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Growing up in an Orthodox Christian household, I would use the hour before my mom got home from work to sneak and savor Nicki Minaj’s breakout mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty . (To this day, the click of a door lock makes me jump.) Her over-the-top alter egos, particularly her slips into a British accent, fascinated me. And I appreciated how she didn’t rely on curses to bolster her lyricism; after I was allowed to listen to secular music, my mom would hear lyrics like “bad woof woof, flier than a frisbee” and not get suspicious.

Later, in college, my friends and I built a reputation for forcing party hosts to play the tape’s heartstopping salvo “Itty Bitty Piggy.” Standing in a circle, everyone recited the hilariously theatric outro like the pledge of allegiance: “I don’t even know why you girls bother anymore—give it up! It’s me! I win! You lose!” If you walked in on the party, you would have thought we were performing an incantation.

Though I’m now an ex-Barb for ethical reasons, Nicki’s justifiably arrogant drive on Beam Me Up Scotty still inspires me. “In the end it’s… gonna be about who wants it the most, and I want it the most,” she explains on the intro. For better and worse, she’s stuck by that affirmation. –Heven Haile


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