Dear Nicki, Almighty Savior… fine, I’ll pray later. Ok, I don’t actually pray to Nicki Minaj, but the woman has taken on the role of a deity in my rap-centered life. While she lacks the lyricism of Nas or political consciousness of Mos Def or the production skills of Kanye, she masters two things crucial to the rap game: (1) flow and (2) throwing shade.
Originally trained as an actress at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, Nicki takes on a variety of characters and corresponding voices in her raps – Harajuku Barbie, Roman Zolanski, Martha, Onika, etc. – switching effortlessly from one to another. And while I enjoy her solo albums and mixtapes, where Nicki truly shines is on someone else’s track. The below tracks range from killer to horrendous, but they are united in that each showcases Nicki at her finest. Below each blurb, I’ve included where Nicki’s verse begins so that you don’t have to waste any time listening to Trey Songz…. Leggo!
10. “Till The World Ends (Femme Fatale Remix)” – Britney Spears ft. Nicki Minaj & Ke$ha
In including the Femme Fatale remix in its top 100 tracks of 2011, Pitchfork explained that the addition of Nicki’s verse made even better Britney’s best song since “Toxic,” calling it a “45-second evisceration.” Pitchfork also took this opportunity to recognize something I’ve long considered obvious – that “pretty much any song in the world could be made infinitely better by the addition of a Nicki Minaj verse.”
9. “Letting Go (Dutty Love)” – Sean Kingston ft. Nicki Minaj
I’m a sucker for anything Jafaican, and this track is no exception. While the song could probably hold its own with its catchy chorus cooed by babyfaced Kingston, Nicki’s verse unsurprisingly takes it to the next level. “Ayo Sean, youuuu Mr. Kingston,” she calls out before each verse, accent ostensibly drawing from her Trinidadian routes. She finishes her verse in full cartoonish posture — “Sighhhhhhhh / Rastafarri” — tilting her head back, and topping it off with: “Dutty (pronounced “DOTTY”), Dutty, D-d-d-d-dutty!” Watch the video for maximum effect.
8. “Hello Good Morning” – P Diddy ft. Rick Ross & Nicki Minaj
Nicki brings this otherwise bland track to life, making running out of breath sound truly fierce as she flawlessly vacillates her tempo, transforming from Nicki to Roman and back again.
7. “Touchin, Lovin” – Trey Songz ft. Nicki Minaj
I’ve really only listened to Trey Songz in the context of scrolling to a Nicki verse. Maybe his lack of originality inspires her, who knows, but Nicki has no trouble slaying Mr. Songz on the regular. Here, Nicki, as she often does, turns on its head the notion that only men feign feelings to get in someone’s pants when she opens with the above line. She continues, espousing the classically male notion of “hit it and quit it”: “I never love ‘em, or cuff ‘em and when we done I’mma duck ‘em.” Beneath the vulgarity (“pussy wetter than puddles / I ride his dick like a shuttle”) underlies a strong message of female sexual empowerment: “I said real niggas let real bitches cum first.”
6. “Low” – Juicy J ft. Nicki Minaj, Lil Bibby, Young Thug
Juicy J opens on this minimalist trap beat boasting of his player ways: “Me, Juicy J, I got too many hoes.” Nicki counters by explaining that women can be players too, pulling up with the best-endowed of them, ending with yet another vulgar message of female sexual empowerment: “I’m with some flawless girls, they’re pretty and they’re thick / Bust it open quick, put that pussy on his lips, bitch.”
5. “My Chick Bad” – Ludacris ft. Nicki Minaj
Who better to feature on a song called “My Chick Bad” than Nicki Minaj? Accordingly, we see Nicki at her most ferocious, ultimately comparing herself to Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddie Krueger. The track, which dropped in February of 2010, was among the first establish Nicki Minaj as the ideal featuring artist. XXL said Nicki’s verse “proves she’s got the goods to be the perfect playmate to any of rap’s leading men.”
