It has been eight years since Nicki Minaj announced herself to the world with that verse on ‘Monster’. That’s eight years of Nicki Minaj being the best female rapper in the world without having dropped a truly devastating rap album. ‘Queen’ comes to us with Nicki Minaj in a curious spot: while talk of a rivalry between her and Cardi B for the number one female rapper slot has been somewhat overblown, a lot has changed since her 2014 effort ‘The Pinkprint’. Following one of the worst big hip-hop album rollouts in years (not to mention a… misguided collaboration with rapper 6ix9ine on the track FEFE), fans were tense. Does Nicki Minaj still have it in 2018?
The answer is… kind of. You don’t name your fourth album after the most powerful chess piece without reason and ‘Queen’ is Nicki Minaj trying to dominate the music board in all directions. In a peak “something on this will set streaming records”, effort, there album contains a whopping 19 tracks. Nicki throws everything but the kitchen sink at us in terms of feature artists too, bringing in Eminem, Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Future and more for a guest verse or two. Standout track ‘Barbie Dreams’ sees Nicki flip Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Dreams’ and Lil Kim’s track of the same name, taking aim at the men of hip-hop in a gatling gun barrage of insults. Thought Nicki got soft in her pop friendly years? Here she raps, “Had to cancel DJ Khaled, boy, we ain’t speaking / Ain’t no fat n—a telling me what he ain’t eating.” Yikes.
‘Queen’ *almost* works as a two-way effort from Nicki Minaj, one part reclamation of her position at hip-hop’s top table and one part raising the bar for any pretenders looking to take a seat. Unfortunately, in trying to take on all comers at once, there are parts of Queen that few like an overreach. There is a better ten track effort hiding in Queen, but you get the impression Nicki kept tracks like ‘Miami’ to hedge her bets in a bid for streaming success. The ‘Queen’ is back, but only just.