It’s been almost three weeks since the “Queen” herself, Nicki Minaj, released her fourth studio album, Queen. Following its release, the focus has been on everything Nicki has been doing/saying, rather than the album itself. From her unorthodox, outlandish tweets, Instagram posts and videos, to the uncut, raw episodes of her new “Queen Radio” show on Beats 1 Radio, the emphasis has not been (due to her own social media madness) on what we waited four years for… her album!
Including 6ix9ine’s “FeFe” record (which I surprisingly love so very much!), Queen holds 22 tracks (two of which were added to Target’s Deluxe Edition of the album) and sonically, it’s one of Minaj’s most unique projects yet. Featuring talents such as Eminem, Ariana Grande, Foxy Brown, The Weeknd, Future, and Lil Wayne, Queen shows Nicki returning back to the fundamentals and focusing on that form of rap that caused us all to fall for her nearly 10 years ago.
She sets the tone for the album first with the dancehall-styled “Ganja Burn.” This track alone immediately reminds all of the haters, doubters, and fakers exactly who Minaj is. While throwing what seem to be some direct jabs at Cardi B, Minaj addresses the haters, the authenticity of her pen game, abstaining from sex, praying and fasting, and still maintaining her crown as one of the best (if not the best) female rapper in the game right now. She brings her trademark appeal with clever wordplay, metaphors, and flow. Initially, it was a record I personally slept on, but I actually do think it is one of the best records on the album.
The “Queen” theme continues with the Eminem and Labrinth-assisted “Majesty.” For me, the emphasis on this record lies with Eminem, who takes on the role of the king on the track. He literally took the track and turned it into his own. Even weeks after the album’s release, I am still trying to process each and every lyric he said on the song. With production credits, Em blazed through the record like an unstoppable freight train. In a current period, where music is so watered down and lifeless, the verse was truly more appealing than 90% of the music that has come out this year. Labrinth brought a classic appeal with the flawless chorus. Last but not least, Nicki boasts her recent credentials and accolades (collaborating with MAC cosmetics, starring in Mercedes-Benz’s A-Class Campaign, etc.). She starts the record saying, “I got the money and the power now. The G5’ll get out there in an hour now.” She brags about her wealth, power, and status, while even joking about the “Nicki Challenge” that started after her video went viral of her boarding her jet to fly to Prague. Let’s be real, a Nicki album could not be a Nicki album without a braggadocious track.
One of my utmost favorite tracks arrives at “Barbie Dreams.” Nicki’s 2018 take on the late Notorious B.I.G’s “Just Playing (Dreams),” instead of rapping about popular female R&B singers, she decides to go in on the males, targeting prominent male figures in both sports and hip-hop. The Queen named artists such as Lil Wayne, Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug (I cried at his reference), Eminem, 50 Cent, and more. Sge basically went in on everybody and it was literally one of the most entertaining moments on the album. Nicki’s flow was so classic, magical, and effortless that you almost forget that she actually is roasting some of your favorite male artists. Listeners can tell that she had fun when she made the record and it shows! Moments after the song dropped on Beats 1, Nicki immediately cleared up any rumors of the song being a diss. She made it known that she was playing and she loves everybody that she joked about on the record. She tweeted that it was basically for the culture and that she wanted to do what B.I.G. did on his original record. Honestly, the song is not even Nicki’s hardest work, but it was still done so amazingly. “Barbie Dreams” is just one of those records that you can play over and over. It has timeless quality is very fun and playful.
Queen’s singles (the ladies trap anthem, “Rich Sex”; the boldly aggressive, “Chun-Li”l and the mesmerizing, Ariana Grande-assisted “Bed”) served their purpose for keeping fans excited and calm, while she worked relentlessly on the rest of the album. I will say I appreciate their positioning in the album, as they fit perfectly as the mood switches throughout the project.
The next standout arrives with “Hard White.” Nicki gets right to it with her pen and further paints this image of a queen who simply will not be removed from her throne. Following “Majesty,” Nicki furthers her theme of being the queen of rap. Using dynamic wordplay and double entendres, Nicki addresses the clowns that want to be like her, bite her style, and even try to profit off her. She throws a quick shot at Remy Ma and possibly one at Eve. She reminds the haters that they could never be in her position, they could never be at the top, and they simply will never be the queen.
Of course, there are some filler songs on the album that I don’t necessarily feel were needed. Tracks like “Thought I Knew You,” “2 Lit 2 Late Interlude,” and “Run and Hide,” “Miami” are not that great, and honestly, do not stick enough for me to want to keep playing them. They are… cute. They contain catchy choruses with rather rudimentary lyrics and delivery. They don’t really showcase what Nicki really can do, and because of that, I prefer not to hear them. What keeps them somewhat relevant I would say is that catchy appeal. They truly are not stimulating for me, but “Come See About Me” is vintage Nicki. As Nicki stans and lovers know, she always adds some form of pop flavor to her projects. While it is not a terrible song, it’s not really for me. I’m here for the foot-on-the-neck, full throttle rap Nicki.
