Gyptian- Hold You
Quotable: "Aiyo Gyptian tell dem fi gwaan, eviction/ Dis one yah it a di bad gal edition"
We've heard Nicki experiment with patois more than once (her well-placed appearance on French Monatana's dancehall-infused "Freaks" comes to mind) but never quite as successfully (or ambitiously) as on Gyptian's North American breakthrough, "Hold Yuh".
Nicki opens her verse with a couplet that somehow merges the style with hashtag rap, a both bizarre and intriguing code-switch which may take you a couple listens to fully unravel.
When she drops the Jamaican dialect for some more straight ahead brag-raps, Nicki delivers some awesomely multi-syllabic punchlines-- the highlight coming when she rhymes "bacon bits" with "dalmations, bitch".
DJ Khaled- I Wanna Be With You
Suffering From Success (2013)
Quotable: "I wanna be where the commas will be/ But I need a hood nigga with the llama degree"
Nicki uses the dynamics of instrumentals to her advantage, always finding the perfect moment to flip her flow. The YM rapper opens her verse (and the song) with some deceptively dense multisyllabic rhymes. When the beat drops, she drops the very-Nicki line "N*ggas be fallin' in love with this pussy", which-- almost perfectly aligned with the bassline --hits extra hard because of its exact placement.
The verse continues to ride rhyme schemes out before closing things off with one of her more infectious melodies-- demonstrating her pop side without sacrificing any of her ferocious rapping ability.
Big Sean- Dance (A$$)
Finally Famous (2011)
Quotable: "Bitches ain’t poppin’, Google, my ass/ Only time you on the net is when you Google my ass"
Dance (A$$) could easily be dismissed as a novelty (and will probably have an infinite shelf-life as just that) if it were not for Nicki's scene-stealing verse. The YM rapper peppers her contribution with plenty of vocal inflections, including holding a record-breaking note on the final syllable of Wakiki(iiiiiiiii).
Of course she catches her breath to brag about her very famous rear end, calling everyone out for googling her booty (she's not wrong, it's right there in the auto-fill).
Nelly- Get Like Me
Quotable: "Back of the ‘Bach slumpty, Humpty Dumpty/ On the back of the bike, these stunts be comfy"
A Nelly comeback album is a weird way for Nicki and Pharrell to work together for the first time, but we'll take it. While this would've been one hell of a Nicki solo single, her verse is enough to come back for repeat listens-- not to say Nelly faceplants by any means, but his 2 verses in their entirety contain less charisma than Minaj's opening couplet.
Pharrell is back on his bongo shit on this one, which much like "Drop It Like It's Hot" or "Mr. Me Too" makes pretty much any punchline sound like the word of god, especially if it's landed on the 4th bar of the phrase.
Nicki is weary of this, and pulls out some of her funniest and catchiest wordplay for the occasion.
Diddy- Dirty Money- Hello, Good Morning (Remix)
Last Train To Paris (2010)
Quotable: "Like 11 hundred horses when I switch that gear/ Swerve on them sorta like I missed that deer"
Let's start this off by saying the Diddy-Dirty Money album was extremely underrated, and ahead of its time, and you should probably listen to it at least once a week until Puff eventually becomes the president of the United States and its accepted as our national anthem.
With that out of the way, let's look at "Hello, Good Morning", a futuristic, EDM-predicting banger produced by the "unstoppable" Danja, a man partially responsible for two of the most important pop albums of the last decade (Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds and Britney Spears' Blackout).
This frenetic backdrop is a perfect fit for Minaj, who was at her most spastic, blurting out the lyrics of ODB (of whom Minaj bares a stylistic resemblance) like a Rap Genius editor with Tourette's. The propulsive energy of the song helps feed this side of Nicki, without ever letting her stop to catch her breath.
2 Chainz- I Love Dem Strippers
Based On a T.R.U. Story (2011)
Quotable: "2 Chainz, you fucking crazy, motherfuckers know I'm fucking crazy/ Fuck wrong with these bitches lately?/ Bitches better get on they knees and praise me"
Before she released her official stripper endorsement, Nicki Minaj fell in love with exotic dancers on a 2 Chainz song. Always one to adapt to her surroundings, Nicki tries on a southern flow, sounding like a more ambitious Tity 2 Necklace.
Much like Chainz, Nicki goes comedic on this one, comparing her bitch-stealing abilities to menopause before closing with one of her most outlandish punchlines ever-- which she later explained for those who didn't catch it the first time- "hundred-thousand dollar engine, I wish a bitch could... like the little engine that could".
Meek Mill- Dope Dealer
Dreamchasers 3 (2013)
Quotable: "She want me cause she see me in that Aventador/ Pull up on the curb so crazy, I done bent the door"
Nicki Minaj may just have two of the best verses on Meek Mill's Dreamchasers 3 mixtape. The rapper really proved she was on the second wave of her feature binge with those two contributions, and as precisely as she nails Future's "Karate Chop" flow on "I B On Dat", "Dope Dealer" is where her uniqueness really shines.
One thing Nicki doesn't get nearly enough credit for is how she tries to bring out new flows in every track. In a rap climate, where trendy rhythms get ridden into the ground (Migo's triplets for instance). Not only does Minaj display plenty of fresh deliveries here, she never sticks to one for more than four or so bars, making the verse as unpredictable as it is technical.
Drake- Up All Night
Thank Me Later (2010)
Quotable: "I got that kinda.. wait, wait, fixate/ Which bitch you know made a million off a mixtape?"
It's not often Nicki DOESN'T show up her collaborators on features, but her verse on "Up All Night" is very much the centerpiece of the track-- which is no small feat, as she's going up against some pretty stiff competition (though Thank Me Later-era Drake did generally leave something to be desired lyrically *ducks*).
The 16 contains easily one of her most quotable lines, "which bitch you know made a million off a mixtape?", which pretty much sets her up for world domination.
Trey Songz- Bottoms Up
Passion, Pain & Pleasure (2010)
Quotable: "I'm wit a bad bitch, he's with his friends/ I don't say 'Hi', I say 'keys to the Benz'"
"Bottoms Up" is Nicki at her most maniacal-- which is saying something. It's also an interesting place to go full basket case, as the song is otherwise a low-risk R&B single, free any kind of weirdness or eccentricity whatsoever.
This only heightens the slap-in-the-face effect that Nicki's 16 delivers, as she goes back and forth between different cadences and deliveries, sounding something like the cartoonish dialogues Eminem created on "Criminal", but always very much herself.
Her use of repetition is also impressive, incorporating it not in a Migos-esque mantra-style, but instead a stuttered start to a line-- like a chain saw revving up to full speed.
Kanye West- Monster
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
Quotable: "Hotter than a Middle Eastern climate, violent/Tony Matterhorn, dutty wine it, wylin'"
There's not much left to be said about "Monster". Arguably the best verse on an arguably classic album, "monstrous" does not even seem like a big enough word for what Nicki did to Kanye's track.
Ye apparently pushed Nicki to rewrite her original verse for the song, but he ended up getting more than he asked for. Kanye and Jay Z sound like mere mortals next to Minaj's otherworldly (not to mention batshit-crazy) assault of the senses.
An easy parallel is Busta Rhymes' immortal guest verse on A Tribe Called Quest's scenario, a rapper unsatisfied with simply destroying everyone else on the track, but also forcing the entire song into a black hole through the swirling chaos of the final verse.
The fact that this was a breakout for Nicki in many respects will always be tied to the way its remembered. It may be viewed as her most thrilling moment, but it should never be seen as her peak. Her year in verses alone has proved that flimsy narrative false.