Nicki Minaj - QUEEN [Review]


Nicki Minaj is a history-making hip-hop phenomenon. When referring to sales, she isn’t one to be questioned. Her achievements speak for themselves. Nicki’s a great musician in her own right - her crossover appeal has lead her to evolving her sound and gaining global superstardom. Upon arrival, Nicki broke through commercial reigns by using aggressive delivery, sharp wordplay and proving her ability as an MC. However, as Nicki progressed, she began shifting towards a pop alongside the occasional EDM crossover. The repetitive and simple nature of pop forces her to restrict her content and artistry. As such, most people often feel she isn’t a capable lyricist.

At every corner, Nicki seemingly wants to prove her ability. Her recent freestyle covers of Meek & Drake’s “Going Bad”, Gunna & Lil Baby’s “Drip Too Hard” and Blueface’s “Thotiana” show that she’s trying to prove that she can still rap. Well... except her Thotiana cover. “Bust Down Barbiana” is honestly one of her worst songs to date. Beyond lackluster to be honest.

It only makes sense to take a look at her last album, Queen. The announcement of Queen came eminently with the release of “Chun-Li” & “Barbie Tingz” as her lead singles. Queen simply has one leitmotif throughout the album, Nicki is telling the world that she is royalty. As such, “royalty” is expressed in every track within the album - she continues this leitmotif through successfully. Was the album itself successful? let’s find out.

The album opens with “Ganja Burns”, the beat carries a heavy Caribbean influence. Nicki has always been one to turn heads with her choice of beats and lyrics that accompany those beats. Unfortunately, she missed the mark this time, the hook of “Ganja Burns” is relatively underwhelming and unimaginative. She also lacks depth as she writes a story but without any real detail. She further does not introduce the concept of Queen in Ganja Burns as she was more interested in creating a catchy song than a head turning intro.

“Ganja Burn, Ganja Burn, Ganja Burn,
Ganja Burn, Ganja Burn, Ganja Burn.
Every time I get high, I just think about you.
Every time I get high, I just think about you.”

Nicki has received a lot of hate being a female in a male dominated industry, so she uses her album to throw shots at multiple artists, more specifically Cardi B. She calls Cardi out by saying: “you can’t wear a Nicki wig and then be Nicki”. Prior to the release of her debut album “Invasion of Privacy”, Nicki and Cardi have always had beef, for what reason? To see who takes the top spot as the best female rapper of the century.

(let’s continue)

Second track (Majesty) features Eminem and the recognizable voice of Labrinth. The track begins with Labrinth’s smooth vocals on the chorus and has an electric bass switch to Nicki’s first verse which is rather confusing for the listener and very unappealing to the ear. After Nicki’s verse Labrinth takes control of the track again with the refrain but does not take long to take you back to the electric bass switch up in Nicki’s following verses. Eminem’s verse doesn’t make the track any better because he raps over a piano instead of the same beat Nicki raps over. The track itself has too many unnecessary transitions.

Then we get to Barbie Dreams, the track with the most clout on the album. Again, she uses this track to call out some rappers (and DJ Khaled). It can either be perceived as clout-chasing or paying homage.The song is inspired by Notorious B.I.G’s “Just Playing (Dreams)”. The original B.I.G song saw him namedrop countless R&B female acts. As the song title insinuates, it’s all humor - he’s “just playing”. Similarly, Nicki flips the record and namedrops male rappers (plus Young M.A) and her relations with them. Lyrically, she’s relatively impressive. It’s almost divergent of what she’s presented on “The Pinkprint” and “Pink Friday”. Slick wordplay and cold punchlines.

“I tried to fuck 50 for a powerful hour
But all that nigga wanna do is talk Power for hours
“Man, these Fetty Wap niggas stay eyein' my shit”

Amongst 50 Cent and Fetty Wap, Nicki calls out Bow Wow, Rae Sremmurd, Drake, Meek Mill, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug, Desiigner, Future, DJ Khaled, YG, The Game, Tekashi 6ix9ine, Quavo, Kanye West, Young M.A, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Eminem. She even mentions Rick Rubin! She’s definitely attention-seeking as her statements were scandalous but due to her ability, she manages to pull it off. Her aggressive New York style delivery works on the hard-knocking instrumental. Stacked with wordplay, it’s definitely a moment for Nicki.

