A History of Nicki Minaj's Endlessly Complicated Love Life and Why She Prefers to Play Coy in Public

From her eternal platonic love for Drake to more than one boyfriend who spent time in jail, the Queen rapper has consistently kept fans on their toes

By Natalie Finn Dec 11, 2018 10:48 PMTags
Nicki MinajCharles Sykes/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Remember when Drake tweeted that he had married Nicki Minaj?

The could have been the end of it. Two rap super-stars, both fairly fresh on the scene, finding each other and deciding to hang on tight on this crazy ride we call life.

Obviously that quickly turned out not to be true (oh, celebs and their self-perpetuated Twitter hoaxes), but think of all the dating flow charts and spread sheets that wouldn't have ever been made if those two had taken each other off the market in 2010.

Instead, Drake went on to alternately pine for Rihanna and date a slew of women, including, sort of, Jennifer Lopez and Serena Williams, before fathering a son, Adonis, last year with French artist Sophie Brussaux. And Nicki...

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Well, it turned out that she was taken long before Drake ever rapped "F--k it, me and Nicki-Nick getting married today/ And all you bitches that be hating/ Can catch the bouquet" on her song "Moment 4 Life" (their faux nuptials made so much more sense in hindsight).

But it wasn't until after their relationship imploded, did Minaj truly confirm that she had been with Safaree Samuels for over a decade.

In fact, Minaj has offered up a pretty traditional view of love, marriage and motherhood—in that order.

She told Complex in 2014 that her biggest fear was not taking the time to settle down, to live her "personal life to the fullest."

"If I'm done with my fifth album and I don't have a child by then, no matter how much money I have, I would be disappointed, as a woman, because I feel like I was put here to be a mother," she shared. "I have definitely put off the wife thing because I don't want people in my business. I'd rather not do anything that's going to be on paper but I definitely will be married before I have my baby. I want to make sure I do it in that order. I've always felt like that since I was young; my mother always put that in my head. By the fifth album, I will have walked down the aisle and I will at least be on baby number one, possibly baby number two...And have $500 million."

And it sounded as if she and Samuels, at least at one point, came pretty close to taking that step.

Mike Pont/FilmMagic

"My relationship was based off of love, and there still is nothing but love there," the Queen artist told Power 105.1's Angie Martinez in December 2014. "This is not some person I picked up off the street. This is somebody I grew up with. Like, I don't even know how I'm gonna function without that person in my life. I've never lived my life as a famous person without him."

Despite him always being in her orbit, Minaj and Samuels were the opposite of public—but her choice to not broadcast her love for him on Instagram didn't have anything to do with what their partnership meant to her in real life.

"I don't think people realize it's not just a relationship or breakup," she continued. "That was a humongous part of my life. It is something that I am dealing with publicly and it's not easy. I'm also not gonna joke about it or try to disrespect him and try to act like he didn't mean the world to me and still doesn't mean the world to me. I'm just figuring it out."

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Days later, their split spilled over onto Twitter, where she seemed to be accusing him of backstabbing her by using their breakup to fuel his own hype, which he denied in tweets that are still up (as opposed to hers, which were swiftly deleted).

"im doing interviews about my s--t and s--t im promoting.. not 1 thing said im doing interviews about nicki. yall sound ridiculous," read one of Samuels' tweets. Among Minaj's: "Wanted fame. I gave u my blessing. I still love. I still love. I still love. I'll always love. So disappointed."

He replied, "im dissapointed too.. ur doin something to me publicly that the public doesnt know your doing but your the victim cuz ur famous.. smh.'

Samuels made the requisite pilgrimage to 105.1's The Breakfast Club in January 2015 to speak his piece, saying, "I walked away. I'm not going to say I broke up, but I'm the one who walked away. I packed up my stuff and I left."

He continued, "I just got to the point where the respect wasn't there. Everyone around her works for her, you know? So it got the point where it was like, I'm your man. I'm who you go to sleep with every night. I'm who you wake up with every morning. And it got to the point where I was being treated like an employee, instead of like her man."

"I would never do anything publicly to try to pull her down," Samuels also said. "Whatever happens between me and her one on one is what it is, that's personal. I would never put that out there. I could be out here telling a million stories and doing cornball s--t, but I'm not gonna do that and I never plan on doing that. I just think it's crazy for her to come out now and try to pull me down and try to say I'm corny. I don't care who you with, who you with don't mean nothing to me. I want you to move on, because I'm moving on. I walked away from the situation."

