Nicki Minaj is fully aware that she is a queen. And it’s not because her fourth album holds this prestigious title (or that she grew up in Queens, N.Y.), but rather due to the fact that she has been the leading woman of rap and hip-hop for the more than 10 years. The reason that Minaj has had such longevity lies in her ability to be a well-versed artist who can work flawlessly with other contemporaries in different genres.
With each and every fire rhyme, the blunt lyricist embodies the spirit of every scorned woman who’s been dealt a bad hand in male-dominated fields including hip-hop.
But at the core of her acclaimed rap catalog, the sounds of R&B are the most prevalent. Since the beginning of her superstardom in 2010, Minaj’s versatility has been summoned by some of the most respected names in the genre including Beyoncé, Chris Brown and Mariah Carey.
To celebrate Minaj’s 36th birthday today (Dec. 8), Rated R&B has compiled a list of her best R&B/hip-hop collaborations and to prove she is capable of doing it all while still maintaining her throne.
Usher featuring Nicki Minaj — “Lil Freak”
(Peak: No. 8 on Billboard Hot Hip-Hop/R&B Songs)
Minaj was fairly new on the scene when this bop dropped. Despite being paired with an R&B legend like Usher, the rapper’s verse shines by being eclectic and offering a taste of her raunchy punchline bars.
Mariah Carey featuring Nicki Minaj —“Up Out My Face”
(Peak: No. 38 on Billboard Hot Hip-Hop R&B Airplay)
During her debut era, Minaj checked off a list of elite collaborators including Mariah Carey. At first glance, this collaboration seems to be an unlikely match. But as soon as the thumping bass swoops in the track, and Carey starts vocalizing with her airy falsetto, you realize this duo was destined to convene for this. Minaj’s flashy appearance had some stand out bars too. “All up in the church, he was sneakin’ with the deacon / Cats away while the mice play / LOL, smiley-face, have a nice day,” the witty rapper spits.
Trey Songz featuring Nicki Minaj — “Bottoms Up”
(Peak: No. 2 on Billboard Hot Hip-Hop/R&B Songs)
Ahead of her debut album, Minaj was employed as a featured artist who delivered the goods on each and every track. “Bottoms Up” was no different. For this club anthem, Minaj unleashed her famed alter-ego “Roman Zolanski” to hit on a bevy of topics including Anna Nicole Smith and allusions to Mary and Joseph.
Nicki Minaj featuring Rihanna — “Fly”
Lifted from her Pink Friday debut, this motivational record revealed another facet of Minaj’s songwriting. She went for a more empowering approach while positively affirming her rising status in the industry. Rihanna sounds beautiful on the chorus, as it is the glue that holds this record together. But make no mistake, even on a lightweight track like this, Minaj’s rap skills shine brilliantly.
Keyshia Cole featuring Nicki Minaj — “ I Ain’t Thru”
(Peak: No. 54 on Billboard Hot Hip-Hop R&B Airplay)
This brash mid-tempo record summarizes what makes Cole and Minaj so formidable. The former brings the soul and attitude that a song like this requires, while the latter makes sure the narrative has a decent level of conviction in order to sell the boss-like message. “Plus I’m in the big boy and it’s not a rental / Shit ain’t sweet unless it’s the Presidential,” brags a testy Minaj.
Nicki Minaj featuring Chris Brown — “Right by My Side”
(Peak: No. 21 on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)
This pop jam was a match made in heaven. Brown brought an infectious chorus to the forefront, while Ms. Minaj glided through her rap verses and dabbled in the singing realm. In spite of Minaj’s singing chops being criticized by some, here she sounds light and unhinged.
Nicki Minaj featuring Cassie — “The Boys”
Savory and sweet: that’s what this unlikely collaboration brings to the table. Minaj provides grit by uttering bars that boast her immense commercial status. Cassie adds a fluttery vocal on top of a sugar synth that made this entire record an irresistible treat for fans of top 40 radio.
Alicia Keys featuring Nicki Minaj — “Girl on Fire (Inferno Version)”
(Peak: No. 11 on Billboard Hot 100)
On this seismic record, Minaj unearths a chance to momentarily ditch her saucy rapping and opt for more conventional storytelling. She does a vivid job at recounting her battle with demons and self-doubt, while embedding her lyrics with slightly elevated vernacular as well.
Ciara featuring Nicki Minaj — “I’m Out”
(Peaked: No. 4 on Billboard Hot R&B Songs)
A ladies anthem between Ciara and Nicki Minaj is everything we needed in 2013. Not interested in allowing her impressive mainstream catalog to plummet on a feature, the rap star delivered a standout verse that enhanced her self-titled LP. She named dropped her Moscato drinks, three a firm nod to Lil’ Wayne and shamelessly bragged about her glorious tatas.
