‘Pink Friday 2, Nicki Minaj’s first album in five years, features the queen of rap in as solid command of the mic as she’s ever been.
Stream: ‘Pink Friday 2’ – Nicki Minaj
Who’s the Queen of Hip-Hop?
Back in 2018, when Nicki Minaj last put out an album, the competition was essentially between her and Cardi B, who had shot to success earlier that year herself. Neither one released a new LP over the ensuing five years, though, meaning that the title once again became up for grabs, with the likes of Latto, Megan Thee Stallion, and most of all Doja Cat making credible claims for it.
Now that she’s finally back, Nicki Minaj is keen on setting the record straight. “I’m Number One, y’all go argue over Top Four,” she raps on “Fallin 4 U.” And then on “Just the Memories,” she takes it even further, declaring herself the “greatest female rapper to ever live, and that’s on my kid.”
Nicki Minaj is no stranger to staking her claim on the Top Spot. Back on the first track on her first album, she announced that she was “the best bitch doin’ it, doin’ it” and didn’t provoke many arguments in the process. Keeping that line of boasts going turns out to be one of several common traits between 2010’s Pink Friday and the brand new Pink Friday 2.
Just as the former interpolated a good number of old songs into ready-to-be-rapped over beats— “Check It Out” gave “Video Killed the Radio Star” this treatment, as did “Blazin'” to “Don’t You Forget About Me” and so on— so does the latter carry on the trend a decade-plus later. “Super Freaky Girl,” the lead single that was curiously put out over a year before the album itself, refashioned Rick James’ “Super Girl” into an infectious ode to gettin’ ur freak on all night. Tracks like “Pink Friday Girls,” “My Life” and “Red Ruby da Sleeze” all pay homage to hit songs of yesteryear, all while featuring an innovative Nicki spin to them.
Moreover, some of Minaj’s most longstanding collaborators – including several who were at her side all the way back on the first Pink Friday – resurface once again. Drake and Lil Wayne are two of the MCs who predictably make their way back to the Queen MC’s guest list. “You’re like a needle, life’s a haystack,” Drake comments on his longtime creative partnership with Nicki. “Friends, they can leave us. You could stay back.” The resulting track, “Needle,” may not be the second coming of 2010’s smash hit “Moment 4 Life,” but it demonstrates that the two Young Money allies can still collaborate as naturally as ever.
Like many great legacy sequels (Top Gun: Maverick, for instance), Pink Friday 2 honors the bygone era of its predecessor while also updating itself for the current age in key ways. “Barbie Dangerous,” for instance, reaches back not 13 years but a mere five months, when Nicki Minaj was one of multiple celebrities to capitalize in major style from the massive success of the Barbie movie and soundtrack this past summer. This new song picks up where “Barbie World” left off in July, allowing Minaj to solidify her command in the rap world. “I’m still queenin’,” she raps on the Biggie-influenced beat. “Chanel bags, they still swingin’… They love the flow, they still streamin’.“
Other streaming-worthy numbers here include duets with a fresh batch of faces. It’s exciting to see Nicki Minaj collaborate with some of mainstream rap’s leading veteran MC’s that she’d hitherto never teamed up with in the studio. J. Cole and Lil Uzi Vert are among the standouts in that regard, as both of them turn in energetic and lyrically nimble verses on “Let Me Calm Down” and “Everybody,” respectively.
Further fine guests include artists who hadn’t yet become that famous when Nicki Minaj last put out a new album in 2018, and even ones that aren’t even famous yet, period – little-know Texan singer Lourdiz represents the latter category proudly with her gentle crooning on the melodic “Cowgirl.”
In summary, Nicki Minaj keeps the creativity and skills on the mic coming strong throughout the impressively consistent Pink Friday 2.
It all begins with opening track “Are You Gone Already” – which interpolates Billie Eilish’s 2019 hit “When the Party’s Over,” and calls upon Billie’s brother Finneas for some production assistance – and continues all the way through the introspective album closer “Just the Memories,” which finds the leading lady reflecting on her key sources of creative motivation. “When every label turned me down and then they laughed about it,” she reflects. “I ‘member goin’ home and writin’ fifty more raps, just ’cause I knew you really wanted me to fall back.” The perseverance certainly has paid off.
All told, Pink Friday 2 features a healthy balance of Old and New Nicki, and ultimately demonstrates that Onika Maraj remains a compelling and capable MC in this veteran phase of her accomplished career. As long as her skills on the mic remain this refined, the crown for Hottest Female Rapper in the Game might just be hers for the keeping after all this time.
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© Charlotte Rutherford
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