Nicki Minaj’s “Queen”: A Lesson on Cultural Relevance

Up until the release of “Queen,” there was a disdain growing for Nicki Minaj. With up and coming female rappers entering Hip Hop’s landscape and a wave of critiques flooding from them, it seems like Minaj got caught in the crossfire. And I wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention that Miss Barbie was shooting a couple bullets too. After consecutively being chipped away by rap critics and fans alike for everything from her romantic life to her rap skills, Nicki Minaj is reclaiming her position as one of the best rappers and wearingly entering a generation that is yearning for more from her.

So how does “Queen” relieve this pressure? It doesn’t, and it could be a good thing.

Nicki Minaj is, …sorry “used to be” the anomaly of her time. Disrupting a decade span lack of female MCs’ and attributing major commercial success to rap music is clout she will ALWAYS have in her arsenal, but is it relevant now? Despite her pristine execution of style and skill, Minaj’s narrative has been compromised. And Nicki’s fourth studio album does nothing to redeem her. Energy charged tracks like “Chun Li,””Rich Sex” and “Good Form” is reassuring, in that it solidifies the Barbie’s skills but it isn’t as inventive and exciting as we would hope. And while pop-infused single “Bed” hits the charts, deep cuts like “Miami,” “LLC,” and “Sir” which typically and probably will appeal to her core fan base seems more like recycled tracks from Pink Friday. Cue the hooky background and lip-bubbling ad-libs.

As a fan of the Young Money Cash Money Princess, I see a lack of cultural and dynamic competence from “Queen,” which still doesn’t make it a horrible album, but more so a great lesson and stamp signaling the end of an era. In a time where curation is the greatest asset, and imperfection is celebrated, Minaj’s calculated approach to everything isn’t as effective as it used to be; yet she could use this to her advantage. A great example of this is the third track on the album, “Barbie Dreams.” While in a recent interview with Funk Master Flex, Minaj waved away the idea that the song granted her redemption with listeners, it did. And the reason why stands in its organically produced relevance. Taking cheesy shots at today’s hottest rappers is ballsy and lightened the intense elitist disposition the New York MC has been sporting these days. In a genre that is rooted in democracy and authenticity, Minaj’s highbrow rhetoric needs a slice of humble pie. While I suggest some rebranding will do the trick, it’ll be interesting to see what comes next from the Queen from Queens.

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