Nicki Minaj is one of the biggest musical artists in the world today, so it’s hard to imagine there ever being a time when she wasn’t a superstar. But there was a time when that was the case when she was still under the tutelage of Lil Wayne.
Minaj’s drive and work ethic eventually led to her career flourishing, but at one point, her working habits caused Lil Wayne to kick her out of the Young Money group, according to labelmate Jae Millz.
Nicki Minaj had a strong work ethic from the start
Nicki Minaj is known for her work ethic. Earlier in her career when she was still relatively unknown, her management had her on a strict schedule, constantly making music and working to book shows. Millz explained what Minaj’s life was like at that time during a recent interview on the Bootleg Kev Podcast.
“Nicki, if you remember at one time, was managed by Deb, Waka [Flocka] moms,” Millz said. “And Deb had her working, had her out there with Gucci … It got to a point when we started going out—because we used to record a lot in Atlanta, Miami, s–t like that. But now, when Carter 3 come out, Wayne [is] on the road.”
Nicki Minaj began booking her own shows and building her fanbase
After The Carter 3 came out, everything changed for the artists associated with Young Money. Suddenly, opportunities were more abundant, and Minaj knew to strike while the iron was hot.
While Lil Wayne toured the country with Young Money to promote his record-breaking album, Minaj was hard at work recording her own music and doing shows in smaller venues. Eventually, things got to the point where she’d built up a sizable fanbase nationwide.
“So Nicki, at that time she was booked. … She’s building like, her own Nikki Lewinsky—she building her own little thing,” Millz said. “In them clubs, she was getting them—getting bags. While we ride on the bus with Wayne, and you know he’s bringing us out, she’s doing that too. But she might have a bag to get in South Carolina or here, here, here.”
Lil Wayne questioned Minaj’s intentions
While many found Minaj’s work ethic admirable, Lil Wayne began to have concerns about where her loyalties lied.
“And I think he started to feel like—he never wanted nobody to feel like they was better than another artist. … Wayne was looking at it, I think, like ‘Nicki doing her own thing,’” Millz said. “ I think Wayne was looking at it on some s— like, ‘Oh, she’s trying to be over here and over here, and kind of see which one pops first.”
Lil Wayne kicked Nicki Minaj out of Young Money
Since Young Money was still a new rap group, nobody knew how things were going to play out. However, Minaj’s behavior made Wayne believe she may have been hedging her bets. This led to him kicking her out of the group.
“You gotta remember it wasn’t no ‘Every Girl in the World’ yet, it wasn’t no—we was just Wayne’s crew,” Millz said. “But Gucci was still Gucci. Like, French wasn’t big, big, big French Montana yet, but he [had] Coke Boys … So he don’t know if Nicki was… Like you f—ing over here, you f—ing with us, or are you with them? … I think he just had one of them days where he was like, ‘She ain’t Young Money no more.’”
Lil Wayne changed his mind shortly after
Millz made sure to clarify that the separation between Minaj and Young Money was never official. Lil Wayne may have told one of the executives in the organization about his feelings, but never publicly kicked her out of the group. After some thought about the future of the brand, he decided to bring her back.
“I think he told Mack [Maine] or [Cortez Bryant], ‘Yo, we put in too much work to just let her go. Tell her I said…’ You know what I’m saying? And then she was back on the road with us.”