I was in Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend, so I didn’t quite get around to listening to Queen in its entirety until today. I tried avoiding it so I could listen to it all at once, but people around me kept playing it, so I’ve heard a few songs here and there. Also, the meme-ing and social media chatter — mostly about “Barbie Dreams” — has been relentless. But anyways, let’s get to it.
Nicki comes out the gate swing on the album’s opening track, “Ganja Burns,” which has drums that will remind you of Drake and Rihanna’s “Too Good” (from Views). Nicki says that “you can’t wear Nicki wig and then Nicki,” and that she writes her own rhymes; I wonder who this song is about. There’s also a line about burying a body, which might seem harmless until you try pronouncing “Bardi” in a New Yawk accent. Overall, the song is boring and the sung parts are annoying.
Nicki collaborates with Eminem and British singer Labrinth on the next song, “Majesty.” I got excited during the first 25 seconds, thinking that was what the whole song would sound like, and then my hopes were quickly dashed. It goes from a melodic piano-driven tune to this hard beat that would be a lot less annoying if it wasn’t juxtaposed with the piano section (which comes back for the choruses). There is one more beat change towards the end of the song that has Nicki dropping a closing verse in an annoying baby voice. The song would be so much better if they kept the piano section throughout and got rid of Eminem’s verse. Also, Nicki has a line about “switching like sissies,” which is would be questionable from anyone, but especially so from a woman whose stardom depends heavily on a gay fan base.
The fact that Nicki makes songs like “Ganja Burns” when she’s clearly capable of making songs like “Barbie Dreams” pisses me off. The album’s third track has Nicki roasting a rack of industry niggas — from 50 Cent to DJ Khaled to even labelmate Drake — over the beat to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Just Playing (Dreams).” The song becomes that much more impressive when you find out that it was mostly freestyled. The last minute of the track switches to a completely different song and one can’t help but roll one’s eyes. It should’ve been a separate track, but Nicki don’t wanna win.
The next three tracks are “Rich Sex” (featuring Lil Wayne), “Hard White” and “Bed” (featuring Ariana Grande). “Rich” Sex” and “Bed” have been out for months, so I’ll focus on the Boi-1da -produced “Hard White,” which sounds like something from a Drake album. It’s very “Started from the Bottom,” except the beat doesn’t knock nearly as hard. Not a bad song, but far from remarkable in any way.
(Sidebar: I can’t believe “Bed” wasn’t a bigger hit.)
Singing Nicki returns on “Thought I Knew You” with an assist from the Weeknd, and the song is very much on his artistic turf. As of the writing of this review, I might’ve listened to this track about five times, and it gets better with each listen. I still can’t say whether I’ll eventually love the song, but my feelings about it have changed significantly for the better over a 24-hour period.
The next track is “Run & Hide” and there is more singing. Nicki actually sounds better than usual on this very Drake-sounding track, but I would’ve loved to hear her rap over this beat. The track lasts a brief but perfect 2 minutes 35 seconds. It would be annoying song if it lasted any longer
As the title might indicate, “Chun Swae” is a collaboration with Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee, so you already know this is some goofy shit — and I say that with love. The song has bars for days and Nicki gives us at least three different flows, but it’s at least two minutes too long — Nicki spends the last minute or so shouting people out and then declaring that she’s a queen. I wish she didn’t feel the need to make that declaration so often — it’s bad enough that she called her album Queen. It comes off a bit insecure, but ah well.
The next song is “Chun Li,” which is a solid track that fell victim to being released at the height of Bardi Season. If she released that song now or some other time where there was a bit more oxygen in the room, it would’ve probably fared better on the charts.
Nicki blacked out on “LLC,” giving us bar after bar after bar. It’s arguably the album’s best song and another one you can file as a Cardi diss track, evidenced by her mention of labels paying radio DJs to endorse music, which is something that Cardi B is rumored to have benefited from — Funkmaster Flex alludes to this payola-ish practice in his interview with Nicki earlier this week. She also calls out rappers with ghostwriters, which could be a shot at Remy Ma as well as Cardi, who’ve both had to deal with ghostwriter rumors in the last year. But then again, so has Nicki.
On “Good Form,” Nicki says she’s only loyal to the niggas that buss guns for her, and I can relate. She maintains the momentum from “LLC,” giving us more #barz over a dope-ass beat. What’s particularly impressive about this and the previous track is that they are very different from anything we’ve ever heard from Nicki.
Nicki is singing again on “Nip Tuck,” which is about an ex-lover who had to be cut off for not appreciating what he had. She actually sounds like a real singer on this track, but when she raps towards the end of the song, it is so good that you wish she rapped over the whole thing.
In a move that I can only take as her commitment to a singing career, Nicki followed the long R&B tradition of making an interlude that’s better than most of the album. The 55-second “2 Lit 2 Late” is very melodic and will leave you screaming and crying for more. I hope she pulls a Rihanna and gives us a full-length remix a la “Birthday Cake.”
There’s even more singing on “Come See about Me,” which sounds a lot like Drake’s “Weston Road Flows” in the opening 5 seconds. The song is boring, but I will say that it is another good vocal performance from Nicki.
“Sir,” which features Future, has that trap bassline that you can hear on half the songs on the radio right now. It is hot trash. Next.
As soon as I started playing “Miami,” it sounded familiar; it also has one of those go-to trap basslines of the moment, but it was more than just the bassline. The cadence, the flow; where have I heard this before? Then I remembered: I heard it on Valee’s “Miami.” Nicki’s “Miami” is a little faster and a little Travis-Scott-esque, but I cannot be convinced that she wasn’t inspired by Valee. Overall, the song is not bad; I’d love it a lot more if she went in a different direction production-wise. I am ready for the industry to move on from trap.
Nicki Minaj and Foxy Brown join forces for the album’s last full song, “Coco Chanel,” which is an ode to both rappers’ New York and Trinidadian roots. I wish Foxy came a little harder, but it is still a strong showing from both rappers. The track blends into “Inspirations Outro,” where Nicki name-checks everyone from Beenie Man to Patra to Bob Marley.
While Queen is markedly different from Nicki’s past projects, she borrows from her peers on more tracks that I would’ve liked. Also, while rapping about haters and competitors is standard fare for Nicki, she seems a little distracted by them — more specifically, distracted by Cardi B — this time around. However, it a solid album and arguably her best one yet.
Album rating: 7 out of 10 stars.