4. “Five Star Chick Remix” – Yo Gotti ft. Gucci Mane, Trina, Nicki Minaj
Nicki’s verse on Yo Gotti’s Five Star Chick Remix has special significance for me because it represents my first introduction to Ms. Minaj. Later that year, Nicki’s verse also played a starring role in my friend’s mental breakdown; he reminded our friends repeatedly to remain “five star chicks” as he was rolled away on a stretcher, but that is neither here nor there. The track dropped in November of 2009, just a few months after Nicki was discovered by Lil Wayne and recruited to Young Money Entertainment (“Ask Lil’ Wayne who the 5 star bitch is!!!”). At that point Minaj had been making mixtapes for years – Playtime is Over in 2007, Sucka Free in 2008, and Beam Me Up Scotty in early 2009, each garnering underground praise – but her verse on Five Star Chick represented her entrance into the mainstream. She comes out hard, dissing Lil Mama (“little mama you a 3 star”), referencing the 2009 VMA’s in which Lil’ Mama crashed Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ performance of “Empire State of Mind” (“when you hit the stage / they was booin and leavin’”). Nicki evidences an early mastery of the rap practice of shitting on one’s contemporaries with aplomb. Although now Nicki has far surpassed Lil’ Mama’s talent and stature, everyone has to start somewhere.
3. “Danny Glover” – Young Thug ft. Nicki Minaj
I’m a fan of almost anyone who attempts to tackle the complicated mess that is human sexuality, as opposed to acting as though it is as simple as a genetic pre-disposition or a sinful choice. Nicki has always kept her sexuality ambiguous, but on this track she really nails it. She comes back to the brilliant line above a few lines before spitting: “Girls is plottin, what more could they steal? / Tell Justin Timberlake that I am coming from Jessica Biel.” While fans speculate that Nicki has a longtime boyfriend in producer Safaree Samuels, part of me hopes that one day Nicki will be coming from me.
2. “Bottom’s Up” – Trey Songz ft. Nicki Minaj
Again, poor Trey. Not like he cares what I think – I’m sure he has loads of nice fans throughout the middle schools of suburban Illinois. But I digress. Again, Nicki shows us here that women can be just as bad as men. Trey spends several yawn-inducing verses explaining his clubbing style (“Tell security we bout to tear this club up / bottoms up bottoms up / pocket full of green”) and asserting his heterosexuality (“Girl you know I love the way you shake it in them jeans”). And just when you think the song can’t get any more boring, Nicki comes in double-time with: “Could I get that Tron? Could I get that Remy? Could I get that Coke? Could I get that Henny? Could I get that margarita on the rock rock rock rocks? Could I get that salt all around that rim rim rim rim?” When she arrives to the club, bad bitch in tow, she doesn’t say hello, she simply demands the Benz. Billboard aptly wrote that Songz “fades into the background” while Nicki “steals the spotlight with a layered, almost cartoonish 16-bar verse that injects the track with much-needed liveliness and creativity,” showing “more personality in 45 seconds than most rappers do in an entire song, balancing an aggressive attitude with her gentler side.” (She calls herself a lady in one line and references “doing donuts while  waiving the .380” in the next.) In discussing the song on a Ustream webcast in July 2010, Trey confesses that he “fell in love” with Nicki when he heard the verse.
