Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: A Cheat Sheet

Young Money mic-ripper's hotly anticipated major-label debut is finally available for the Barbie army.

Zealous shoppers may plan to shut down malls on Black Friday, but Nicki Minaj’s buzzed-about debut, Pink Friday, is expected to shut down the hip-hop game.

The Young Money empress’ major-label effort is one of the most hotly anticipated debuts in recent rap history due to a perfect storm of blue-chip co-signs, jaw-dropping features, a high-profile femcee scuffle and Minaj’s status as one of the most unique characters in music.

Within the span of a few short but super-packed years, Minaj rose from a sassy chick from Queens cluttering street mixtapes and viral videos with her “Ether”-worthy lyricism to a bewigged tour de force to be reckoned with. Her razor-sharp bars on “The Come Up” DVD series and the landmark Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape demonstrated her undeniable mic skills, but it was her alignment with both Atlanta sensation Gucci Mane and Young Money boss Lil Wayne that positioned her as a potential game-changer.

“Wayne is my sensei. That’s what I call him. He calls me his ninja. ‘Ninja Nicki,’ ” Minaj told MTV News in 2009.

It wasn’t long before she was getting the stamp of approval from another superstar Carter. The Jay-Z nod led to a collabo with crooner Robin Thicke, and soon she was playing dress-up with Mariah Carey in the “Up Out My Face” video and stealing the scene on posse cuts like Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad”. The femcee spent the better part of 2010 establishing herself as the collabo queen, adding an extra dose of kink to Usher’s “Lil’ Freak,” shaking up the remix of Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Hello Good Morning” and swinging around Trey Songz’s steamy “Bottoms Up” video . Rick Ross enthused that the raptress’ contribution to Kanye West’s “Monster” proved that “she’s one of the greatest.”

But she didn’t neglect to further the Minaj movement with her hotly anticipated solo debut track “Massive Attack.” Minaj also didn’t shy away from the avant garde in her first visual either, cruising down a desert road in a pink Lamborghini with sheared siren Amber Rose in tow and writhing in a jungle with emerald-green locks to the synthy clicks of the Sean Garrett-assisted joint.

“I kinda always like to do things in an unexpected fashion,” Minaj told MTV News on set. “I didn’t want to shoot the typical new-artist vision.”

“Attack” set the precedent for Minaj’s staunchly atypical videos, like the #1 hit follow-up “Your Love,” in which the MC battles for the heart of her samurai lover in a stylized forest filled with billowing curtains. Like the Annie Lennox-sampling “Your Love,” Minaj’s joint “Check It Out” resurrected another pop jam, the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and introduced fans to multiple futuristic copies of the MC and her Black Eyed Peas collaborator will.i.am.

Although she was always seemingly game to hop on a feature, Minaj put the creation of her debut first, even dropping out of Rihanna’s Last Girl on Earth Tour in April to focus on the effort. Months before she pulled out of the trek, Minaj told MTV News that she didn’t want to throw together a slap-dash album with establishing her star power as a female rapper.

“With the album, just like with my mixtape, I never like to rush it,” she said in February . “With the album, I think it’s more important that people get accustomed to seeing a female rapper again. Before I drop an album, people need to come out and see. People don’t even know what a female rapper does. We’re so not used to seeing it. It’s nonexistent in categories. We don’t get nominated. I need to work [the people] up to accepting a female rapper again and accepting my style and all of that — then the album will come.”

And just as she wanted it, Minaj nabbed the accolades before releasing her debut. Even before the album hit shelves — or had a title — she racked up awards for her stacks of hit collabos, including an MTV Video Music Award nod for Best New Artist and an MTV News Hottest Breakthrough MC nomination and a BET Award . By early August, the lyricist maintained that “the album is progressing miraculously.”

“It’s been very exciting to finally just make music that I love and not really having to incorporate myself on someone else’s record,” Minaj said . “I’ve been having a really great time.”

Despite the major hype surrounding her forthcoming release, the pink-haired diva did admit to once being afraid to “put out an album for fear of failure.” However, an outright flop would be especially surprising in light of the chart-topping success of many of Minaj’s solo joints and the instant buzz that cropped up around Friday cuts like the Eminem team-up “Roman’s Revenge.”

Minaj’s outsize fame is not the result of just her music. Her zany-yet-seductive persona and membership in the hitmaking Young Money camp are also factors in her ability to corral a hard-core Barbie army. There’s also the sometimes-flirtatious relationship with and short-lived e-marriage to Toronto heartthrob Drake , which has captivated fans. She’s carved out a signature fashion sense that swings from vampy to streetwise to loopy. And unlike most of her peers, she has skyrocketed to hip-hop fame as a woman; a journey that has its own unique set of challenges.

Since the summer, Brooklyn lyricist Lil’ Kim has been accusing Minaj of jacking her style and refusing to lace the “Crush on You” spitter with the appropriate amount of props. The back-and-forth between the two has played out in interviews and on wax, with Minaj getting increasingly aggressive and suggesting that certain lyrics on “Revenge” could be aimed at the Queen Bee.

Despite the drama, fans have been amped for the debut LP from the first female rapper to make MTV News’ Hottest MCs list . Fans will also get a chance to delve deeper into the star’s personal life in the forthcoming documentary “Nicki Minaj: My Time Now,” which follows the lyricist as she records her album and grapples with her newfound fame, which premieres Sunday, November 28, at 10 p.m. ET/PT, just days after Pink Friday finally lands in stores.

What are you expecting from Pink Friday? Let us know in the comments!

Open the floodgates! It’s Mega-Release Week, with Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Ne-Yo, Ke$ha, My Chemical Romance and Lloyd Banks all dropping new albums. Stick with MTV News for everything you need to know about the brand-new music.

Don’t miss the documentary “Nicki Minaj: My Time Now,” premiering Sunday, November 28, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV!