It's her madcap acrobatic flow that made Nicki Minaj a star in the first place, but perhaps the most intriguing aspect of her career is her commitment to tackling every part of it like her male peers. She's met or exceeded all of the career milestones of the best of the male rappers (the number one albums, the pop crossovers, the headline-grabbing feuds, and more than a few legendary verses), and has never been content to be just the "best female rapper alive." She's wanted to be the best. Period. And she's done it with bravado and no qualms about calling out double standards along the way.
So, now that Minaj announced her retirement hours ago on Twitter, we have to ask Is she really packing it in after less than ten years in the spotlight or is this just another hip-hop milestone on her checklist?
"I’ve decided to retire & have my family. I know you guys are happy now. To my fans, keep reppin me, do it til da death of me, [x] in the box- cuz ain’t nobody checkin me," she wrote. "Love you for LIFE."
The announcement is not totally out of left field. On a Queen Radio episode in August, Minaj announced that she had acquired a marriage certificate with boyfriend Kenneth Petty and would be married in the "next 80 days." Though, as has become something of a recent trend amongst celebrities (see: Justin and Hailey Bieber or Heidi Klum), Minaj suggested that she'd have a small ceremony to get the legal matter of marriage out of the way and then have a large wedding celebration later. At the time, she seemed fully committed to putting out a new album.
“I have to work on my album and I have a lot to focus on that I don’t want to do the big wedding now. We’ll do the big wedding later,” Minaj said.
Now it remains unclear if that album will ever come out.
Though, announcing an early retirement has become something of a hip-hop milestone.
Take Minaj's mentor Lil' Wayne for example. Back in 2011, he announced his plans to retire before 35 much for the same reasons Minaj cited: to spend more time with his kids. In both 2012 and 2014, he confirmed that his album The Carter IV would be his last. In 2016, he Tweeted that he was finished his career before The Carter V did actually come out in 2018, and later in that year he told Billboard that he doesn't actually plan on retiring anytime soon.
All the way back in 2003, Jay Z held a "retirement party" concert for himself at Madison Square Garden after the release of The Black Album. That retirement didn't last long. He released another album in 2006, and four solo albums since.
Other rappers too, like, Waka Flaka Flame, Logic, and Juvenile have announced premature retirements as well only to continue on records. And though it's not a phenomenon strictly limited to rap (see LCD Soundsystem or, perhaps most famously, Cher), the idea of a rapper coming out of their early retirement has definitely become a trope.
So, who knows. Minaj has liked some Tweets lamenting her retirement, but considering the fact she already had an album in the works and isn't above a little bit of trolling we'll wait a bit to let this sink in.