1. “Monster” – Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj
I will never forget the first time I heard Nicki’s verse “Monster.” It was a sunny Saturday and naturally I was sitting alone in my studio apartment in a grey leisure suit, working a law school paper in leggings and blasting hype machine. I recognized a new Kanye Song and turned it up. The song didn’t grab me at first – I found it was abrasive and not a good way. And then Nicki enters and I immediately call my best friend (see mental breakdown story above). “Can we talk about Nicki’s verse on ‘Monster’?” I say, sans introduction. “Iiiiiii know,” he responds, “She is on this track with Kanye and Rick Ross and Jay-Z and she LIT-TRA-LEE slays every single one of them.” Nicki addresses her own impressiveness when she raps: “So let me get this straight, wait, I’m the rookie?” NME describes Nicki’s verse as “fire-breathing, raga-inflected,” Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal calls it the “schizoid verse of her life,” and The A.V. Club explains that Nicki “single-handedly justifies her deafening buzz with her verse on this song.” Rick Ross, also on the track, described watching Nicki record the verse “a moment in history.” But perhaps most significantly are the words of world-renowned narcissist and track creator Kanye West himself. During a 2013 radio interview, he said in the midst of a classic Kanye rant about Nike that I can’t say I follow: “It was like that moment, you know, when I thought of taking Nicki’s verse off of Monster, because I knew people would say that was the best verse on the best hip hop album of all time.”
Asking a girl out can be nerve-wracking at any age. Here we have a very funny video from NYC comedian John Purcell, all about the dangers of (a. asking out a co-worker, and (b. putting your foot in your mouth while doing so. If you’re off to a good start, definitely try to keep all of your appendages in place.
If there’s any consolation, at least this guy now knows how to laugh.
Another day, another self diagnosis contradicting state law. Stacey Hickox, a nurse who volunteered to fight Ebola in Sierre Leon, and registered a fever just three days ago, was sent to quarantine for 21 days on her return to the U.S. first by the state of New Jersey and, most recently, by the state of Maine.
The Maine nurse, openly defying an order to stay home after she treated patients in West Africa, sped off on a bike ride on a sunny morning with her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur. She returned after about an hour.
“I hope that we can continue negotiations and work this out amicably,” Hickox told reporters. “There is no legal action against me, so I’m free to go on a bike ride in my hometown.”
Authorities in Maine are pursuing a court order to enforce the quarantine through Nov. 10. Hickox says she is completely healthy and free of symptoms, and that the quarantine is unnecessary and unconstitutional.
They say doctors are the worst patients and this seems to prove it. It also seems that most medical personnel who’ve had contact with her think it’s unlikely she has Ebola. Or course if they were sure she had Ebola then they’d be treating her. But there’s always the chance she does have it. Thus, the 21 day quarantine which is intended to guard public safety.
Hickox thinks New Jersey and now Maine are being unscientific and overreacting even though home quarantine is exactly what everyone else exposed to Ebola has had to endure. The Governors of New Jersey and Maine believe it’s their responsibility to protect people’s lives from disease and they’re correct.
Who we are becoming is not completely determined yet. We never finish growing and changing for better or for worse, as long as we live. Whether we improve ourselves or regress and backslide, our spiritual, mental and physical levels are always in a state of flux.
Even if we don’t realize it, the people we are closest to and spend the most time with make a difference to our own mood and state of mind. It’s important to choose positive people in our lives who add, not detract, from our quality of life.
We BECOME the collective personality of those to whom we are closest. Their spiritual levels, mental levels, and interests become ours, and we in turn help shape who they become. We influence each other.
Surround yourself with people who embody the qualities you value. Choose friends whose thoughts and actions prove good character, social conscience, and integrity.
What kind of influence are we in others’ lives?
Our children, coworkers and friends are soaking up our positive or negative energy too, our cheerfulness or moroseness, kindness or disinterest. Are we helpful or hurtful to their development?
Don’t be the person bringing negative impact on someone else’s journey through life.
Surround yourself with kind, compassionate and honest people, and then be that person of good character to others around you.
Who do you find yourself spending the most time with?
Think carefully about the friends you are closest to and with whom you spend the most time in your social life, at work, and within your family. Identify them in your mind.
Do you respect and admire each of these people? Do you want to be more like them? If not, it’s time to stop giving up parts of yourself to their influence.
When we are surrounded by constant negativity, it will rub off on us, no matter how positive we try to be. Complainers and gossips insinuate their toxic thoughts into our consciousness and affect our thoughts and behavior.
It’s very hard to live in a constant barrage of negativity without it ever wearing you down and getting to you.
