Nicki Minaj has been a household in the rap game since 2009, giving us mixtape gems like ‘Itty Bitty Piggy’, her own take on Soulja Boy’s ‘Donk’ and ‘ I get Crazy’. Following on from that, she released her debut studio album Pink Friday which sold 375,000 copies in its first week – a feat no female rapper has been able to duplicate since. After Pink Friday she gave us Roman Reloaded, which spewed the international hit ‘Starships’ and cemented her in the mainstream limelight. The deluxe Re-Up edition bestowed to us songs like ‘I am your leader’, ‘The Boys’, and R&B classic ‘Right By My Side’. Then she dropped The Pink Print and songs like ‘Anaconda’, ‘Feeling myself’ and ‘Only’ were released, solidifying her as a hip-hop icon.
By this point Minaj had been carrying female rap on her shoulders for five years – and had also arguably outrapped many of her male counterparts – so it was only right to call her a rapper, not a ‘female rapper’. Between the autumn of 2014 and summer 2018, Minaj went her third world tour, having already surpassed any expectations of what a female emcee could amount to. After the tour ended in 2015, she maintained her cultural relevance in the way that no one can take away from her – guest features. She featured on Hits like ‘Side to Side’, ‘Swalla’, ‘Rake it up’ and Major Lazer’s summer song ‘Run up’; in this song she infamously stated that she would be dropping her fourth album and this was in early 2017, three years after the release of The Pink Print, so fans were extremely excited.
Then tragedy seemingly struck. Remy Ma, another female emcee, released the 7-minute song ‘Shether’ which lyrically tore apart Minaj’s career, life and family. It was at this point that a hate train started started to build up against Minaj, with the public starting to turn against her, because Remy had insinuated that Minaj was trying to ruin her career behind the scenes – something that was not at all true. Minaj then postponed the release of her Queen and went on a three-month hiatus to record her album. In this time fans went crazy as the music industry felt lost without Minaj’s presence mainly because we were all so used to seeing her all the time.
Upon her return to social media, she released ‘Barbie Tingz’ and ‘Chun Li’, with people initially leaning towards the lyrical ferocity on ‘Barbie Tingz’ and then turning to the more catchy rap song ‘Chun Li’. Fast forward a few months, and Nicki Minaj tells a reporter at the Met Gala that she’ll be releasing Queen June 15th; however, due to clearance issues of a track the album was postponed yet again and fans waited eagerly to see what Minaj would bring to the table. Keep in mind that by this point Cardi B had stormed into the industry, gaining a number one album in Invasion of Privacy – and people weren’t afraid to compare the two.
Nonetheless, on 10th August 2018, Minaj released Queen – to mixed reviews. Despite plenty of positive feedback from fans, it seemed like radio stations had a new favourite female rapper in Cardi B, and yet others felt the release underwhelming in comparison to her previous work. However, if there is one fanbase that should not be messed with its the Minaj’s loyal Barbz. As a result of radio stations blackballing her fans banded together to stream Queen as much as possible, helping the record go platinum. This made Minaj the first female rapper to have all her albums certified at least platinum.
Queen is, in my opinion, her most “hip-hop” rooted album and can be compared to Beyonce’s 4 (which saw Beyonce going back to her R&B rots after her 3rd pop orientated album). The record is a rollercoaster of emotions, with the opening track ‘Ganja Burns’ alluding to Minaj’s legendary status in the music industry: ”You can’t wear a Nicki wig and then be Nicki / You gotta have real skill gotta work for that / If it’s really your passion would you give the world for that”. Contrary to what others might believe, she is not ‘coming for’ or dissing anyone: she is merely letting the world know that she is here to stay forever . Other songs on the album like ‘Barbie Dreams’ and ‘LLC’ show off Minaj’s lyrical ability with artists like Biggie, JAY-Z and Busta Rhymes coming to mind as she shows her ability to rap quickly and enunciate well over a beat and still maintain a killer flow all while delivering killer rhymes. Songs like ‘Come See About Me’ and ‘Niptuck’ give weight to Nicki’s past relationships, what she went through in them and how she has grown (“I never needed you / You must have thought I did”). These songs, alongside ‘Run and Hide’, showcase just how strong Minaj’s vocal abilities are – let alone her songwriting skills (she is a registered songwriter in the music industry having written for females including being a guest writer on Remy Ma’s album).
Fast forward to now, and Minaj has successfully finished the European leg of her Nicki WRLD tour. Meanwhile, Remy Ma has not charted since her diss track – going to show that Nicki Minaj is a legend in these streets and a very powerful hip hop-force to be reckoned with. With all things considered, we will just have to wait to see what else she has in store for us in future.
Queen is available now via Young Money/Cash Money Records.