“Chun Swae” is definitely another favorite. Nicki and Swae Lee effortlessly ate the record. Swae delivered the modern day hip-hop rockstar vibes with his ghostly chorus. Nicki applies pressure, giving us the animated voices, speedy delivery, and comical bars. Her flow here makes me think of “Beez In the Trap” and I love it. The production is immaculate and easily flows with the energy Swae and Nicki were radiating on the song. Again, Nicki alludes to herself as a Barbie. She basically brags about everything… ranging from her body, looks, her winning streak as the reigning top female rapper in the industry and more. She literally stunts on this record. She starts feeling herself so much to the point that she just starts shouting out her team at Republic Records, Young Money Entertainment, and Cash Money Records halfway through the track.
Between Nicki’s demeanor, the production, and the complete feel of the entire song, “LLC” is a TOP favorite on the album. Just from the first line — “I just took her name and made the b*tch an LLC” — the energy is pure COCKINESS. Nicki talks her sh*t and does it unapologetically. This record instantly transports listeners to that nostalgic mixtape Nicki. She gives pure bars. Her flow is crisp and she holds nothing back on the sick production. She tells the listeners no one could ever go toe to toe on any track with her. She makes it clear that whatever “competition” record labels try to cook up in the lab, they will all crumble beneath her. She boasts about her awards collection, skill as a writer, and her wealth. She again aims shots to whomever that applies, stating that she pays not a soul to write anything for her. She even goes on to say that there won’t be another after her that’s even half as good as she is, before ultimately telling the trash to “carry on.” There are so many moments in this song that it is quick to miss one. Lyrically, Nicki bodied the entire song with ease and made quite the statement while she did it.
That same fire continues with “Good Form.” Nicki literally rips the beat, rapping about her lover having “good form” when he pleases her. It’s definitely one of those twerk anthems that Nicki is iconic for. However, don’t let that fool you. Nicki still keeps her foot on the gas (and everyone’s necks) with the flawless flow. She brings back the traditional, “All these b*tches is my sons” flow and reinvents it with clever wording. She brags about the quality of her cookie, her body, and how everybody is on her jock. Her imagery is very vivid and she has no problem saying exactly what she wants to say. She continues to boast about her wealth and status and continues to make it known that there really is no one on her level or in her lane. “Nip Tuck” switches the tone and exhibits a more vulnerable Nicki, as she sings about giving her love everything, but him not being able to handle it, ultimately causing her to cut the fling off. “Nip Tuck” instantly reminds me of Nicki’s past tracks, such as “Right Thru Me” and “Fire Burns.” Nicki reminds herself and the guy that this is not what she is used to and that she needs to take everything that she gave this person back because they simply cannot handle it. The production is soft and gently matches Nicki’s pitch. I appreciate the record because it serves a double purpose. She is saying these things to her former love, but it is as if she is speaking to herself as well to come back to her senses and not fall for this type of guy again.
“Coco Chanel” forms the duo of Nicki aka Chun-Li and Foxy Brown. The two create a pure Caribbean hip-hop vibe that not only channels classic Foxy, but also creates a refreshing appeal with Nicki’s verses. The production here further enhances the song’s quality. Nicki’s voice is low and sensual as she delivers some of her verses in her traditional Caribbean accent. Foxy holds nothing back and lunges at the beat like a wild boar. It is yet another moment on the Queen album.
The last favorite on the album is without a doubt “Sir.” Nicki and Mr. Future Hendrix came together again and made another banger! My favorite part of the track is when Nicki goes, “Get her a ticket sir, she’s a fan, sir.” Nicki talks that talk and it feels so “hood.” The mood is so… Atlanta. Future follows Nicki’s lead and keeps up with her, adding that bravado that we usually associate with him. He gives us the trademark Pluto, as he refers to his women, money, foreign cars, and his swag. He lets the listeners know exactly who he is in case they forgot. Their chemistry is great and they flow together well. The song is definitely one of those records that will go off in the clubs and in the car! It contains some lyrical elements, but not as much as other tracks on the album. However, it does its job in getting the listener hype!
Overall, Queen is solid. Putting all of the social media madness, crazy antics, and weird marketing moves aside, the album possesses great elements. There are different sounds, feels, and moods throughout the entire album. There is a lot of fluff in the album that can take away from its quality, but the album is still good. Every song is not great, but it’s ok. Additionally, the album does somewhat lacks a storytelling appeal. Besides discussing her pen game, body, accolades, and achievements, we don’t really tap deep into her personal growth. However, there is enough quality rap and great production to still make Queen a notable project!
I’m really not sure when it became so “cool” to hate on Nicki, but the bars are there, the lyricism is there, and the real rap is there. I personally don’t think she disappointed with the project. Is it her best album ever? I’m not willing to say that. I think each of her albums possesses elements that make them all great. Queen does a great job embodying each of the albums, but still managing to stack up as its own beautiful work. It gives mixtape Nicki, pop Nicki, rap Nicki and even some slight R&B Nicki. There are elements in the project for everyone. Regardless of how anyone personally feels about Nicki, Queen further solidifies her legacy and propels her as one of the greatest female rappers in the game.
The Queen is back. Congratulations on another good project Nicki.