The reigning Queen of Rap is in a royal battle for recognition. After a four year hiatus between albums, Nicki proclaimed she cleansed her body in search for her worth (on Ganja Burn) not only as an artist but for her respect as an individual. But from ‘The Pinkprint’ to ‘Queen’, little to nothing has changed. Appearing on Beats 1, Nicki revealed to Zane Lowe she started working on the album three months before premiering ‘Chun Li’, the comeback single she recorded just a day before releasing it, since then it was obvious that the Queen was in dire desperation to reserve her throne.
Upon arrival, intro ‘Ganja Burns’ sets the tone for the album, as an afro-pop inspired production matched with a smooth flow, its clear that Nicki pulled from various inspirations in the process. Doing exactly what Nicki wants, Labrinth compellingly vows for his ‘Majesty’ on a song that seems fitting for a movie trailer, with Em’s redemption verse. Pulling inspiration straight out of New York, ‘Barbie Dreams’ showcases the Nicki that everyone wants. Demanding attention, sparking conversation, hard hitting bars, all matched with a Biggie sample, the song demonstrates what it means to be a Queen. The album keeps its momentum with ‘Rich Sex’, an enjoyable not-to-be-taken-seriously track, on ‘Hard White’ Nicki is still fighting for her position, but then disastrously turns for a worse on the album’s awkward mid position.
Just like previous Minaj albums, the issue stems from the album length, songs like ‘Bed’, ‘Nip Tuck’, ‘Come See About Me’, ‘Run/Hide’, ‘Chun Swae’, and ‘Inspirations Outro’ seem rather unnecessary and disrupts the transitional aspect that each section of the album aims for (would be enjoyable as 14 tracks). Ahead of release Nicki proclaimed the album hints at each of her previous releases, from ‘Pink Friday’ it reintroduces Onika, from ‘Roman Reloaded’ it matches the energy (second half of Barbie Dreams), and from ‘The Pinkprint’ it has the vision. Despite the fact, there’s one thing that connects it all, she still hasn’t evolved.
Through it all, the album doesn’t go in depth, it doesn’t established its theme and its focus to embodies why it’s titled ‘Queen’. As ambitious as it’s titled, the album lacks substance with repetitive lyrics that Nicki needs to constantly remind us that she’s in a competition with herself. Amongst all the inspirations, she still didn’t pull influence from her soul, no track is as compelling as ‘All Things Go’ or celebratory as ‘Win Again’, but all it tells us is that Nicki knows her worth but is lost in execution. On an album titled ‘Queen’, Nicki Minaj is in a battle of desperation to seek recognition from the hip-hop community to finally recognize her status.
Within the rap game little to no one can say they went toe-to-toe with the likes of Jay Z, Eminem, and Kanye West on their debut era, continuously reinventing and showcasing versatility while maintaining longevity for nearly a decade. Nicki’s presence in the game is evident, at this point she has nothing else to prove but yet is still in an outcry for respect. Overall a pretty great album, but the filler distracts what could’ve been a better album.