"And I just signed a chick named Nicki Minaj."
That line from Da Drought 3's masterpiece "Upgrade," an incredible freestyle of Beyonce ft. Jay Z's original single, was the first time most Lil Wayne fans ever heard of the now legendary Queens native rapper. Later on the mixtape, Nicki could be heard spitting her signature New York-style flow on "Can't Stop Won't Stop," in which Nicki rapped "He be Harry Potter and I be Hermione."
The relationship has only gotten better from there. And judging by success, comparing Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj to the world famous Harry Potter and Hermione Granger is a pretty accurate comparison.
According to Nicki, her first meeting with Lil Wayne went as follows:
"He saw me on the (Come Up) DVD and he said 'I gots to have that girl.' And he met me! I mean, who doesn't take a flight when Weezy F. Baby's on the phone? I hopped on the flight and met him. We had a long talk about business, and he was very serious. He said I want you to be down, and that's what he did. Then we started recording."Soon after, a star was born. Nicki Minaj has gone on to have 3 platinum albums since her debut, selling over 8 million copies worldwide. She has been featured on the albums of superstars ranging from Beyonce to Kanye West, and she has been the highest profile female rapper by light years in the last decade.
As far as why Lil Wayne was so excited by signing her, in 2008 Nicki said:
"I think he, as well as everybody else, realizes that there's a drought in the game right now, as far as female rappers. So, he's at his height right now, and it's only right that he introduces a brand new female to the game."Nicki, however, is not the only female Weezy has tried to put on. Unsuccessful attempts at bringing up Shanell and Chanel West Coast were both unsuccessful. Christina Milian had limited success under the Young Money Umbrella, but she already had her own fame from her successful past. The point is, Nicki Minaj was never a "token female artist" or an attempt at a gimmick to balance out the male dominated Young Money roster. For a time, along with Lil Wayne and Drake, Nicki WAS the roster.
There's no doubt that without the accomplishments, hard work, and well-deserved star power of Nicki Minaj, that Young Money, or YMCMB as a whole for that matter, would never have reached the New York Yankees status it reached with her.
Without Nicki, Young Money would have looked more like Batman and Robin for a while, with a probable eventual power struggle between Wayne and Drake for who continued to be Batman. But thanks to the counter balance of Nicki Minaj, Young Money was never viewed solely as a breeding ground of competition, it was viewed as The Empire.
Lil Wayne accomplished a rare feat in being at the absolute top of his game and choosing the perfect time to roll out new artists and allow his shine to help them come up.
Speaking about the effect Lil Wayne had on her career and how he helps her step her game up, Nicki said:
"Because he works so fucking hard. He shows me that no matter how hot you think you are. You can't (stop working). You have to keep that chokehold on the game because there's always somebody itching and ready to take your spot. And he works like it's his first day on the job, and I love that about him. It always inspires me like 'Damn, if Weezy is going this hard, I gotta step my game up.' Because I'm nowhere close to where he is."That example and inspiration from Weezy has helped Nicki Minaj to become not only a household name, but an internationally known celebirty with a fan base of "barbz" as loyal as they come.
The relationship between Nicki and Wayne has always been one of mutual love and respect. When speaking to MTV about their video shoot for her single High School, Nicki said, "Not only is he my boss, but he's also like my brother." She went on to say that while Wayne was being "crazy and funny" during the video shoot, teasing her, he also "refused to touch me, he's so respectful. He's a southern gentleman."
In rare behind the scenes moments of Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj hanging out, you get glimpes of what looks like two college students who are great friends, have sexual chemistry, and tease each other about it all the time, while trying not to cross the line.
In the video below, you can hear Nicki saying "This is a prime example of how he's just a regular boy and treats me like a regular girl."<iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Eh8d0w9ot1w" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>
Apparently Nicki was asking for some assurances of creative freedom as far as being able to do guest appearances, because Wayne responds "You can hop on anything you want. Pause. You can get on anything you want. Any song you want. Album, record, mixtape." Nicki: "Reallyyyyy?" Wayne: "Yeah. Yeah."
Nicki goes on to give a small speech about how Lil Wayne is the greatest and every other rapper in the game should get down on their knees to say thank you because he showed them all how to do it. That's some intense reverence and respect for her label boss, and friend.
In many instances since these, the love and respect have only gotten stronger. Nicki has brought Weezy out on stage at multiple shows, reiterated her love for him on Instagram multiple times, and continuously repeated the fact that he is "the Best Rapper Alive."
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Seeing a relationship such as this one stay so strong through 9 years of ups and downs, in an industry that can be as cut-throat as they come, makes Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj fans very happy, and at least a little bit proud.
Here's to a happy 10 year reunion next year, and many more platinum records to come.