Album Review: Nicki Minaj’s bumpy ride to ‘Queen’

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Finally, she dropped something. This album has been a long time coming. I personally dubbed Nicki as “scared” after delaying the project despite making barbie promises. I wasn’t wrong.

See, The Pinkprint, her last studio album, dropped in 2014. As per tradition of the pre-streaming era, artists release new joints two years after the last one(obviously to make their fans miss them; give them enough time to digest full length projects cos albums then were actually ‘full’; and have more time to rest and cook good sh*t.) This puts Nicki’s The Pinkprint follow-up to hit the charts in 2016. But it didn’t.
Artists were in rare cases pardoned and given an additional 12 months to get their sh*t together – literally and figuratively. But credence testing incidents occurred.
2015 was the year streaming took flight. Artists such as Taylor Swift, Pink, Katy Perry, Jason Derulo, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lorde and others dominated the pre-streaming era. But after 2015, some of these artists took major public tumbles. They stumbled and couldn’t halt to avoid disgrace. Katy Perry’s ‘Witness'(2017) is the exemplary leader as it refused to impress critics and make much noise as its predecessor. I took it upon myself to follow Nicki’s album to validate my suspicions.
Jumping on dozens of tracks as a featured artist, Nicki Minaj tried to remain relevant while she watched the industry from the shadows.
The career-ending Remy Ma diss track added to her horror show.
She couldn’t put out anything along the continuum of mediocre else she would officially ‘take the L.’
Remember her releasing three songs in a day sometime last year(‘No Frauds’, ‘Changed it’ and the lacklustre ‘Regret In Your Tears‘)? Those were supposed to be the lead singles from the ‘upcoming’ album but Remy Ma was on everybody’s lips so she disappeared again. It’s hard to forget when she quitted social media to finish the supposed album. *coughs*
She didn’t want to take a public stumble and fall cos she believed, with strong conviction, that she may never be able to get up. Remy Ma faded away like her type do. Then Cardi B happened.
Bodak Yellow’s success was enough to dwarf all Queen Nicki had built over the years. “But who am I to run and hide?”(that’s an actual line from a song in the album under review). The comparisons were unstoppable.
Hell’s gate broke lose when Cardi B released her debut album ‘Invasion Of Privacy’ earlier this year to critical acclaim and billboard success and became the first female hip hop artist to top the Hot 100 twice with the album’s hit tracks Bodak Yellow’ and ‘I Like It.’ Then fans and critics started asking the right questions: “Where is the album Nicki Minaj promised us?”
 
 
Nicki Minaj’s Queen can’t be referred to, despite everything I’ve written, as a rushed unfinished project to get her name back on people’s lips – It’s just a little too ambitious for an artist who can be referred to as the godmother of Emceeing in the 21st century.
According to Wikipedia, Queen is the fourth studio album by Trinidadian-born American rapper Nicki Minaj, released by Young Money Entertainment and Cash Money Records on August 10, 2018.
Queen features production by J. Reid, Big Juice, Supa Dups , Beats Bailey, Messy, and Ben Billions. It includes guest appearances from Eminem, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Future, Lil Wayne, Swae Lee, Foxy Brown and Labrinth.”
 
