Nicki Minaj has had a disastrous 2018. She watched her previously uncontested seat on the throne reserved for the top Queen of Hip-Hop get challenged—and maybe even overtaken—by one Cardi B. Minaj did an interview with Elle in which she spoke out against the same sort of sexual liberation she herself has promoted in her music. Two weeks ago, she released a duet with newcomer Tekashi 6ix9ine, a rapper who is facing a possible three years in prison and sex-offender registration after pleading guilty to the “use of a child in a sexual performance.”
Queen starts off promisingly enough with her collaboration with Eminem, “Majesty,” sounding like another radio-ready hit, despite Em’s grating, supersonic rapping. And “Barbie Dreams” is the headline-catching song from Minaj that sounds like it came from her peak. The song, which launched to the top of the trending-topics list as soon as Queen was released, features Minaj fantasizing about rappers she’d sleep with, poking fun at everyone from Drake to 50 Cent. The Biggie-inspired bop is creative and fearless, and it's inconceivable that this wasn’t the first single.
Nicki Minaj needs some growth, and she’s not showing it here.
The rest of the songs are uneven, with Minaj unable to string together two consecutive great songs. For every “Good Form,” which sounds like a welcome addition to your DJ’s twerk-heavy set, there’s a “Nip Tuck” follow-up full of Mad Libs-like tropes and laziness.
The elephant in the room here is that Wanna Thompson was right: Nicki Minaj needs some growth, and she’s not showing it here. None of these songs sound like anything Minaj couldn’t have done a decade ago, either sonically or based on subject matter. Minaj’s rampant fan base, “The Barbz,” are most likely satisfied with the project because it’s the Minaj they’ve come to know and love, but the rest of music fans—who don’t live and die by her every breath—are going to be left wanting more. Nicki Minaj may think that her ability to keep wearing her crown is a foregone conclusion, but she’s going to need to make more concerted efforts at truly great music, unless this empress wants to be revealed as having no clothes.