebecca Smeyne/NYT

Nicki Minaj: ‘I’ve decided to retire & have my family. I know you guys are happy now.’ Photograph: Rebecca Smeyne/NYT

 

Nicki Minaj has announced she is quitting the music industry. “I’ve decided to retire & have my family,” the Super Bass singer wrote on Twitter. “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 rhapsodised 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-aggrandising lyrics: a strong desire to open up doors for other women rappers to be proper stars, not sidekicks or novelty acts. With a crop of new female wordsmiths in the game – Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Sawtee – Minaj very likely considers her work done.

These new stars have adopted and improved on the qualities that made Minaj famous: the colourful 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 bitter-sweet it is to see those who come after you have it easier. And as other women 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 20 million singles and delivering celebrated rap features like Monster, Minaj has yet to win a Grammy. But 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 Podcast last month. The remark felt like a sore loser declaring the game’s rigged only when the fraud doesn’t work out in their favour.

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 has released seven albums since then. The stark difference here is that Jay-Z walked out victorious, not still fighting tooth and nail for his accomplishments and influence to be properly recognised.

Like many successful people of colour (and especially women of colour), Minaj had to fight insanely hard to gain respect. But what were once sharp, perfectly timed call-outs (“Miley, what’s good?”) have snowballed into almost nonsensical self-comparisons to Rosa Parks and long-winded verbal lashings. To a fan, it feels as if 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. – Guardian

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