It’s been almost four years since we’ve gotten a full-length album from Nicki Minaj, but a new era from the rap great appears to be on the way with the arrival this month of two new singles, both featuring star guest Lil Baby: “Do We Have a Problem?” and “Bussin.”
“Problem” arrived first, dropping on the first Friday of February and ultimately debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The following week, “Bussin” arrived, and this week (chart dated Feb. 26), it follows “Problem” to the Hot 100’s top 20, bowing at No. 20.
What does the performance of the two songs say about their release strategy? And should the duo keep up their collaboration past here? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. Nicki Minaj and Lil Baby debuted at No. 2 and No. 20 on the Hot 100, respectively, with their recent pair of consecutively released collabs, “Do We Have a Problem?” and “Bussin.” Which of the two songs do you see enduring as the bigger hit?
Rania Aniftos: While I see “Do We Have a Problem?” being the immediate, trendy hit, I think “Bussin” is the song with staying power. It’s Nicki in her element and she has that same effortless, breathless flow in “Bussin” that she executes in her iconic “Bottoms Up” guest verse that her fans love so much. It’s a party song that will surely soundtrack pre-games for years to come, and it’s also worth noting that Lil Baby’s verse is an Instagram caption goldmine. I can see the “Go to sleep in Paris, waking up in Mykonos” posts now.
Carl Lamarre: I prefer “Do We Have a Problem” simply because I think the song is more pleasing sonically. Along with hopscotching their way through the club banger, Nicki and Baby’s lyrics are punchy, the hook is magnetic, and their energy is unmatched.
Jason Lipshutz: “Do We Have a Problem?” — not just because of the splashier chart debut, but it’s clearly the fan favorite, and a more impactful returning statement from Minaj. I personally think “Bussin” is more combustible and club-ready, but also understand that “Problem?” showcases her personality and lyrical ferocity more. If Team Nicki keeps the focus upon it, “Problem?” should receive plenty of hip-hop radio spins over the next few months, and separate itself as the longer-lasting hit.
Neena Rouhani: I’m a bigger fan of “Do We Have a Problem?” and I’m noticing way more traction across social media, especially TikTok, which we all know is the litmus test for a hit. The girls — speaking as one of said girls — especially love a shoutable line and “Hold up shorty, hold up b—h / Please don’t touch me, look at my fit” most definitely does the trick.
Andrew Unterberger: “Problem” has the singalong hook that makes it hard to resist, along with the kind of boomingly serene trap beat that dominated popular music towards the end of the last decade; it feels like a hit. “Bussin” is a little more unexpected and could end up a fan favorite, but “Problem” is the one that seems like it might still hang around the charts for a few months.
2. Do you think the debut performance of the two songs validates the decision to release them as standalone singles one week apart, or do you think one or both might have performed better with a different rollout strategy?
Rania Aniftos: I’m going to continue repping “Bussin,” and say that it should have had its own standalone moment. I think it would have debuted in the Hot 100 top 10 at least if fans weren’t still hyped around the “Do We Have a Problem?” release. I do understand the rollout strategy, though, because it gives a cool, almost vinyl-inspired feel to the release with a Side A and Side B of her Lil Baby collabs.
Carl Lamarre: I appreciated the back-to-back attempt by Nicki and Baby because they were swinging for a grand slam. It was a ballsy but thoughtful move that no one expected so fast, considering Nicki’s lengthy absence. To me, “Do We Have a Problem,” debuting high at No. 2 on the Hot 100, was a win. Though “Bussin'” fell short compared to its predecessor — opening at No. 20 this week — that’s still an admirable feat and indeed punctuated Nicki’s return.
Jason Lipshutz: The No. 2 debut of “Do We Have a Problem?” certainly validates the multi-week strategy, since it emphasized that single rather than splitting initial listenership in half. “Bussin” may have scored a higher debut had it been released on the same day as its predecessor, when interest in Minaj’s return was sky-high — but more likely, it would have cannibalized streams for “Problem?” and limited its chart ceiling. Considering that “Bussin” still scored a top 20 debut one week later, I’d call the strategy a success.
Neena Rouhani: I’m not sure if the debut performance validates it, but I do understand what they were trying to do, building off of the momentum of “Do We Have a Problem?” I will say that I wish there was another music video picking up where the already near-iconic first video left off. We all love to see Nicki in her acting bag, and a follow-up video could’ve helped push the buzz of “Bussin” forward.
Andrew Unterberger: I think it might’ve worked a little better if they’d reversed the order of the two — with the harder “Bussin'” really announcing her return and the more pop-accessible “Problem” building on that. It could’ve maybe worked the same way The Weeknd’s “Heartless”/”Blinding Lights” combo did in advance of After Hours a few years back — though banking on anything working like that combo did is of course a recipe for heartbreak. In any event, a No. 2 debut is an excellent showing for “Problem,” so it’s unlikely anyone’s sweating the rollout decision.
