In a way, the evolution of Nicki Minaj from Baisley Blvd.-dwelling MC to global pop phenomenon begins with her hair.
In 2008, the Southside Jamaica, Queens, lyricist was still on her mixtape grind, and her look reflected that. In fact, the Playtime Is Over rapper looked like a lot of girls from the Q-borough: makeup from MAC, oversize hoop earrings from the Colosseum on 165th Street and down-to-there Remy extensions courtesy of the beauty supply.
But by the time Lil Wayne's protégé dropped her platinum Pink Friday debut in November 2010, it wasn't just her new MAC lipstick that was pink — her locks had taken on the otherworldly candy color, too, giving her a pop finish atypical of female MCs. Terrence Davidson, who had worked with a stream of femcees from Trina to Remy Martin, saw an opportunity.
"It was like, 'Wow, finally, in my time someone wants to do this,' " the Atlanta hairstylist told MTV News on the eve of the release of Minaj's sophomore effort, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. "Because I've been wanting to do this for years," he added of his shared fondness for "out-the-box" hair experiments. "It's just I hadn't met the right artist that wanted to sit down and make this work."
The two teamed up in 2010 after Davidson gushed to a mutual friend about Nicki's scene-stealing turn in Ludacris' "My Chick Bad" clip. The stylist drew on his background competing in hair battles and his obsession with comic books like "X-Men" to push Nicki further into the realm of fantasy. Before the dye had dried on his hands, tweens from Queens had a Barbie they could relate to and high-end fashion rags like Vogue had a cover girl they couldn't resist.
For Minaj's infectious "Super Bass" video, Davidson said they didn't know what direction they would take. The YMCMB princess had just a few directives ("fun, colors"), he said. And from that, they created the wet-and-wavy green and pink looks that magically marry her glam and gritty personas.
But for the Rihanna-assisted "Fly," Davidson did a bit more pre-set preparation, which included painting zebra stripes onto a white Mohawk wig after Nicki mentioned she was feeling animal prints. "I really didn't think she was gonna wear it," he admitted of the superhero look, "but when she walked on the trailer, she was like, 'Whoa.' "
The theatrical wigs can present occupational hazards, though, as Davidson learned with the "high-top" fade (we call it the Bride of Frankenstein look) he created, also for "Fly."
"We were trying to figure out how to get her in the car then out with it," he laughed. "I was looking at the video thinking, 'I think it got crooked from hitting the roof!"
In February, MTV News' #4 Hottest MC in the Game told us that she loved being on the list "because it gives little girls in Southside Jamaica, Queens, or South Africa or Brazil a moment to say, 'Oh wait, I can be a female rapper!' " But to Davidson, Minaj's impact extends far beyond the rap hustle.
"Nick's doing it for everybody, not just women not just female rappers but for everybody who wants to be different because her music is not right here," he said, gesturing at his chest. "Her music is so many different levels, from pop to R&B to rap. And she's opened up a lane where it's just hers — and nobody else can really mess with it."
To celebrate the release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, we will be examining the "Evolution of Nicki Minaj" throughout the week. Check MTV News every day to see how the Southside Jamaica, Queens, Barbie went from a promising mixtape standout to rap's reigning queen.