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Nicki Minaj's 'Queen': A Track-by-Track First Listen Review

After some confusion over the release date and sending her fans on a hunt for Tracy Chapman, Nicki Minaj released her fourth album, Queen, on Friday. The album, like its predecessors, is a long one: it has 19 tracks and clocks in at 66 minutes.

Here’s INTO’s quick reaction to each track.

“Ganja Burns”

Minaj usually reserves the first track on her LPs for a contemplative meta-commentary on her career trajectory. Like “I’m the Best,” “Roman Holiday” and “All Things Go” before it, “Ganja Burns” serves as a snapshot of Minaj’s mental state as she goes into making Queen while dealing with her self worth and her icon status. The bars are solid and it’s a great appetizer to what comes next.

“Majesty”

On Pinkprint and Queen, it can be hard to feel like Nicki is actually having fun, especially when you think about the zany energy in Pink Friday and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. But on “Majesty,” the beat and lyrics are a little bit more fun and it’s nice to see Minaj having some fun. On a pretty mid-tempo moody album that often bleeds together, the beat on “Majesty” is also a welcome departure. This team-up with Eminem is nothing like “Roman’s Revenge,” so while most will try to compare them, they’re completely different dishes.  

“Barbie Dreams”

“Barbie Dreams” is among the best songs Minaj has ever recorded. Minaj puts her own specific form of feminism on display. People criticized her for allowing Lil Wayne and Drake to fantasize about having sex with her on the Pinkprint’s “Only.” Taking a page out of her “Anaconda” playbook, she turns the problem upside down and lays down a track dedicated to fantasizing about sex with male rappers where she humiliates each of them. Nicki doesn’t just drop bars here; she flies. The best of Queen and the best of the queen herself.

“Rich Sex”

Released as a buzz single prior to Queen’s release, “Rich Sex” didn’t translate into a lot of buzz for Minaj. But, in the context of the album, “Rich Sex” sounds much more like the self-worth anthem it purported to be. Wayne’s verse is still meh at best, but put in context, “Rich Sex” is not skippable.

“Hard White”

I did not lay out the tracklist for Queen, but if I had, I would’ve put “Hard White” before “Rich Sex” as “Rich Sex” and “Bed” seem like better bedfellows, as do “Hard White” and “Barbie Dreams.” This track is a pretty good flex anthem and no female rapper has earned the right to flex more than Minaj. Not a standout, but some pretty solid bars here.

“Bed”

This was another head scratcher of a single that sounds much better in context. “Bed” should have been a radio hit — it sounds very much like what is currently sitting on the Hot 100. You’ve already heard this and have your own opinion, so I won’t go too deep into it. But we did “Bed” dirty.

“Thought I Knew You”

I was pretty excited when I saw The Weeknd’s name on the tracklist, but this song lacks a center of gravity. There are purportedly verses and choruses, but they all bleed into each other into musical mush.

“Run and Hide”

Most will point to “Come See About Me” as this album’s “Save Me,” but I think “Run and Hide” is the better track. On an album with a lot of ~emotional Nicki~, “Run and Hide” feels the most authentic.

“Chun Swae”

Minaj’s verses on “Chun Swae” go hard and are among the best on the album. But, unfortunately, this track is bogged down by too much of the Swae Lee feature. His high-pitched yelping just sounds way too distracting from the bars that Minaj lays down with aplomb.

“Chun Li”

You’ve heard “Chun Li,” and you know that it slaps. It still slaps.

“LLC”

This album’s late-game “Four Door Aventador.” “LLC” works because Nicki sounds like she’s having fun rapping and her Pink Friday braggadocio is on full display. Another highlight that everyone on Twitter is talking about.

“Good Form”

“Good Form” acts like a great companion piece to “LLC” and is one of the album’s lighter moments. The refrain, “I tell him eat the cookie ’cause it’s good for him/And when he eat the cookie he got good form” is one of the album’s simplest and most effective couplets. It’ll probably end up on some merch or like, my Twitter bio.

“Nip Tuck”

Queen has a bit too much ~emotional Nicki~ and “Nip Tuck” definitely feels skippable when stacked up against most of album’s other offerings. Also, is Nicki a Ryan Murphy stan?

“2 Lit 2 Late”

This is just an emotional interlude between two emotional songs, but it’s cute.

“Come See About Me”

Minaj has tweeted that this song always makes her emotional when she hears it and many are calling this song the album’s “Save Me,” but this late in the album, I felt the track was a bit too featherweight to make an impact. The Pinkprint is a great example of how Nicki can spin breakup into rap gold, but “Come See About Me” never reaches the heights of either Nicki’s rapping or singing past. I know people complain about Nicki LaBelle, but I like singing Nicki — just not here.

“Sir”

Nicki shows her true queer allyship on this track with a BDSM-tinged ode to servitude. However, as is usual for Nicki, her servitude is actually dominance — she’s still flexing about how much attention she commands. And the fact that she has Future on a track using the word “sir” on repeat is one of the queerest moments on an album this year tbh.

“Miami”

What a cool track. Between “Miami” and “Sir,” Queen actually pivots to some pretty fun tracks at the end, which is where Minaj usually slows down. Instead, Minaj slowed down in the middle and left some real bops at the end. Sometimes, you just wanna hear Minaj rap about her titties and make a Patti Labelle reference. This track delivers just that.

“Coco Chanel”

Wow, what an ending. Minaj quells rumors that she doesn’t want to collaborate with other women by bringing Foxy Brown onto a track that, like “Trini Dem Girls” before it, is loaded with Trini patois and heavy accents. Having Foxy’s flow on the track is such a gift, as you get to see the way another mega rapper attacks the same beat as Minaj. The result is one of the album’s highlights slapped onto its caboose. With “Coco Chanel,” the album ends on a high note, having you ready to press play again to check if you missed something.

First listen verdict:

Queen exceeded scattered expectations. When its great, it’s among Minaj’s best work, but its bogged down by too many slow tracks that don’t seem to say anything new. While the album is cohesive, some of it does end up sounding a bit too similar, to the point that some tracks are easily confused with one another. It’s worth your time and your coin just to hear one of our greatest rappers exploring her craft.


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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