Nicki Minaj is a rapper and Lil Wayne protege from Queens, NY. She’s well known for her elaborate music videos, overtly sexual lyricism, and her ability to meld more traditional New York style rap with the modern Atlanta and trap scenes.
Minaj rose to fame with her triple platinum debut LP, Pink Friday in 2010. She followed this with Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded in 2012 and The Pinkprint in 2014. Each of these went double platinum and topped billboard charts, the former peaking at number one and the latter at number two. She’s amassed quite the following, despite generally mixed critical reception, and after a four year wait, those fans where excited to hear her newest project, Queen.
Generally, there isn’t much to say about this album. Clocking in at over an hour, there is a shocking lack of diversity over the 19 tracks.
Probably Queen’s best quality is it’s production. “Barbie Dreams,” features a very listenable, New York style beat as well as some of Nicki’s best rapping, and the opener and lead single, “Ganja Burns,” sees some interesting drum work and a well mixed vocal on the chorus. The bulk of these beats are almost indistinguishable from one another, but every once in a while, we’re thrown a nice surprise.
The features list is surprisingly bare, though it is rather impressive. Eminem delivers one of his better verses in recent memory on “Majesty,” Ariana Grande’s performance is the highlight of “Bed.” Swae Lee adds quite a bit to “Chun Swae,” and The Weeknd’s vocals on “I Thought I Knew You,” though they are sparse, stand as probably the best feature on the project.
On the other hand, Lil Wayne drops a shockingly forgettable verse on “Rich Sex,” and Future adds virtually nothing to “Sir,” though he does sound far more at home in the atmospheric beat than Minaj, who simply butchers the dreamy feel of the beat.
On that note, Nicki Minaj’s staring role over the entire 19 tracks is virtually devoid of shinning moments. From her frustrating insistence on using strange, poorly developed accents on tracks like “Miami,” and the last verse of “Majesty,” on which she is terribly outshined by her featuring artists. “Rich Sex,” even ends with Nicki inextricably shrieking at full volume. She’s best when she taps into her East Coast background, but even then, her flow on “Barbie Dreams,” ruins an otherwise fine beat.
Nearly all of the lyrics focus on Nicki’s sexuality, which is, of course, fair game for any artist, especially in rap music, but 70 minutes of Minaj reminding us that she’s great in bed but selective in terms of her partners reaches its sell by date before the halfway point.
The issues with this album are plentiful, but the majority of them can be traced back to the length. I’ve been somewhat critical of the newest, Kanye-led practice of dropping “albums,” with runtimes in the 20-30 minute range, but I much prefer that over the route taken by artist like Drake and Nicki Minaj of dropping more than an hour of nearly identical music and letting the market decide on two or three hits.
Queen is yet another example a label turning what could be a mediocre and uneventful EP into an unbearable, bloated mess of an LP.