Die-hard Nicki Minaj fans saw Queen coming. They’ve been waiting for the “old” Nicki since the adept rapper brought back her “Barbie” chain. Last week’s unexpected release of Queen represented much more than just another notch in the rapper’s Fendi belt. The crown was at stake and the kingdom was crawling with critics desperate to see if she still has it.
Nicki is a skilled wordsmith whose lyrical content and theatrical verses often outshined her male competitors on songs. Kanye’s “Monster” and Drake’s “Proud of You” exemplify Minaj’s lyrical prowess and helped her become not only the top female force in hip-hop, but one of the best rappers in the game, period. Queen’s arrival sent the internet into a frenzy and left Barbs scanning bars like they were trying to win a trip to the chocolate factory.
Billboard listened to all 19 tracks and broke down the best bars on Queen.
“They done went to witch doctors to bury the Barbie/ But I double back, kill b-tches, bury the body/ And that go for anybody/ You’ll be thoroughly sorry/ I could wage war or I could come in peace like Gandhi.”
From the onset of Queen, Nicki establishes her dominance as an MC and insinuates there’s a witch-hunt out for her, but anyone who goes against her will fail. Nicki flexes her lyrical wordplay on the island-pop adjacent tune “Ganga Burns.” At first listen, it sounds like Nicki references Cardi B’s rap moniker Bardi when she drops the line “bury the Barbie,” but that’s what’s so clever about Nicki’s wordplay is her delivery, which is essential to every punch line.
“The G5’ll get me out there in an hour now/ The MAC movin’ like crack, I’m sellin’ powder now”
Nicki took us on a trip on her G5 when her “You bitches can’t even spell Prague” clip went viral and she doesn’t hesitate to remind us of her global influence on “Majesty.” Minaj references her first MAC collection, which became the brand’s highest-selling Viva Glam lipstick ever. It doesn’t take a makeup lover to correlate crack’s powder-like substance and Mac’s coveted face powder. Get it?
“Had to cancel DJ Khaled, boy, we ain’t speakin’/ Ain’t no fat n—a tellin’ me what he ain’t eatin.’”
All of which leads us to “Barbie Dreams,” Nicki’s ultimate nod to Biggie and the standout track on Queen. Nicki ambitiously jumped on Biggie’s hip-hop classic “Just Playing (Dreams),” adding an unabashed female flare to an old favorite. Nicki takes jabs at hip-hop’s heavyweights moving with Ali-like sportsmanship. She maneuvers through her friends, foes and exes with lyrical precision.
Perhaps the most comical and witty line comes when she references Khaled’s admission that he doesn’t perform oral sex on women, using his weight and lack of appetite to satisfy his sex partner as a diss. “Barbie Dreams” set the Internet ablaze, even sparking what some believed to be a response from Meek Mill.
Nicki clarified she meant no harm name-dropping the likes of 50 Cent, Young Thug, Future and Odell Beckham. “I only mentioned people in #BarbieDreams that I fuk wit,” she tweeted. “This isn’t a diss. Yikes. This is culture, this is BIGGIE!!!!! New York!!!! This is FUN. Light hearted fun FUN.”
“Ayo, just last week I told ’em to pick a side/ I bust shots, don’t duck if it don’t apply”
If you’ve been keeping up with Nicki’s career over the past few years, this clever line should jump out at you. Nicki demanded flip-flopping fans to “pick a side” during her vicious rap beef with Remy Ma. Nicki cleverly tied together her lyrics subtly shading Remy, Cardi B and other rap fanatics who assumed she was sneak-dissing fellow female artists when she said she wasn’t.
“They delivered my Lambo, all white with a tan bow/ My body’s a work of art, he eatin’ this Van Gogh.”
Minaj is a masterful at crafting witty metaphors like on the Rae Sremmurd-assisted “Chun Swae” where she compares her buxom body to fine art by Vincent Van Gogh.
“Took a lil’ break, but I’m back to me/ Tryna make a new Nicki, where the factory?/ They’ll never toe to toe on a track with me/ There’ll never be another one after me/ ‘Cause the skill level still just a half of me/ Blasphemy, my n—-s will blast for me/ All these low IQ hoes baffle me.”
Nicki covertly takes shots at her competitors, without mentioning names, while expressing her own struggles on “LLC.” Nicki took a short hiatus from social media to record her album, leading skeptics to believe she was afflicted with internal struggles. A common thread throughout Queen is Nicki’s assertion there are copycats of her on the market and she constantly reassures the public she is one of a kind. The cadence of Nicki’s voice allows her to dance around the beat in way that differentiates her from the very people to whom she’s alluding.
“New slaves, but I’m still the master (master)/ I’m whippin’ foreigns to make ’em go faster (faster)”
Kanye isn’t the only artist to use the term “new slaves,” Nicki remixes it on Queen, again sending shots at her clones in the industry. The double entendre compares Nicki whippin’ her fast car to how a slave master would whip a slave to make them work faster.
“My ice gleams on ’em, Wu-Tang creams on ’em / I pull up on the block bumpin’ Biggie ‘Dreams’ on ’em.”
A Nicki/Foxy Brown collaboration has been a long time in the making, so when the track-list included the iconic femcee making a guest appearance, fans were all ears. Nicki combines Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M” and Biggie’s “Dreams” on a simple line that pays homage to two legendary hip-hop acts.
“Want to see what b-tches do when they lose the blue-print/ I mean the pinkprint, ho, let it sink in/ I spoke to Jay the other day, he’s still the kingpin.”
Nicki’s reverence for JAY-Z shines through on “Barbie Tingz,” one of the first two singles off Queen. And she continues to show respect for other acts who’ve influenced her flow. In 2015, Nicki took a page out of Jay’s book and released The Pinkprint, what she called a guide for other female rappers. Nicki threatens to take away the guidebook on “Barbie Tingz” while bragging about her relationship with Jay in the process.
Even Lil Wayne, who makes an appearance on “Rich Sex,” stopped orbiting earth long enough to congratulate Nicki on a job well done. Queen doesn’t necessarily recreate the magic and cohesive range of her magnum opus Pink Friday, but it is a solid release that will keep her ahead of the royal kingdom, for now.