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Talking to Rolling Stone for its Jan. 15, 2015, issue, Minaj said that after the breakup (the aftermath of which she tackled on The Pinkprint), "I had to learn to do something as simple as sleep alone. I struggled with 'Do I express these feelings?' And I decided there's no reason for me to hide. I'm a vulnerable woman, and I'm proud of that."

Sleep alone in the "bed of lies" that Samuels referenced on his 2015 track "Love the Most"?

But yes, Minaj wasn't the only one who referenced their relationship and its messy end in song, such as on "The Crying Game": "Ain't no smiling faces here, we slamming doors and dishes / Saying we don't miss each other, but it's all fictitious." (She also attested to her fidelity on Watch What Happened Live, telling Andy Cohen, when asked who had the most sizable junk in hip-hop, "I've never seen anybody's penis in the industry, actually. I saw one penis for 10 years. That's all I'll say about that.") 

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By the end of 2014, there were already rumors that she was dating Meek Mill, buoyed largely by his presence on her songs "Buy a Heart" and "Big Daddy."

"We're friends," she said, almost audibly rolling her eyes in an interview with L.A.'s Power 106. "He's dope."

He was also newly out of jail, having served five months in Philadelphia for violating his parole in a 2008 gun and drug possession case. Upon his release he was sentenced to five more years of probation.

Prince Williams/WireImage

But apparently the "Amen" rapper grew on her romantically, because in February 2015 the twitterverse became convinced that they looked way too cozy to just be friends. That April, Nicki showed off a tremendous diamond ring.

"If that's who she decides to move on with, it is what it is," Samuels had told The Breakfast Club. "I'm not mad, I'm not bitter because if I wanted to make it work, I could've made it work… He don't owe me nothing. He's not the childhood friend I grew up with."

"It's definitely real," Mill told The Fader in April 2015 (referring to their relationship, but maybe also the ring...), "but it ain't really time to get married yet. We're still learning each other, feeling each other out."

The magazine describes an exchange Mill had with T.I. in Miami, where the latter congratulated the former on his engagement, only to be informed that he wasn't actually engaged.

"You never asked her, 'Will you be my girlfriend?' But she is your girlfriend," T.I. pointed out. "You may not have asked her, 'Will you marry me?' But you are engaged." The philosophical T.I. concluded, "I've said my part. As long as you know what's going on."

Well, someone must have known what was going on.

Jeff Kravitz/AMA2015/FilmMagic

But in the great chronological mishmash that is the nature of breakup music, Safaree Samuels dropped "Love the Most" in June 2015, rapping, "Twelve years up in flames / Thought you woulda had my kid / Year three got engaged / Now we movin' out of rage."

He claimed he felt like a "motherf--kin' fool" watching Minaj kiss Nas in her "Ride by My Side" video—and he seemed to call out her relationship with Meek: "That's between me and you, it was always me and you / We ain't do this off opinions / It was only me and you / Then you let somebody new come and whisper in your ear / Didn't think he woulda told you that was my biggest fear."

Minaj, already having addressed the issue in song, took to Twitter, writing, "God gave me a good heart. I always let ppl get over on me way too long. But that's why I'm blessed. I'll always b blessed. May God keep u." Then she added, "And just for the record, I'm in love with meek," she wrote. "Lol and now I have a huge smile on my face."

She added, "Making a 12 yr relationship work at such young ages? We're BOTH the real MVP. things got rocky at the end but we had a GREAT run. #B4Ujudge."

Her rocky time with Samuels has continued to come up, however, thanks to general curiosity, as well as lingering speculation that he ghostwrote some of her music—even though they both have flatly denied it

"Towards the end it got toxic and I just packed up and left," the Love & Hip-Hop star tweeted in August, part of his response to a sweeping interview Minaj gave to Hot 97's Funk Flex. "I did things for spite and so did you. I don't wish you bad and I don't want us back together just like I'm sure you don't. I don't need you you don't need me but we will always be linked in the public no matter what." He also, incidentally, accused her of stabbing him at some point.

Meanwhile, she accused him of stealing from her, writing, "U stole my card & told me you thought it was an account with "free money" that I didn't know about. On God. God will strike you down & more for lying. Ha! Stop saying u packed & left ! On Jesus u came to my house CRYING BEGGING to go w|me to Europe to the EMA's. I said NO DUMMY."

