Nicki Minaj is the pop icon of gen Z


Image by Achlys Cisneros

When I say this, I say it without a shred of doubt: Nicki Minaj is the pop icon of my generation.


You may protest and claim Minaj is a rapper, and therefore not a pop artist, but I ask you to ponder what “pop” means. Pop is short for popular, and since Minaj is a popular artist, her music can be considered “pop.”


But how does she beat out other contenders such as Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Beyonce or Madonna? It’s simple: none have had impacts even comparable to Minaj: socially or within their respective genres.


Madonna is ruled out automatically: she isn’t from my generation. Queen Bey’s influence has fizzled out over the years because R&B (unfortunately) isn’t as popular as it was in the 90s and 00s. Britney and Taylor have stayed in the limelight; Taylor almost strictly because of nostalgia (there’s a reason there are SO many Taylor’s Version remakes) and Britney because of her semi-recently terminated conservatorship.


Minaj has miraculously found a way to dominate an overwhelmingly male industry, stay in the limelight and influence women in a way we haven’t seen since the 1920s.


While it can be argued the music industry as a whole is male dominated, Minaj was a breath of fresh air for the rap genre and opened countless doors when she made her debut in 2004. Her impact on society can be heard everywhere– on the radio, on streaming services and even social media, female rappers such as Megan Thee Stallion, Saweetie and Cardi B. dominate popular culture. While I must pay homage to Queen Latifah (for essentially doing the same thing, only earlier) she isn’t eligible for my consideration of my generation’s pop icon for the same reason as Madonna: she isn’t from my generation.


Additionally, while looked down upon by many, Minaj empowers women with lyrics that encourage female personal liberation. In her risque songwriting, she pushes the boundaries of “acceptable” behavior for women, a paradigm shift reminiscent of 1920s flappers. Although several of the aforementioned contending artists have had titillating songs, none have been nearly as explicit or controversial. With the unnerving yet inspirational dominance of her stature and unapologetic attitude, it’s no wonder Minaj has had such a huge influence on women.