“Rich Sex” follows. Featuring Lil Wayne, it was originally released as a promotional single for Queen which gravely missed the mark. It’s pretty lazy. Noticeably, in most songs on the project, she includes a refrain which often comes off as lazy but somewhat catchy (a catchy chorus or refrain is an easy way for the artist to gage the listener). Nicki dumbing it down ultimately hinders the album. It doesn’t make it interesting in any way - one could compare it to a pop album. Wayne and Nicki have countless songs together and they’ve solidified their chemistry. However, the song is shift-less and does not show progression from any of their other songs together. Wayne’s verse isn’t remarkable and Nicki’s is somewhat cringeworthy.

On “Hard White”, Nicki continues to discuss her success and looks down on her haters but once again, it’s a flat track on the album. Nothing exciting melodically or impressively lyrically. She sounds demotivated and lazy as again, her chorus isn’t compelling enough and the refrain isn’t great. Easily one of the weakest songs on the album.

“Work hard, just to get half back.
Used to work hard, just to get half back.”

There’s evidently a consistent theme on the album. She’s seemingly concerned with other people’s thoughts. She spends the majority of the album subliminally taking shots. Mostly at Eve and Cardi B.

“Uh, I ain't never play the ho position.
I ain't ever have to strip to get the pole position.
Hoes is dissin'? Okay, these hoes is wishin',
You're in no position to come for O's position.”

Subsequently, the mood changes and Nicki’s second album single, “Bed” begins. She features Pop sensation, Ariana Grande. The song starts with the very seductive instrumental, Ariana’s vocals are good addition to the track as it has a lighter feel dude Ariana’s light timbre and sweet vocals. Nicki’s flow is simple but easy to remember. With crossover appeal, “Bed” panders to two audiences and sees Nicki finally hit heights that we’d expect.

“Thought I Knew You” follows. Produced by Big Juice (who also produced Rich Sex), the instrumental carries pop elements . It’s smooth and in the same sonic pocket as “Bed”. The track discusses The Weeknd’s, who features, past relationships with Selena Gomez and supermodel Bella Hadid. The song carries replay and melodically, it’s different to the other songs on the album. Nicki’s crossover appeal is coherent - she’s capable of appealing to different audiences with relative ease.

“Run & Hide” is up next, Nicki reminisces over her past relationships in this track. Although this track is quick and to the point, it’s another weak anchor in the album. The production is basic and Nicki’s own performance is questionable. The song truly lacks conviction - it isn’t detailed enough and the production isn’t gripping. At this point, the album is filled with hits and misses - Nicki seems to be struggling to figure out her creative direction throughout. The song fades and transitions into Metro Boomin’ produced, “Chun Swae”.

The song features Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. Nicki and Swae are a great fit, they have contrasting styles but are both capable of using vivid melodies to create a great song. Swae Lee rarely disappoints with feature and he uses his sweet vocals to create a dope hook and chorus. Nicki talks her shit on the song. - filled with concrete punchlines and a distinct cadence, she’s in her bag. Nicki and Swae have plenty of chemistry and the song arrangement is well-suited for their different delivery styles.

As we hop into the second half of the album, the lead single, “Chun Li’ begins. Within the second week of release, Chun-Li jumped to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That’s a testament to her star power (alongside Young Money Entertainment’s marketing) - she’s consistently on the Top 40 Billboard Charts. It’s hard to deny Chun Li’s clear replay value and its success. It’s Nicki showing glimpses of her ability - a catchy hook and quote-worthy verse. It’s something that can play in clubs and her audience would lose their minds. Thereafter, the song follows a Hip-Hop creative direction and “LLC” follows. The song is easily one of the strongest tracks on the album. An easy to remember chorus, great production and lyrically, she rhymes effortlessly.

DJ Wes’ production is ill. Throbbing 808s and a piano-mirroring melody, he creates a cold instrumental. The urban dictionary describes an LLC as a “Low List Celebrity”. She discuses her competitors, the industry and her clear edge. With dense bass carrying a rhythmic pulse, it’s a new age twerk anthem but Nicki also exhibits a killer flower and a commanding delivery. It works well.

“I just took her name and made that bitch a LLC
Stuff a couple stacks up in there, bitch, get on your feet
You'd make twice as much if you switch it up, just to see
To you, he's rich and famous, but he's just a guy to me.”