3. Based on the chemistry they show on the two songs, do you think Nicki Minaj and Lil Baby as a duo bring out the best in one another? Do you see them continuing to work together much in the future?
Rania Aniftos: Totally. Nicki can be particular with those she keeps in her inner circle and collaborates with, and it speaks volumes that she partnered with Baby for back-to-back collaborations. They’re like-minded lyricists and match each other’s energy really well – which is hard to do because Nicki brings a lot of energy to her songs. I’d love to see them work together more.
Carl Lamarre: I wouldn’t mind one more record, completing the trilogy between the newly-assembled duo because I know there’s an extra gear they haven’t touched yet. While Nicki continues to be a vivacious rhymer, Baby gives the veteran MC an extra jolt and a younger fanbase. Also, Nicki being an all-time legend only boosts Baby’s cache as a featured artist.
Jason Lipshutz: “Do We Have a Problem?” demonstrates the magic that Nicki and Baby can conjure together: over a Papi Yerr beat that sounds like it would have been at home on Baby’s My Turn LP, the two superstars feed off one another, Minaj’s flow bruising and Baby’s helium voice floating above it. Both are top-notch rappers with pop instincts, and both know how to land a punchline. Two songs together aren’t enough for these two.
Neena Rouhani: I definitely think they both benefited from the collab, considering where they’re at in their careers. Nicki is a giant, one of the best rappers of my generation, and Baby is one of the biggest next-gen acts. But in terms of chemistry, I think they’ve paired off better with other artists.
Andrew Unterberger: Lil Baby is adaptable enough at this point to fit on anyone’s songs, and Nicki was flitting between Christina Aguilera and Rick Ross singles long before Baby had even started rapping. But it’s not the most obvious of pairings, certainly: Minaj is such a larger-than-life, in-your-face personality, and Baby tends to keep his cards a little closer to the vest. They don’t push each other to new heights, necessarily, but they don’t sound out of place next to each other either.
4. The song is now Lil Baby’s third No. 2 hit — after two in support of Nicki’s former Young Money labelmate Drake (“Wants and Needs” and “Girls Want Girls”) — leaving him still one of music’s biggest hitmakers without a Hot 100 No. 1. If you had to bet, do you think he gets one by this time next year?
Rania Aniftos: I hope so because, honestly, he deserves it. Whether you’re a Lil Baby fan or not, you can’t deny that the man hustles. He’s worked with everyone from Nicki, obviously, to Jack Harlow, DJ Khaled and Drake. It’s also still early in the “Do We Have a Problem?” lifespan. All it’ll take is one TikTok trend or a buzz-worthy awards show performance for Lil Baby and Nicki to celebrate their No. 1 hit together.
Carl Lamarre: Baby is due for one, and it’s going to come with this all-important third album, slated to drop this year. My Turn solidified his standing as a mainstream superstar, and his features since have been volcanic. It’s just a matter of Baby giving the green light on when he’s ready to roll everything once because once he begins to percolate, we have a problem.
Jason Lipshutz: Lil Baby can’t be more than six months away from his first No. 1 on the Hot 100, either on a solo song that precedes the follow-up to My Turn, or, considering how prolific he continues to be as a guest artist, on a high-wattage collaboration. Heck, somebody put Lil Baby on a “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” remix and end this too-long drought already!
Neena Rouhani: Absolutely.
Andrew Unterberger: It might just come down to when Lil Baby finally releases the long-awaited follow-up to 2020’s My Turn — if it’s in 2022, then sure, it’d be pretty surprising to not see anything from the set top the Hot 100. Even if not, though, he’s just the right one-off, superstar pairing and/or slow chart week away from getting there anyway. You’d probably have longer odds betting against it than on it at this point.
5. If you had to answer Nicki’s question with one essential “Problem” song, which would it be?
Rania Aniftos: If Nicki wants to know if we have a problem, I’ll tell her all about my “99 Problems.”
Carl Lamarre: “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”
Jason Lipshutz: Gotta go with the classic that Nicki’s Young Money cohort, Drake, flipped for “Worst Behavior” nearly a decade ago: The Notorious B.I.G., Mase and Puff Daddy’s “Mo Money Mo Problems,” one of the best hip-hop songs ever released.
Neena Rouhani: We have “First World Problemz” ….but Nobody Carez.
Andrew Unterberger: Woe is veteran New York rapper Homeboy Sandman over a Robert Glasper sample on his sublime 2014 lament “Problems,” just the right mix of specific and relatable.