Projects Released This Decade: Pink Friday, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, The Pinkprint, Queen
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Anaconda,” “Super Bass,” “Till the World Ends,” “FEFE,” “Bang Bang”

As much as it may pain some people to admit it, Nicki Minaj is the most important female rapper of this decade—and quite possibly of all time. She kickstarted her historic decade with a feature on Kanye West’s “Monster,” which represented a career-defining moment and an introduction to the larger-than-life imagination of Nicki Minaj. After conjuring up breathless anticipation for her studio debut with a string of stellar guest performances on Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Usher’s “Lil Freak,” and Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up,” Nicki released Pink Friday. The album showcased her knack for dramatic alter egos (“Roman’s Revenge”), clever punchlines (“Did It On’em”), and melodramatic singing (“Your Love,” “Right Thru Me”). It was a departure from her previous mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, with less hardcore Queens raps and more theatrical bars, and her oversized personality shone brightly enough to inspire a generation of girls who followed her every move (right down to the pink hairstreak). Pink Friday just missed the top of the Billboard 200, debuting at No. 2 on the chart, but it achieved the second-highest sales week ever for a female hip-hop artist, behind Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Following that success, Nicki had enough self-confidence and audacity to claim everyone was her son. She also knew how to move through the upper echelons of mainstream music better than most of her peers. If Pink Friday was a foray into pop territories, Roman Reloaded maintained her dominance, further solidifying Nicki’s crossover potential with the international anthem “Starships.” During the two-year gap between her second and third albums, Nicki reminded fans of her early mixtape days, unleashing the all-bars-no-fluff singles “Lookin Ass” and “Boss Ass Bitch.” Then The Pinkprint arrived, concluding her trifecta of Pink albums. This is where Nicki seamlessly connected all of her sides: animated sex appeal on “Anaconda,” braggadocious rhymes on “Only,” and female empowerment on “Feeling Myself.”

The decade ended with a stumble (Queen), but throughout the past 10 years, Nicki Minaj has always been a trendsetter, continuously redefining what it means to be a crossover rapper. She’s also set new standards for women in the music industry, breaking Aretha Franklin’s record for most Hot 100 entries by a solo female artist. With a resume like that, it’s time to put some respect on her name. —Jessica McKinney