She might be in the news for all the wrong reasons – and feuding with Prime Minster Boris Johnson and England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty over her ridiculous claim her cousin’s friend was left impotent and with “swollen testicles” as a result of the coronavirus vaccine – but it’s worth reminding ourselves of Nicki Minaj‘s immeasurable contribution to music. Teaching the world’s latest fleet of empowered ladies (from Cardi B to Megan Thee Stallion) what it means to be a working woman in the rap industry, her discography has been the soundtrack and inspiration to millions out there in the world, so let’s look back at the records that made her the Queen she is today.
Collectively, the rap world has come to a consensus that 2018’s ‘Queen’ is definitely the worst effort from Young Money’s First Lady. Years before the release, Nicki Minaj solidified her position as her era’s Queen of Rap by maintaining high expectations of women within rap when it seemed to be so male-dominated. But ‘Queen’ was released after a four-year hiatus from the rapping scene, where a huge influx of amazingly talented ladies started to shine. With a shift from hardcore bars to melodies and auto-tune, ‘Queen’ did not keep up with her counterparts with its samey verses, many of which ran too long.
Travis Scott’s third album ‘Astroworld’ outsold Nicki’s ‘Queen’ by 20,000 units; the latter was a polished record full of club-friendly melodies Despite the ‘Queen’ boasting two seminal knockout hits, ‘Chun-Li’ and ‘Barbie Tings’, as well as a few clear knockouts such as ‘Barbie Dreams’, the album wasn’t worth the wait and lacked that Nicki Minaj stamp of approval.
4‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’ (2012)
Pushing aside ‘Queen’, all of Nicki Minaj’s other efforts have been in tip-top shape – not that you expect anything less than the highest-selling female rapper since Lauryn Hill. But ‘Roman Reloaded’ is where the Queens star changed from just a rapper form the boroughs to an international success with her two breakthrough smash hits, ‘Super Bass’ and ‘Starships’. Full of pop synths and showed the highly-animated of Minaj at full capacity, it’s a fun album that songs seem to crop back up as popular meme sounds on TikTok and various other places.
However – again – critics were correct that, compared to her 2010 debut album ‘Pink Friday’, ‘…Roman Reloaded’ feels like a caricature of Nicki’s characterisations. The beloved ‘Roman Zolanski’ persona is used to death on this super-manic album.
3‘The Pinkprint’ (2014)
In terms of Minaj’s discography, ‘The Pinkprint’ is the most easily forgotten of them all. However, after shedding that quirky artificial persona of before, ‘The Pinkprint’ is the album where we get hardly any gimmicks and see Minaj at her most vulnerable, singing touching ballads such as ‘Pills ‘n Potions’ and ‘Bed of Lies’. Although there are few iconic tracks on this album – ‘Anaconda’ and ‘Only’ are the two big takeaways – the level of rapping definitely jumps to another level than the previous records. ‘The Pinkprint’ was Nicki’s attempt to not seem crazy forever and successfully transform her image into a more clear and accessible one in hip-hop, since she no longer had to rely on quirks to get herself in the door anymore. ‘The Pinkprint’ solidified Nicki Minaj as a frontrunner for rap, and is the very record on which Nicki came to achieve ‘Queen of Rap’ title.
2‘Pink Friday’ (2010)
A classic in its own right, ‘Pink Friday’ is full of timeless bops that still live on today. ‘Did It On ‘Em’ and ‘Moment 4 Life’ are being remixed and reused as viral internet tracks by the new Barbs, whereas ‘Roman’s Revenge’ has shaped the way people have approached rapping forever. Creating characters to embody wasn’t as popular around the time of Nicki’s debut as it is now, so it was groundbreaking for her to come out the gate as an eccentric Barbie who rapped through the eyes of a homosexual man. Everything Nicki has done to create inclusivity in rap all stem form just how polished, back-to-front, ‘Pink Friday’ was. The scrutiny ready to come her way if the record was shoddy perhaps pushed this to be one of the best rap records of all time – despite its production feeling a little outdated at times.
1‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up’ (2012)
After a great debut that proved Nicki’s rap prowess in the game, she released the pop-orientated ‘…Roman Reloaded’ a little too soon; everyone just wanted to hear the elite lyricism of the New Yorker herself. So to fix this, Nicki Minaj rereleased ‘…Roman Reloaded’ with more ballsy bars and commercial rap sounds on ‘…The Re-Up’. We knew Nicki could hang out with legends on ‘Pink Friday’, having had Enimem and Kanye West rap alongside her, but to further emphasises this, she was able to handle her unique self again a NY legend ‘I Am Your Leader’, the rapper who made pink fur cool: Cam’ron of Dipset showed out for her.
This was also the first time on an album that we’ve hear the true synergy between Lil Wayne and his mentee on the criminally underrated ‘High School’. Some will say it’s just a a reissue, but with seven new songs, ‘…The Re-Up’ changes the whole sonic of ‘…Roman Reloaded’, giving it a grittier feel to Nicki’s inimitable pop-rap style.