Nicki Minaj has taken a lot of sh*t. When she first came out, she was a breath of fresh air, a resurgence, she was the final salient hope female emcees had at international stardom. I’m not talking about selling out a mom & pop venue on a seldom-frequented side street in London. I’m talking about 25 million dollars in gross revenue for one calendar year, gold (maybe platinum) certified albums, festival/stadium headlining sets, and enough merchandise to make Michael Jordan feel inferior. That’s what Nicki Minaj‘s future reeked of when she released her Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape in 2009. She was the female counterpart to Drake‘s overbearing and meteoric rise from UGK enthusiast and teen-actor to rap’s current immovable force. What’s more, is Drake appeared to be madly in love with her. It was weird, to be honest, but it worked. Two up-and-coming superstars, on the same label, around the same age, competing in the same industry, but one’s got a huge soft spot for the other. I digress, but it was cool. Remember?
Back to Nicki. Yeah, she’s taken a lot of sh*t. After her first album, Pink Friday, went platinum, despite being released on the same day as Kanye’s most accurate representation of sonic perfection (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, November 22nd 2010), many believed that she could take the torch that Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown and Remy Ma let burn out so unceremoniously, re-light it, and keep it ablaze long enough to take a couple laps around the track. But mainstream radio had different plans for Onika. Her second album brought about dissent among her fans and uncertainty as to her place in rap. She was inexplicably talented, and had a knack for crafting hit records–six singles from her debut album charted in the Top 40 on Billboard, including three top 20 placements–but the line between crossing over, and making a rapid beeline for pop radio was no longer clear in Minaj’s sand. “Starships”, which topped out at #5 on the Billboard 100 2 years ago, forced a conversation in the hip-hop community. The song itself sounds like Pink meets Pitbull, which, on the radio translates to indefinite success, but Nicki Minaj made “I Get Crazy”. She rapped last on “Monster”. People were confused as to what she was, what she wanted to make, and exactly what she was aiming for. On singles like “Beez In The Trap”–a confusing ballad about being in the trap complete with an equally confusing chorus–she sounded disinterested and indifferent, as if she merely rapped over a hip-hop beat with 2 Chainz to satisfy people that weren’t really f*cking with her “Starships” wave, but that’s where the numbers were for Nicki. But when Peter Rosenberg put Nicki on that Summer Jam screen (so to speak) in 2012, something clicked in Nicki’s head.
Her last album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, performed poorly on the charts. It was an LP mixed with pop, R&B, and hip-hop vibes, none of which were put together seamlessly enough to conduct a narrative. Despite debuting at #1 on Billboard, PF:RR sold over 100,000 less copies in its first week than its predecessor, and to this day has only been certified platinum in shipments of over 1 million copies (the actual sales mark of that album is hovering somewhere around 825,000). This may seem like a world of success for most artists, but we kind of expected Nicki Minaj to go platinum (and then some). Lil’ Wayne pulled her from Summer Jam because of the stunt Rosenberg pulled, and for most of 2013 she remained quite quiet on the hip-hop scene. Gucci Mane was tweeting horrid rumors about her, and there were underlying murmurs that Nicki was…well…done.
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Then New Year’s Day 2014, Nicki tackled “Boss Ass B*tch”, and went, well, hammer. She sounded refreshed. Sharpened. As if she spent the entire 2013 just washing away the ills of the industry and its taxing inner-workings. She alluded to new music, a new mindset, and most importantly, more rapping. A few weeks later, YG‘s “My N***a” remix hits, and here’s Nicki, closing out the show. She sounded angry, but indifferent to the competition. She was rapping about money as if the fact that she has so much of it makes carrying a wallet a nuisance.
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Last night however, was when she made her official claim on Young Thug‘s “Danny Glover” remix. Last night she stuck her flag in the ground, and declared war. It was menacing. It was as focused as I’ve ever heard Nicki. I kept waiting for her to fall off, to revert back to her not-so-impressive, psychedelic, borderline epileptic multiple personality approach, but she never wavered. She borrowed Young Thug’s flow for her opener on the “Danny Glover” remix just for kicks, and then she kicked the door down. She rapped bout her pink Aventador, Justin Timberlake‘s wife, your wife, her money, the bread she sprinkles to pigeons outside her mansion, and her children, of which she apparently has many. Somehow, Nicki Minaj became the underdog. She’s signed to one of rap’s biggest labels, is best friends with the game’s top dogs and she has endorsement deals spilling out of her pink wig, but somehow she became the underdog. She’s rapping like she isn’t owed a thing, because she isn’t, but for the first time in her career, it appears she’s realized that.
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Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. -William Congreve
-Khari Nixon (@KingVanGogh)