Nicki Minaj is one of the most acclaimed and successful hip hop artists of this century, having nabbed 13 Top-5 hits and three #1s, while selling more than 100 million albums worldwide.
Yet, the rapper has yet to take home a Grammy Award. Why has Nicki Minaj never won a Grammy? What are the chances she will win one in the future? Let’s examine her history at the Grammys and her previous nominations to learn why she hasn’t earned recognition from the Recording Academy yet.
Nicki Minaj’s History of Grammy Nominations
Minaj broke through to the mainstream with her album Pink Friday, which produced hits like “Moment 4 Life” (with Drake) and “Super Bass,” her first top-5 hit.
She actually earned her first Grammy nod before that, in 2011 for “My Chick Bad,” a collab with Ludacris. The following year is when she became a big name at the Grammys, scoring four nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album.
Here’s the full list of Minaj’s nominations so far at the Grammy Awards.
Nicki MInaj Grammy Nominations:
2011 Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group (My Chick Bad with Ludacris)
2012 Best New Artist
2012 Album of the Year (Loud by Rihanna – featured artist)
2012 Best Rap Performance (Moment 4 Life with Drake)
2012 Best Rap Album (Pink Friday)
2015 Best Rap Song (Anaconda)
2015 Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (Bang Bang with Jessie J & Ariana Grande)
2016 Best Rap Album (The Pinkprint)
2016 Best Rap Performance (Truffle Butter with Drake & Lil Wayne)
2016 Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (Only with Drake, Lil Wayne & Chris Brown)
Why Hasn’t Nicki Won a Grammy? Examining the Competition
Minaj scored 4 nods in 2012. But she lost Best New Artist to Bon Iver, and she lost Best Rap Album to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
It’s hard to argue with Kanye winning that one, but the BNA loss is one that, in retrospect, she probably wishes she had won. Bon Iver has gone on to do great things, but Minaj has been just as impactful, and more successful on the pop charts.
“Moment 4 Life” with Drake had a good shot to win Best Rap Performance, but Kanye and Jay-Z took it home for “Otis.”
Minaj had two more chances to win in 2015. Her loss to Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Song was predictable. But the one many people really thought she would win was Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, for her Jessie J and Ariana Grande collab “Bang Bang.”
Somehow, though, “Bang Bang” lost to “Say Something” by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera. That one’s still a head scratcher all these years later. There isn’t much explanation, other than the fact that “Say Something” was the kind of sappy ballad the Grammys have historically loved.
After she released The Pinkprint, Nicki scored three more noms in 2016. But she had the misfortune of being nominated against Kendrick in all three categories, and nobody was beating him in the rap categories that year. He won all three.
In recent years, while the number of successful female rappers has exploded, with acts like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Saweetie, Doja Cat, and many others coming into their own, Nicki has taken a backseat at the Grammys. She hasn’t earned a nomination since 2016.
So why haven’t Grammy voters chosen her for anything? As noted, in half of her categories, she was up against Lamar, so she had no chance. But some of the other losses are harder to explain.
It’s very possible that some voters were forever turned off by her edgy 2012 Grammy performance of “Roman’s Holiday.” That performance featured an exorcism and drew criticism from the Catholic League.
Some of the Recording Academy’s more conservative members may have found that performance distasteful. But many controversial rappers, from Eminem to Kanye, have won lots of Grammys. So that can’t be the full explanation.
Another issue to consider is that many of Minaj’s hits – Super Bass, Your Love, Starships – are just as pop as they are rap, and that could play a factor in why the Academy hasn’t rewarded her. Much like the Weekend, Minaj straddles multiple genres, and therefore isn’t fully embraced in either. That’s unfair, but it’s how things sometimes work at the Grammys.
Further proof of that came when the Academy decided to move her single “Super Freaky Girl” from the Rap field to the Pop Field, which Nicki was rightly furious about.
Will Nicki Win a Grammy Next Year?
So what are the odds that Nicki wins a Grammy sometime soon? Given that “Super Freaky Girl” was moved to Pop, the odds are against her winning in 2023.
Unfortunately, people always like to move on to new, fresh faces, so as a veteran performer who’s been around for more than a decade, Minaj will have an uphill battle trying to win a major award like Best Rap Album or Best Rap Song.
Her best chance to win a Grammy might come as part of a collaboration. If she takes a featured slot on another pop banger like “Bang Bang,” she could conceivably nab a Grammy that way.
That’s how Minaj won her only BRIT Award (the British equivalent of the Grammys). She won Best Music Video as a featured artist on a Little Mix song.
I do believe Nicki MInaj will win a Grammy before all is said and done. Probably more than one.
Minaj definitely deserves a Grammy. But even if it doesn’t happen, that’s not the end of the world. Plenty of stars have never won a Grammy, including Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Bob Marley, Katy Perry, Sia, Blake Shelton, and Snoop Dogg.
And Minaj has captured numerous other music awards. As of this writing, Nicki has 4 Billboard Awards, 8 BET Hip Hop Awards, and a whopping 8 American Music Awards.
She also has 6 VMA awards, including the 2022 Video Vanguard Award, which is essentially a lifetime achievement award for music videos.
Why do you think Nicki Minaj has never won a Grammy?