Album review: Nicki Minaj still sits proudly on her throne in 'Queen'
Even before her 2010 debut Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj crowed about her self-proclaimed status as rap royalty. On this fourth album, however, she’s determined that listeners bow down for her coronation.
The Trinidad-born wordsmith is one of the most accomplished language-flipping rappers of the 21st century, but the problem is, most listeners are mainly familiar with her chart-crashing pop tunes and corny quirk-hits such as Starships and Anaconda.
There is still pop here, most notably on Ariana Grande-featuring ballad Bed. Elsewhere, though, the spectre of bass-heavy contemporary club-rap hangs large – Queen is almost Minaj’s trap album.
The likes of fabulously foul-mouthed Barbie Dreams, the Auto-Tune-heavy Hard White and LLC’s minimal beat ably demonstrate that aesthetic.
Majesty is the best example that she can do both pop and hard-edged rhyming in the space of one track, however, opening with a piano-laden refrain by Brit artist Labrinth, before moving into a grime-inspired beat. Then Eminem ducks in with a sung section reminiscent of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis that acts as a prelude to a breathless rap. It has to be a hit in waiting.
Minaj’s long-running lyrical theme of dissing every other female rapper in existence is temporarily derailed on final full track Coco Chanel, featuring 1990s forebear Foxy Brown. It’s an aggressive, insistent three-and-a-quarter minutes that mostly shows that the younger rapper’s assertions being the best in her class are largely on point.
Does Minaj succeed in her mission to present what she has labelled “a classic hip-hop album that people will never forget”? The main barrier to that is that 17 tracks (or 19 including an interlude and an outro) is just too much. Kanye West and cohorts showed how it can be done earlier this summer with a series of on-point seven-trackers. There still isn’t a female lyricist who can go toe-to-toe with Minaj, though, so her throne as queen of rap seems secure for now.