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The first round of Minaj-Mill breakup rumors started flying in July 2015 after some sub-Instagramming, Nicki quoting Beyoncé ("Thank God ya blew it!!! Thank God I dodged the bullet!!!!") and Meek captioning a glum-looking photo of himself, "Even bosses got feelings ya kno?"

But they survived the summer and Mill gifted her with a second massive diamond ring—however, neither diamond 1 nor 2 signified a betrothal.

"He and I are not engaged," Minaj clarified in Billboard's "Year in Music 2015" issue. "But he said he would like to give me three rings before we get married."

However, she added, "I don't know what's going to happen with he and I. I just know right now we are really, really enjoying each other's company.  So, shout out to everybody in the world that's just trying to find love or be happy."

Fair enough. And they had moved in together in Los Angeles.


"I watch Investigation Discovery all day. All day," Minaj shared with Billboard. "Like, I know everything about law and crime-solving. Everybody that comes to my house, they're like: 'Do you not take it off this channel?' Meek thinks that I'm planning on killing him. We live together now, and every time he wakes up, it's on. Every time he goes to sleep, it's on."

In addition to her general inclination to joke splashily about the stuff that doesn't matter and keep the real deal very private, perhaps Minaj didn't want to share too much because of the tribulations her boyfriend was facing in real life.

Minaj went to court on Meek's behalf in December 2015, testifying before the judge who was deciding whether the Philly native deserved more jail time for violating probation (by ignoring various travel restrictions in place as part of his sentence), "He doesn't have a lot of structure. He can be irresponsible. Since I've come in his life, I think I've been working on that a little bit... He's just getting accustomed to being an adult."  

As a testament to Meek's stability, his lawyers said their client was seriously considering getting married.


Every little bit helped: In February 2016, the judge sentenced Meek to 90 days of house arrest and another six years of probation—but no jail time. And Mill seemed to appreciate his girlfriend's nurturing ways.

Minaj told NYLON for its April issue, "When he and I were just friends, he would always say, 'You remind me of my mother, and I like that because you're like a dude. You're tough like a guy and you talk like a dude.' So, I always got the sense that me being tough and bossy was a turn-on for him. And it's important for me to keep my voice. Being in a relationship shouldn't mean that you lose your voice. Being in a relationship should mean that you've met a secure-enough man to allow you, in a sense, to remain a queen."

Minaj reiterated on Ellen that the third ring would be The One, but echoing what Mill said almost a year prior, the "Super Bass" rapper explained, "We're still figuring each other out. And in fact, I don't even want to say that I'm in a relationship anymore, because I think when people hear that, they go to like the mean place and try to like...[pick it apart].

"Not you, though," she assured Ellen DeGeneres. "You're super. I love you to death." If we've witnessed anything over the years, it's Ellen rooting for all the young couples out there to succeed, and for all the young singles to meet their match.

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"You know, I used to be secretive," Minaj continued. "I used to say, 'I'm not in a relationship,' even though I was in a 12-year relationship. Now I feel like just going back to that and saying, 'You know what? I'm single.'"

Alas, less than a year later, that was the truth.

"To confirm, yes I am single," Minaj tweeted on Jan. 5, 2017. "Focusing on my work & looking forward to sharing it with you guys really soon. Have a blessed New Year."

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It wasn't long before dating rumors struck again. This time, the man of the hour was her old pal Nas—and of course Ellen was quick to catch on.

Courtesy Bennett Raglin

"There's a rumor y'all are dating, and if it's true, I'm all for it. I love him so much—ever since 'One Mic.' That's where I first found him," DeGeneres told Minaj when the rapper returned to her show in May 2017. "He's fantastic and a really good guy."

"He's so dope," Minaj agreed. But after singing his praises a bit, she added, "I'm just chillin' right now. I'm celibate. I wanted to go a year without dating any man. I hate men." (Ellen concurred and the audience laughed.) However, "I might make an exception to the rule for him, because he's so dope." Ellen encouraged her, "I'm all for that, because I think he's fantastic."

Well, Ellen would have been very pleased to know that the two artists were casually dating, but despite knowing each other for years, were very slowly exploring being more than good friends.

Famous Friends

Minaj and the "Mad" singer dated primarily long distance until the end of 2017, when they split up amicably. TMZ first reported the breakup in January, mainly due to the logistical difficulties.