Chris Brown featuring Nicki Minaj — “Love More”
(Peak: No. 3 on Billboard Hot R&B Songs)
For their second collaboration, Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj go toe-to-toe on a raunchy track. The two exchange sexual innuendos and other suggestive gestures. One thing that sticks out about their hyperactive song is that they both share the limelight and mesh well together. But secretly, Minaj’s usage of pop culture references and subtle double entendres makes her lyrical prowess epic.
Trey Songz featuring Nicki Minaj — “Touchin, Lovin”
(Peak: No. 1 on Billboard Rhythmic Songs)
Nicki Minaj has never been coy about her bedroom antics, and this song gave us a close glimpse on her views about sex. In a magnificent role reversal, Minaj posits herself as the dispenser of sexual joy. Even on playful bops, Minaj is capable of making her audience shift their perspectives.
Mario featuring Nicki Minaj — “Somebody Else”
(Peak: No. 21 on Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay)
Produced by Polow Da Don, the fire track showcases Minaj in a vulnerable state. As enticing as she is when she’s being a beast, she often shows the most promise when she lets down her borders and allows the audience to take a peek at her soul. Here she reflects on how troublesome love can be, while never relinquishing the love she has for herself.
Robin Thicke featuring Nicki Minaj — “Shakin’ It 4 Daddy”
In 2010, Robin Thicke and Nicki Minaj joined forces to take us to the dance floor for an ass-shaking jam. In rare form, the then-emerging rapstress took center stage on the club-ready track twice and snatched poorly secured wigs with her blazing verses. “Cuse me, what happened? I’m flyer than a robin / I’m flyer than an eagle, yeah, Donavan McNabbin / And wen I pop dat pussy, I pop it on his Suzuki / I pop it so crazy cookie, I’m rockin them daisy dukies,” she raps.
Nicki Minaj featuring Beyoncé — “Feeling Myself”
(Peak: No. 8 on Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay)
Beyoncé managed to stop the world a year earlier with the release of her self-titled album. A year later, Minaj recruited Queen Bey to do it again with this conceited collaboration. And although Yoncé gets one of the most memorable sections of the song, Minaj’s verses cement this iconic collabo as a pivotal music moment in 2014.
Jason Derulo featuring Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign — “Swalla”
(Peak: No. 12 on Billboard Rhythmic Songs)
Accompanied by funky synths and a tropical beat, “Swalla” is tailor made for getting people out of their seats. Jason Derulo and Ty Dolla holds down the fort with their delectable sounds until Minaj comes in swinging her bars of steel. She makes covert jabs about her reign in the industry, quipping that she had given the girls “two years” to hone their skills.
Nicki Minaj featuring Jeremih — “Favorite”
(Peak: No. 44 on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)
If we had to be honest for a moment, this record featured some of her best lyrics on The Pinkprint. Applying a Romeo and Juliet-esque storyline, the two muse about wanting each other badly but realize they’re stuck in dead-end relationships. Minaj’s flow sound here is relaxed but precise. “I don’t wanna hype ya / But you a lucky nigga if my mean ass like ya” is a perfect encapsulation on the vibe of this song.
August Alsina featuring Nicki Minaj — “No Love” (Remix)
It’s moments like “No Love” where you realize how brilliant Minaj is an artist. On this hood classic, Onika knows when to come hard, as well as, spot moments of levity where she can coast in and do her singing thing. She could have opted for an entire verse of cadences to fit with Alsina’s own vocals, but she saw this feature as a getaway to tap into both dimensions.
Beyoncé featuring Nicki Minaj — “Flawless (Remix)”
(Peak: No. 5 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay)
Minaj owned her first collaboration with Beyoncé. From calling out Michael Jackson’s shamed doctor in a sly but vicious bar to bragging playing the co-pilot to Yoncé, the rap diva took no prisoners as she blazed through this surprise joint track. Their first venture embodied girl power, as well as magnified their reign in their respective fields.
Nicki Minaj featuring The Weeknd — “Thought I Knew You”
(Peak: No. 9 on Billboard Hot R&B Songs)
On this cathartic record, Minaj peeled back her hardened persona and delivered a passionate reflection on the tumultuous occasions of her life. It doesn’t take a scientist to unearth that some of her lyrics talk about her explosive relationship with Love & Hip-Hop Hollywood star Safaree. But Minaj never shies away from exposing her truths, especially when it allows her own metamorphosis.
Follow Edward Dave on Twitter at @Eddy_564.