Nicki Minaj's pop sensibility is strong -- her Billboard chart history is proof enough of that. But it was her ferocious flow that helped her climb out of obscurity in Jamaica, Queens, to pop's biggest stages.
Despite anything Peter Rosenberg might have to say about it, homegirl has bars for days. She's gone toe-to-toe on record with some of rap's heavyweights (and a few lightweights, to be sure) and more often than not bodied the male rappers she's appeared with.
Here are 10 of our favorite examples of Nicki showing up her male counterparts.
Meek Mill - "All Eyes on You" (feat. Chris Brown & Nicki Minaj)
The first dude on this list is also the one closest to her -- her partner, Meek Mill. Meek is the struggle rapper that made it, and unlike Nicki, he's had trouble making a pop crossover. She tried to lend him a hand here on this pop-leaning single with Chris Brown, but she ends up out-rapping him. Meek does his best to add his own spin on a famous Biggie verse, but Nicki shows him up, freaking Meek's flow harder than he does.
Meek Mill - "Froze" (feat. Lil Uzi Vert & Nicki Minaj)
For his DC4 mixtape, Meek tries the same formula, bringing in young'n-of-the-moment Lil Uzi Vert to join Nicki on a radio-friendly single. It would be unfair to qualify what Uzi does on the track as "rapping," but per usual, it's Nicki's bars that leave jaws dropped: "Pussy wet, Swiffer Jet/ Come through on that bigger jet/ We land in them new ports -- no, babe, not cigarettes."
French Montana - "Freaks" (feat. Nicki Minaj)
French Montana is not what you would call a "rapper's rapper" -- he's more of a vibe consultant than an MC. So it's really not fair to compare his verses to Nicki's, but hey, he's the one who featured her, not us. One reason Nicki is so impressive is her ability to adapt her flow to whatever beat she's rocking, slipping in and out of the pocket with ease.
Drake - "Up All Night" (feat. Nicki Minaj)
Like most of Drake's verses, his two sets on "Up All Night" are passable, but Nicki's personality and ambidextrous flow is what shines here. She turns the awkward pause and stutter into a work of art, never losing the beat like a stumbling practitioner of drunken boxing: wobbly but untouchable. Again, the male rapper on the track sets the style and tone, then Nicki picks it up and does it better than he does: "F--- I look like, ho?/ I-I-I look like yes and ya look like no/ I-I-I'm a bad bitch I ain't never been a mixed breed/ I'm on a diet but I'm doin' doughnuts in a six-speed."
2 Chainz - "I Luv Dem Strippers" (feat. Nicki Minaj)
Nicki rarely ventures outside the lane of bragadoccio, money, haters and sex -- what sets her apart is a relentless energy and incredible flexibility when it comes to rocking a beat. Here on 2 Chainz's ode to exotic dancers, she changes the pace and diction of her flow several times, with a graceful ease that makes 2 Chainz's "Mr Telephone Man" riff seem rudimentary.
Nicki Minaj - "Roman Reloaded" (feat. Lil Wayne)
Few people could keep up with Lil Wayne in his prime, but 2012 Wayne is not that. In this mailed-in verse, he does his best to do a Nasty Nicki impersonation, but it falls flat. For her part, Nicki takes a cue from Wayne's sports reference shtick, calling out the most emotional member of the Miami Heat championship triumvirate: "I hear the slick shit, bitch you washed/ All you hos cryin', Christopher Bosh."
Big Sean - "Dance (A$$) Remix (feat. Nicki Minaj)"
On one hand, getting Nicki on the remix for his song about big booties was a no-brainer for Big Sean -- few backsides have as much exposure as hers. But she also knows her way around a freaky butt rhyme, and Sean should have known that "Bounce that ass, it's the roundest/ You the best, you deserve a crown, bitch" just wasn't gonna cut it. Nicki's verse is filthy from top to bottom, but our favorite line has to be "Kiss my ass and my anus, cuz it's finally famous."
Nelly - "Get Like Me" (feat. Nicki Minaj & Pharrell)
Nelly was so busy with silly ass lines like "then count the bitches 1,2,3" that he never saw Nicki's fire verse coming, flexing her own personal patois to make some bizarre rhymes work: "Uh! I'm the shizzniyee / you should follow my example, bitch, i.e. / cuz I'm front row, Isaac Mizrahi / In the truck but I ain't suck diznayee."
Yo Gotti - "Down in the DM" remix (feat. Nicki Minaj)
Yo Gotti certainly tapped into the pulse of the public with this treatise on the private side of social media -- those direct (and "private") messages. But he's no wordsmith, and doesn't even really try to compete with Nicki on this remix. And she reminds him just how blessed he is by her presence: "If it go down on your DM, then baby boy you lucky / cuz 99.9 percent of these fuck boys can't fuck me"
Kanye West - "Monster" (feat. Jay Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver)
This is the one that forced the "real hip-hop" clowns to fess up -- homegirl can spit. All of the verses that made this track from Kanye West's Fantasy do their best to capture the monstrous theme, but none of them come even close to stepping to Nicki. She tries on multiple accents, changes the pace of her flow in the middle of her verse, and effortlessly switches from a squeaky Barbie to a terrifying monster, the only MC on the track to succeed at fully manifesting the concept. It's awe-inspiring.