Of course you have a mind of your own. But unfortunately, negative emotions are contagious.
It’s like this: You might be physically healthy, but if the people you spend the most time with all have terrible colds, sneeze on you and hand you their used tissues, well, sooner or later you will catch the cold too. Bad attitudes are just as contagious as colds.
Spend less time with those who do not influence you to become a better person.
Obviously you can’t cut some people out of your life entirely, especially if they’re family members or coworkers. But you can try to cut down on your exposure to them and increase exposure to people who lift you up instead.
(Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about your friend who needs to vent because he lost his job or your sister who needs to sob on your shoulder because her spouse cheated. Being there for them is good and necessary. I am only referring to people whose personalities are habitually negative.)
Surround yourself with friends who will motivate you to keep growing and improving and succeeding.
What kind of person do you want to be? Who do you know who possesses the qualities you want to nurture? Those are the people to whom you should give your time and energy.
For example, if you want to lose weight, don’t go out to eat with the friend who doesn’t get it or doesn’t care about her own weight. Choose to go out with a friend who supports your goal and motivates you to do better!
If you want a better job, decrease the time you spend with your friend who calls in sick for any reason, complains, and works as little as possible. Increase your friendship and exposure with the ambitious coworker who is taking online classes to better herself and improve her situation in life. If you hang out with driven, successful people, their energy will affect you to feel more ambitious. Make sense?
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Think about the five people closest to you. Think about their strengths and weaknesses, their positive and negative points, good and bad personality traits.
Are they five people you would be happy to be the average of?
You are creating a piece of your future self every time you choose to spend time with an uplifting person or a slacker, a friend with integrity or a dishonest person.
We are in control over who we are, who we want to be, and who we may become. We choose whether to keep good company or bad. What does the company we keep say about us?
Whether you love or hate TSwift, you’ve got to admit – she has some great insight about dating.
“State the obvious, I didn’t get my perfect fantasy”:Unlike most of what Hollywood says, Swift points out that not all relationships are perfect. In fact, many are far from it. Sometimes instead of happily ever after, you’ve got pictures to burn, and that is perfectly OK.
“I shouldn’t be asking myself, ‘Why?’”: Your beau may do something stupid and hurtful that leaves you wondering what you could’ve done to prevent it. Stop it. Swift shows it’s not your responsibility to figure out their dumb mistakes—it’s theirs.
“I’ve found time can heal most anything”:Whether you’re 15, 25 or 50, there will be relationships that break your heart. You might not understand until later, or you might never truly understand, but the pain inside will eventually ease and go away. Just ask Swift.
“And I never knew I could feel that much”:You don’t have to settle for a relationship where you’re simply complacent. Love is full of emotions, even if they’re not always good. Swift really demonstrates how that kind of passion is important for a couple to thrive.
“People throw rocks at things that shine”:Just because people don’t understand your relationship doesn’t mean you should end things. Every couple is different, and Swift wants you embrace that difference. After all, this love is yours, not anyone else’s.
“Miscommunications lead to fall-out”:As Swift mentions, a lack of communication between you and your boo can lead to relationship failure. You should be clear about what it is you want, what makes you happy and what upsets you. How else will they know?
“You took the time to memorize me”:Know what makes your partner tick. Learn about their past and what they look for in the future. Swift sings about this as something that will encourage them to stay (stay, stay) because they know you truly get them.
“We are never ever, ever getting back together.”:Sometimes you just have to call it quits and move on. There is no use trying to make something work if it obviously doesn’t. Learn from Swift—know when to cut your losses and go find a relationship that works.
“Today was a fairy tale”: Take note of the little things. As Swift says, it might be the way they kiss, the way they stand there or something else, but hold on to it. It’s these little moments that will carry you through the tough times, so you’ll want to remember them.
“I go on too many dates”:Who’s to judge if you’re out there looking for the person who’s the perfect fit for you? The only way to find them is by dating, as Swift knows. So shake off what anyone might be saying about your pursuit of true love—you’ve got this.