Nicki Minaj's 2010 debut full-length Pink Friday produced six singles that peaked inside the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 and has since been certified triple platinum. The culmination of several years of mounting hype, the album springboarded off of Nicki's recent appearances on radio smashes like Young Money's "BedRock" and Kanye West's "Monster," and before those, a triptych of mixtapes: 2007's Playtime is Over, 2008's Sucka Free, and 2009's Beam Me Up Scotty.

Nicki grew up in Jamaica, Queens and studied acting at Manhattan's famed LaGuardia High School. MySpace was instrumental to her earliest successes, as it was for Drake, A$AP Rocky, and many of her contemporaries. She was initially a member of the hip hop quartet The Hoodstars, which also included her former beau Safaree Samuels. She eventually ditched The Hoodstars, uploaded a handful tracks to MySpace, and started to get noticed by people in the music industry. Her talent was evident, but it wasn't until she appeared on the street DVD "On the Come Up" that her career definitively took off. Her mean flow and strong New York accent, in alliance with her busty figure, caught the intention of Lil Wayne. Wayne promptly installed Nicki as the first lady (Nicki used to say that she was Wayne's "mistress"—more Lewinsky than Hillary) of Young Money.

While Nicki's career has been wildly successful, it has also forced her to compromise at turns at adhere to certain industry trends. Playtime is Over, Sucka Free, and Beam Me Up Scotty present a more pure view of the artist she set out to be, and are essential in understanding the artist she has become. Today is her 35th birthday; let's celebrate by revisiting some of the best tracks from her early mixtapes.