While hard at work on what would become Queen, Minaj did seem to take a timeout from dating, though she sucked everyone back into her is-she-or-isn't-she orbit when she traded flirtatious tweets with Eminem in May after a fan asked if she was dating Marshall Mathers, who appeared on "Roman's Revenge"...and she replied, "yes."

Amy Harris/Invision/AP

"Girl you know it's true..." Eminem wrote to her. Nicki tweeted back, "Babe I thought we were gonna keep it on the low til the wedding. Yikes. I'll talk to you when I get home."

OK, so haha, joke's on that one fan.

Checking in again with Ellen in August, Minaj happened to mention that there were two men in her life (not including Nas, whom she was "still good friends" with): "There is a new boy, but he and I have kind of fell back a little bit." And then there was an even "newer" boy.

"He's been around for a couple weeks now," Minaj added. "But I don't have a boy."

Curbing Ellen's excitement, she insisted, "Look, I'm just chilling. I've always been in a relationship my whole life. I was in a relationship since I was 15 years old. This is the first time that I'm single, and I'm happier. I'm more free—and it's OK. I used to feel like I had to have a man, I swear. My whole adult life I felt like I had to have a man. I want the women out here to know you absolutely don't."

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She also clarified a couple other things for the record: "I was in a relationship with Meek for a while, which ended, and it was a very toxic something. But we had some good times and we ended that. And then, Drake? I've never been in a relationship with Drake." (In case anyone aside from Ellen was still wondering about that.)

Swan Gallet/WWD/Shutterstock

So it was nothing to get in a tizzy over when Minaj started hanging out with Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton this summer.

Meek Mill, meanwhile, became a face of the ongoing quest for criminal justice reform after he was sent back to prison in November 2017 for violating his parole, having been arrested in March 2017 for alleged assault at a St. Louis airport, and then in August 2017 for alleged reckless driving and reckless endangerment. The charges were dropped, but he was sentenced to two to four years in prison. Mill's lawyer Joe Tacopina told Billboard that the sentencing judge had a "personal vendetta" against his client. "We're going to appeal until this gets rectified and it will get rectified. I'm sure of that."

Mill was released on bail in April, with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office recommending that his original conviction on the gun and drug charges should be vacated due to "credibility issues" regarding a police witness to the original arrest. 

"Today, Meek Mill, a son of Philadelphia, is a free man," Jay-Z  wrote on Facebook when Mill was released. "He was incarcerated unjustly and caught in a probation trap for years by a broken system. Now we can celebrate his release. We thank every individual that has supported and fought alongside Meek every step of the way."


Tony Tran/ Global Media Group

A judge shot down the request for a new trial in June, but Mill's team has appealed to get her removed from the case, since it's the same judge who handed down the most recent prison sentence, alleging that she "acted like a prosecutor, not a judge."

"This time when I went to prison a lot of people stood up for me and a lot of people stuck their necks out for me at my roughest time in life," Meek said in September as he accepted the Impact Award at the 2018 Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players Event. "So I thought it was only right if I use some of my platform and my power to actually reach back and help the people that stood up for me in my worst times."


So the battles that Mill has been fighting have been a bit more consequential than the likes of Nicki vs. Cardi B or Nicki vs. Kylie and Travis.

But Nicki was there for Meek when he needed her and she isn't one to go running when the going gets tough. 

Enter her latest rumored beau, Kenneth Petty, reportedly an old sweetheart of hers from when she was a teen in New York with whom she has since rekindled the flame. His life was on hold while he served prison time for attempted rape and manslaughter. He was convicted of the former in 1995 over an incident that occurred when he was a teenager and the victim was 16; according to TMZ he spent four years in prison for that, after which he had to register as a sex offender.   

When the Instagram crowd started to get rowdy in the comments section on a pic of the two, she chimed in: "He was 15, she was 16... in a relationship. But go awf Internet. y'all can't run my life. Y'all can't even run y'all own life. Thank you boo."

According to documents obtained by E! News, Petty was also sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter in 2006—for "shooting a man," according to TMZ, which reported that he was released after seven years.

"Oh they wanna talk? Let's give'm smthn to talk about," Minaj captioned a couple of photos of her and Petty intimately hamming it up, posted Monday.

At least when Nicki Minaj tells people not to judge, she practices what she preaches.