Queen, a hype-y compilation with mad production that is hell bent on proving haters wrong, is a result of four years of ‘running and hiding’ but can be deftly put as “taking your time to study the industry, know your enemies and figuring out how not to get drowned in the ocean of ‘streaming.’
The album encompasses hip hop in this day and age but tries too hard to impress – and yes, it does impress but Nicki Minaj doesn’t need to impress anybody, does she?
Not to put forward an evil premise, this album is too good to be a Nicki Minaj project and that is a bad thing: Read on to find out why.
Queen is the type of album that makes you stand up from the first track at a private listening party and gives you no reason to sit as it runs through 19 addictive tracks.
Ganja Burns” is the album’s surprise opener with the ‘song of the summer’ feel and a beat that shouldn’t be at the beginning of a hip-hop album. (Yes, I’m aware that there’s no rule that says you can’t dance listening to an intro).
On the song, Nicki raps about herself, using comparisons that are vague to non hip-hop lovers. She trademarks herself, praises herself, grades herself (yeah, we know you write your own raps) all on a hook that’s lost on me — she’s whining about a lover she thinks about when she’s high.
“Things Drake would do with this beat.” I said to myself. The beat, made by J. Reid, is one Drake could turn into a number one track for months . But there’s a reason he’s Drake and she’s Nicki.
When you expect the (intro??) to end, it doesn’t and the lines of her label mate, Drake, from his pre-streaming project NWTS comes to mind: “How much time these ni**as spending on an intro?”
She tries to play her vocal strength at the back end of the track to compliment the ‘I’m the boss’ rap she mildly gives and Drake said to me: “This is just the intro let me not get ahead of myself.”(‘Survival’ from SCORPION).
While you ruminate over all this, you’re still dancing cos ganja burns through the beat and brings unprecedented joy to your ears.
The sophomore track, on the other hand, is one of the best tracks on the album. It features Eminem, who delivered what I tagged ‘one of his best verses I’ve ever listened to.’ And I think its time I get that app that can measure Em’s supersonic rap speed(there is one, right?) – a friend said this is the fastest he’s gone and after 3 listens, I’m beginning to believe that too.
Majesty is what the entire album should sound like as Nicki and her production team utilizes the features gauntlet to ultimate perfection. Labrinth is a god. Eminem is a god. They came for the queen and they got her a record – the record. But wait till you hear the next track…
Barbie Dreams, the very ecstatic piece that accounts for half of Minaj’s best flows on the album. The beat gets your head, no matter how big it is, bobbling from the first few seconds and Nicki’s “classic shit”  callout knocks every girliness outta her voice and brings out a queen who makes you excited for hip-hop as she murders the craftiness of the Mel & Mus(with Ringo) produced track that uses The Notorious B.I.G’s “Just Playing”(1994) beat. However, unlike B.I.G, she takes shot at friends in the industry:
“Used to f*ck with Young Thug, I ain’t addressin‘ this sh*t
C-caught him in my dressing room,
stealin‘ dresses and sh*t”
Only if those were real jabs, it would be some real classic sh*t.
“I Thought I Knew You” is the opposite of what you expect in a The Weeknd and Nicki Minaj collab. Instead, it’s a calculated duet where she handles the hook – gallantly, to be honest(like the boss b**ch she is) – and allows The Weeknd to gloriously wail along. My eyes are on producer J. Reid from now on.
“Hard White” tries to be a standout but how hard is it to make a trap song these days?
On Chun Swae,” a song whose lack of a traditional title is obviously born out of the inability of its creators(Chun Li and Swae Li) to christen it, all three souls on it shine: Nicki Minaj, Swae Li and heavy-hitter trap producer Metro Booming.
“On Point” would have been a good(but not better) title, team Nicki: I’m just suggesting.
Well, this is another duet that contends with the previously mentioned but loses on all counts of call and response. But nothing beats the shout outs Nicki Minaj airs at the end of the track in her animated voice.
LLCis the track that I sheepishly suggested that
Minaj channeled J Cole and YG to serve what would have been the best song on the album if I could chain my imaginations from daydreaming about what mastery “2 Lit 2 Late” would have been if it ran farther than 56 seconds. I’ll never forgive you, Nicki, for making it an (intro?). Such a revolutionary track for 56 seconds? “Why these artists be acting like this?”
“LLC,” which is probably her best solo effort on the album reminds you of ‘Super bass‘ Nicki as she taps from that engraved flow maturely and confidently bounces around in what seems like her comfort zone… sth she can do while she sips her hennesy.
Of all featured artist, Future refused to stand out on “Sir” despite being paired with his siamese producer, Metro Booming.
With a surprise Spanish entry on “Coco Channel” that caught me off guard, Nicki and Foxy Brown whined and grinded the J. Beatz produced track with all stones of Reggae and self homage they’ve got…. and the final track, “Inspirations” is the continuation of the penultimate track “Coco?” What? Why? For what?  And the wall she built with Queen came crashing into something that looks like a great movie with a terrible ending.
Queen’s production team shines. Her voice shines gold on the fun, savvy, and hype-y project as every track stands still on the bridge of upbeat: which should be a good thing but it isn’t because that means we get the same version of Onika Maraj all through the 66:19 runtime. We were reminded that Nicki can still make hit records but the depth – which should be front-and-center of her compilation knowing that she has been through more than enough these past four years – is missing.
I littered rhetorical questions around this review because Nicki did the same thing to listeners on Queen.” No “Pillz and Portions” on this but we got mainstream Nicki compressed into 19 tracks and we’re thankful for it… Not because we’re satisfied but because she finally stopped “running and hiding” and faced her mountains head on: You didn’t stumble nor did you fall, Queen. Congratulations.
My Best Tracks: Majesty(ft. Eminem and Labrinth), Barbie Dreams and I Thought I Knew You(ft. The Weeknd)
Worthy mentions: LLC, 2 LIT 2 LATE
Worst Track: Nip Tuck (It was simply uninteresting with topic(s) too hard to follow as you wonder why you getting a recycled pre-streaming Nicki.)
Okiki rates it 3.0/5.
 
 

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