Nicki Minaj shakily defends her throne with ‘Queen’

 Nicki Minaj accepts the award for best hip-hop video for "Chun-Li" at the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Nicki Minaj accepts the award for best hip-hop video for "Chun-Li" at the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

In most kingdoms/queendoms, four years isn’t much time at all. Queen Elizabeth has served the United Kingdom for numerous decades, her rule untouchable by definition. On the other hand, four years in the ever-shifting rap landscape might as well be an eternity. The internet is pushing genre progression forwards at a breakneck pace, and an artist would find themselves lucky to stay relevant for a four-year stretch. Remember Desiigner? Neither do I. Two years ago, he was shooting for the top with Panda, but now this article might be the first you’ve thought about him in months.

There’s absolutely no question Minaj has the lasting power to survive a four-year album break, but contenders for the throne have sprung up at every turn. The frontrunner to grab the crown is none other than Cardi B, who burst onto the scene last year with mega-hit Bodak Yellow and a fantastic debut album in April, “Invasion of Privacy.” Minaj can name her album “Queen,” but if she can’t back it up with great sound, it’s just as useful as a plastic tiara from a dollar store.

The release of this album was, in short, messy. The singles leading up to “Queen” ranged from great (“Chun Li”) to garbage (“Bed”). She featured on a song by controversial Brooklyn rapper 6ix9ine, who pled guilty in 2015 to the sexual exploitation of a child and assault charges. The album release date jumped from May to June all the way to August, finally releasing last week.

Nicki is at her best when she’s bombastic, eccentric and above all authentic, and this album delivers more of that than anything she’s put out since her 2010 debut, “Pink Friday.” She comes out swinging over a Notorious B.I.G. boom-bap beat on “Barbie Dreams,” spitting continuous half-disses regarding some “kings” of the rap game in 2018. Nicki throws jabs at fellow Young Money upstart Drake (““Drake worth a hundred milli, he always buyin' me s***/But I don't know if the p**** wet or if he cryin' and s***”) and former collaborator DJ Khaled (“Had to cancel DJ Khaled, boy, we ain't speakin'/Ain't no fat n**** tellin' me what he ain't eatin'”). The middle of “Queen” delivers a killer three-track run with “Chun-Li,” “LLC” and “Good Form,” confirming that Minaj hasn’t lost her lyrical wit and confidence. In addition to continuing the royal theme of the album, “Majesty” has one of Eminem’s best features in years, even though he refuses to stop prioritizing good writing over technicality – something that ruined his last album, “Revival” – it’s a nice song.

“Queen” isn’t without some serious missteps. Like too many albums in the streaming era, it falls victim to a bloated tracklist filled with about seven or eight songs that don’t need to be there. “Bed” and “Sir” showcase Minaj attempting to reach out of her comfort zone and failing, complete with two trash features (Ariana and Future, come on. You both can do so much better). “Come See About Me” sounds like a bad Jordin Sparks impersonator singing a love song made by a love song generator – miss me with that.

Still, this is a pretty good album, the good outweighs the bad more than anything she’s released in years. Minaj proves that, although she’ll never bring forward an album of the year, she’ll be consistently average to solid. Is that enough to hold the royal crown by her next release?

Rating: 3/5


Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.