3. NICKI MINAJ

This is the year that Nicki Minaj transitioned from our favorite new rapper to legitimate pop superstar. Her debut album Pink Friday hit No. 1 in its eleventh week of release, she performed on Saturday Night Live, toured with Britney Spears, and her single "Super Bass" also topped the charts. She ended the year on a high note by beating out Kanye West and her mentor Lil Wayne for "Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist" at the American Music Awards.