What happens when the crown is threatened? There are many options but Nicki Minaj took one of the worst possible approaches to the problem. She panicked.
After putting out her best album, The Pinkprint, she has come back with her worst record thus far. Nicki has always been painted as this artist to be hated by others. Whether that is because she took a pop route to sell out, beefed with other female rappers, her frequent “problematic” behavior in the limelight or any other reason under the sun, Nicki has always had her haters. So on Queen, her fourth studio release, she tries to embrace it and become the bad guy (who Chun-Li is not BTW) she has been villainized as this whole time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out as planned.
Part of Nicki’s downfall on this album isn’t that the crown she has had over the past decade is actually threatened, it’s that she feels it was. The notion of there is room for one popular female rapper at a time was always and will be asinine and ridiculous. Like their male counterparts, there can be more than one on the mountain. There is room. But the narrative of “there can only be one!” fueled by past and present media has led to this unfortunate paranoia in the game for them. While it had been four years since Nicki’s last project, this album seems…rushed. The game was to throw something at the wall and see what stuck. While some things stuck, they didn’t land.
Nicki starts the album with the most B-side sounding cut of all time, “Ganja Burns”. All together, it isn’t a terrible song, but it doesn’t give any indication of what the album will sound like or be about. “Majesty” would have probably been the better fitting song just because of the title – although, it by far has the worst hook on the album. The verses themselves aren’t wack or bad. In fact, they are okay. But the song itself just isn’t good. Even if the sequencing was reversed, the change in sounds would still be too drastic. This leads to the biggest problem of the album (especially in the first half), it isn’t cohesive. The leaps are too big in sound and no lead up. The album would be better suited as a playlist than an LP.
Now in saying all this, this album isn’t the worst thing to come out this year. The highs on this album are indeed very high, being some of the best rapping and punchlines the self-proclaimed Queen has delivered. “Barbie Dreams” is equally as funny as it is pure fire, flames. It flips a classic Biggie song, taking it from the female perspective in modern rap’s landscape to poke fun at her male counterparts. It isn’t the only rap stand-out either. “Coco Chanel” with rap vet Foxy Brown has bars for days, shooting at the head of anyone who tries to aim for them first. It’s as hype as it is ruthless, though I wish she would’ve just kept this and “Inspirations Outro” as one song.
And that isn’t the only side Nicki shows. She hasn’t left her pop fans behind, especially on songs like the Ariana Grande assisted “Bed” and “Come See About Me”. This time, they just happen to have mixed results, some working and some just not. The problem with the pop/singing side and the rap side combining forces on this album is that they are one of the factors that lead to the lack of record’s cohesiveness. While she has had albums that have done this before, this project makes it sound like they belong on two different albums completely. There is the album Queen that actually takes the villainess theme and just gives you bars and raps, then there is the pop side that belongs somewhere in her Pink trilogy. What makes it worse is that there are too many bad songs on each side.
After this album, Nicki is at a crossroads. She has already made a mark in the game, not only showing the possibilities of female rappers on the crossover side, but as a businesswoman as well. No one can take that from her and deny it, but her place sitting comfortably on the throne has come to an end. From here she has to decide what she wants to be remembered for and what she’ll do to either further her reign or lessen her time all together. Hopefully it’s the former and she’ll show her predecessors what a queen really looks like.