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Nicki Minaj was one of the biggest names in music throughout the 2010s. Starting with a slew of impressive features with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, and other A-list artists, she went from the Trinidad immigrant whose last name was Maraj to the character that fans know and love today. However, Minaj regrets her name change, and she’s spoken at great length about why that is. 

Onika Tanya Maraj

According to Britannica, Onika Tanya Maraj was born in Trinidad but spent most of her life in Queens, New York. There, she developed the nickname Nicki, which friends still called her leading up to her rise in hip hop. Minaj didn’t have an easy childhood. Her father struggled with addiction, and her mother and brother were all she had. However, she developed a love for hip-hop and built off her La Guardia High School theatrical experience to grow into the performer she is today.

Minaj didn’t just want to be a female rapper; she wanted to show that women could be as hard, lyrical, funny, and provocative as male rappers. She developed a persona that alienated her personal life from the one she lived and let her reach her ultimate goal of music superstardom. However, one aspect of her new persona still eats at her today. 

Becoming Nicki Minaj

Rapper Nicki Minaj
Rapper Nicki Minaj | Ray Tamarra/GC Images

Minaj doesn’t mind her fans calling her by her stage name. However, she doesn’t want those who knew her as Onika Taraj Maraj to do the same. During an interview with The Guardian in 2012, she spoke about the rules of addressing her with those who go back long before her stage persona became an international superstar.

“I don’t [like my name],” she said. “My rule is, whatever you were calling me four years ago is what you should be calling me now because I don’t like it when my family or close friends call me Nicki Minaj. To me, I’m not Nicki Minaj when I’m with them.”

According to the rapper, her family name is a testament to her roots. However, someone at the record company wanted something that slipped off the tongue and sold her provocative nature. 

“Somebody changed my name. One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be Minaj and I fought him tooth and nail. But he convinced me. I’ve always hated it.” she said. However, the rapper learned to embrace it not as a change in identity but as a character who would let her reach her ultimate goal. “I feel it’s like one big theatre piece. It’s a show.”

All in the name


Nicki Minaj’s Favorite Musical Artist Isn’t Who You Might Assume It Is

While rappers like Kanye West opt to rap under their real names,  Huff Post notes that monikers are as old as the art itself. From Sean Carter, better known as Jay Z, to Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Calvin Broadus’s Snoop Dogg. A rapper’s name can be a picture of who they are, or in the case of Nicki Minaj and Eminem, a persona they take on the stage. 

It’s easy to assume that the artists we see on stage are the same people behind the scene. This is often the case. However, many performers, not just in hip hop but every aspect of creative life, create a persona so that their personal lives no longer matter. Minaj may love the success she’s had in the industry, but she doesn’t want her name to be the reason why. 

Whether she’s Roman, Nicki, Onika, or something else, Minaj is one of the best female MCs in history, and as such, the name is here to stay. Her thoughts, however, paint a fantastic picture of just what it’s like to be an artist as they build their brands into something new, unique, and accurate to the art they’re trying to sell.