Nicki Minaj’s role in music has changed the hip-hop landscape for all artists. Her quirky delivery and glossy tone made any record she jumped on a bonafide attention grabber. The moment she stepped into the digital space spitting lyrics like “Just when they thought it was safe to play, I Hit ’em with the N-I-C, the K-I,” we witnessed a metamorphosis for women in hip-hop. Not only did her music curate the way rappers approached songs through phrasing and pronunciation, but it also opened space for artists to be playful while delivering skillful bars.
Throughout her career, we’ve watched Nicki Minaj maneuver the ups and downs of being a prominent figure in hip-hop in the age of social media. From breaking records, controversy and hiatuses, the 41-year-old has been under a microscope for her bars and voice in pop culture. What we know best about Minaj outside of her distinct pulse in music is that she’s always held a transparent relationship with her dedicated fanbase: The Barbz.
After her official album announcement, the Barbz began to spread the word through digital QR codes, tweets and the day before the official album release, an AI campaign, Gag City, creating an all-pink universe of their own. With constant teasers about the album being her best work to date, the anticipation grew. That was until Minaj took to Instagram Live to share that Pink Friday 2 would again be pushed back and released on her birthday, December 8, 2023.
Amidst the futuristic pink Gag City memes and a top trending spot on X, the world was ready to embark on the ride of Pink Friday 2 once the clock struck midnight. With over a decade of memorable punchlines and clever wordplay, the time has come for Barbz and hip-hop enthusiasts to absorb her long awaited fifth studio album.
The album begins with the track “Are You Gone Already,” which samples “When The Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish. The song starts with a high-pitched version of the Eilish lyric, “Don’t you know I’m no good for you?” setting the tone before a dark and rigid beat hits the speaker. Minaj paints a picture of the day she found out her father died from a hit-and-run accident. “You never got to meet Papa/ He sweet proper, he keep Mama on my toes/ I needed help, you booked a flight/In three days, you’d meet Papa,” she raps.
As “When The Party’s Over” serves as the backdrop for the tune, Minaj reveals vulnerable layers of herself as she deals with the cycle of grief and forgiveness within herself and her family while entering a new chapter of motherhood. “Don’t stress, Onika, so blessed, Onika/ Today, it’s 12/3/23/ Your baby’s three, he’s the best, Onika.” Although the general public has mixed opinions on Minaj singing her hooks and melodies, the opening track unveils the intersectionality of life and death.
The album then turns abruptly from the introspective and mournful blend to the boastful energy for which Minaj is known. The placement includes songs “Barbie Dangerous,” “Beep Beep,” and “FTCU,” sampling “F-ck The Club Up” by Waka Flocka Flame. Though the songs were filled with high energy, the flow of the project doesn’t fully encapsulate where Minaj’s mindset has been over the last few years outside of her typical tenacity, that is, until you reach songs like “Fallin 4 U” and “Let Me Calm Down” featuring J. Cole.
Both tracks provide a life update on the past few years since her last album, Queen, released in 2018. “Picture that, picture me givin’ b-tches slack/ Picture pretendin’ I ain’t give all these b-tches piggyback/ Picture usin’ me and the Barbz and never givin’ back,” she raps on “Fall 4 U.” It’s no secret that many things transpired over Minaj’s later years in her career regarding her relationships with new female rappers from her altercation with Cardi B to a heated exchange with Latto.
Though the general public continues to push for unity for women in hip-hop, the reality is that not everyone will get along, and that’s okay. Since the beginning of time, rap beef has been alive and prominent. The only difference now is that social media and stan culture have made it harder for the petty back and forths to remain in the music. Minaj’s perspective regarding her place in hip-hop will not budge, and she’s not looking to be the one extending the olive branch in the industry. “I’m number one, y’all go argue over top four,” she raps.
As we dive into the second leg of the album, she shares a glimpse into her life as a married woman with her high school sweetheart, Kenneth Petty, whose past legal troubles have seeped into the brand of Nicki Minaj. Stirring up constant controversy for the Grammy-nominated rapper, still, she continues to show her love despite the debates about her love life with songs “RNB,” featuring Tate Kobang and Lil Wayne, and “Pink Birthday.”
In the latter half of the album, you hit the more commercial songs, including “Needle,” featuring fellow labelmate Drake, “Cowgirl,” featuring Lourdiz, and “Everybody,” featuring Lil Uzi Vert. The song is accompanied by a hard Jersey House beat, making for an instant hit across the soundboards and already garnering almost 30,000 videos using the sound on TikTok.
Throughout the album, you can sense that Minaj is in a carefree era where her heart and instincts lead her. Whether the mood is singing or a fast-paced 16 bars, you can tell she’s not consumed with following the status quo of how her album should flow like her past projects. Many of the songs, like “Bahm Bahm” and “Nicki Hendrix,” were originally album scraps that Minaj played on Instagram Lives as a teaser for the Barbz, but the songs were soon added to the project after all.
Perhaps Minaj has hit a point in her career where she follows her intuition. Still, the album flow needed to be more precise. Throughout the months of hearing her speak about this project, as a listener, you can sense some of the songs feeling unpolished, containing a few fillers. “With no time left, I called Tasha & said I can’t think of my final 8 bars & I felt so disappointed because I didn’t want our song to feel incomplete,” Minaj tweeted about the making of “Blessings.”
Now that the album is out, there are moments in the project where Minaj was racing against the clock to churn out a full body of work. Still, in true Sagittarius fashion, she holds an optimistic approach that leaves a rawness on each track. The album closes out with “Just The Memories,” where Minaj takes us back through the introspective outlook from the beginning of the album and reflects on the ups and downs of her career. “I remember when I was the girl that everybody doubted/ When every label turned me down, and then they laughed about it/ I ‘member goin’ home and writin’ fifty more raps/Just ’cause I knew you really wanted me to fall back,” she raps.
It’s clear that Minaj is at a point where she is no longer in the space of proving herself, and although there have been rocky moments between her and public opinion, she remains true to her braggadocious mantra of knowing her skill. Pink Friday 2 is a clear time capsule of who an artist once was: a hungry up-and-comer turned vet who opened doors and is onto the next chapter in life. Whether you’ve been a Barb from the beginning or a casual music spectator, the album makes you nostalgic as you hear how Minaj’s career has shifted with the good, bad and ugly.
“Look at all the sh-t that y’all threw at me, and I never dipped/ Greatest female rapper to ever live, and that’s on my kid,” she says. Over the past decade, Nicki Minaj cemented her legacy. With this new chapter, hopefully, we’ll see her reap the benefits of what she’s built rather than continuously reiterating her impact since her influence will always live on in the next generation.
About Kenyatta: Clark Atlanta University and Medill School alumna Kenyatta Victoria is the Girls United writer covering everything from news, pop culture, lifestyle, and investigative stories. When not reporting, she’s diving deep into her curated playlists or binging her favorite comfort shows.