“Good Form” sees Nicki sample Too $hort’s “Shake That Monkey”. Like “LLC”, the song carries a strong rhythmic drive. It’s meant for twerking. The chorus is engaging and easy to remember. The song could have been used a single - it has appeal and the potential to gain traction if marketed correctly. Lyrically, she finds way to flip and bend words - it’s a skilful technical showing.

“I tell him eat the cookie 'cause it's good for him
And when he eat the cookie, he got good form
He know I don't never cheat because I'm good to him
Might gotta have his baby, nurses yellin' "push" for him
You see, I let him eat the cookie 'cause it's good for him
And whenever he eat the cookie he got good form!”

“Nip Tuck” is possibly evident of one of two themes, either her plastic surgery or her past relationship with Meek Mill. This track sees Nicki’s vulnerable side and is rather soft spoken as opposed to the previous tracks in the album. The track’s beat is rather simple and not very complex - simple hi-hats, a cool bassline and 808s complete the song. “2 Lit 2 Late Interlude” is a song that should not have been an interlude but rather a full song. The track feels like a teaser rather an interlude, especially so late into the album. The song infused Caribbean style melodies and carries a pop feel. Using a light tone, Nicki creates an easy to remember hook and it carries good rythm but ultimately, the song falls rather flat due to its short length.

“Come See About Me , described as “the ballad of the album” is about Nicki’s challenges and insecurities in the music industry. It’s easy to put this song next to “Pills and Potions” or even “Right By My Side” from Nicki’s previous albums. Fans who’ve followed Nicki form the beginning will appreciate this track opposed to the rest of the album. Simple heart-imitating kicks opens the song as a beautiful piano melody follows. It gives Nicki the foundation to rhyme with a sense of direction. The instrumental is almost grief-like, it has a clear sense of melancholy. However, it is beautiful. Nicki’s vocal ability is somewhat underrated - she can definitely hold a note.

Thereafter, the intensity increases. The Zaytoven & Metro Boomin’ produced, “Sir” begins. Metro and Zay’s production is insane. Hard 808s and a unique melody - the production is unlike Nicki’s usual sonic direction. Nonetheless, she sounds good - a cool flow and the occasional engaging melody. The song features Future. Future has clear chemistry with Zaytoven and Metro, as he has worked individually with both producers (religiously). The production sounds perfect for Future’s pocket and he catches flows with ease. He compliments Nicki’s style and ultimately, solidifies their chemistry. This can play on any chilled day.

Continuing in the vein of hard bass and throbbing 808s, Nicki comes with hard flows on “Miami”. She’s talking her shit. Aggressive delivery, witty wordplay and great production - the song is a highlight on the project. The song could have been better placed on the trackless as it would work better earlier in the project. Produced by Murda Beatzm Nicki rides the beat and her flow takes over. It’s a good song which can spawn plenty of replay value. It’s playful but it works.

”Yo, you could take all my bitches out to Abu Dabi
Let one of my besties confiscate your Maserati
You should throw a party on the yacht for everybody
If we fuck your shit up, OMG, I'm very sorry!”

On “Coco Chanel”, Foxy Brown and Nicki collaborate. The production carries Jamaican genre styles but it is accompanied with Nicki’s New York style flows. It works - this is a street anthem. Foxy matches Nicki’s energy with an aggressive delivery and shouts out New York and Brooklyn. The album seems to close with Jamaican/Caribbean inspired sonic direction, however, unlike previously - there’s more intent to rap. Foxy brings a quality flow to the track and brings a different feeling - it works. It’s a song which someone could possibly roll their hips to in the club, a good attempt at a Hip-Hop Caribbean infused track. The song ends and transitions into the album ending, “Inspirations Outro”. The song is a continuation of the prior and sees Nicki leave with high energy.

Queen takes the listener on an unanticipated ride. On her third album, one would thing Nicki would think that she would have better production choices but she missed the mark on this. Through listening to the album multiple times, it’s evident that the second half of the album is in a different class compared to the first half of the album. The album also carries plenty of filler (as expected, due to its large length). The filler makes the album harder to listen to as it is too long and fairly inconsistent. Lyrically, Nicki is pretty mediocre throughout. She lacks detail and focus when storytelling while her wordplay can be amateur-ish at times. If she wants respect based on her ability, this simply isn’t going to cut it.

At 19 song in length and having numerous mainstream cuts, Nicki’s clearly wanted commercial success but it affects the album quality. It’s inconsistent but it perhaps shows her flaws coherently while still showing her experimental range, great artistry and at times, good wordplay. A mixed effort.


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