In the world of rap and hip-hop, few artists have left as indelible a mark as Nicki Minaj. This August marks the fifth anniversary of the release of Queen, her critically acclaimed fourth studio album.
As we commemorate this milestone, we delve into the making, release, and lasting impact of this exceptional album, and explore the impressive body of work Nicki has continued to build in its wake.
Back in 2018, Minaj was already an established name. She wasn’t just a rapper; she was a brand, a symbol of ambition and success that millions aspired to.
Queen was not conceived out of a need for recognition; it was, as Minaj put it, about “celebrating her wins.” Produced alongside a team of renowned collaborators, including Mike WiLL Made-It and Zaytoven, Queen was a meticulous work of art.
The album took two years to complete — a testament to Minaj’s dedication to her craft. It was a deeply personal project for her, with tracks like “Ganja Burns” detailing her journey and struggle.
The album also showcased her exceptional lyricism and rap prowess, particularly in tracks like “Barbie Dreams,” which interpolates The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Just Playing (Dreams).” In this track, Minaj’s audacious and playful spirit shone through as she unapologetically named several of her male contemporaries.
Released on August 10, 2018, Queen debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 albums chart. It was a commercial success and received widespread acclaim for its blend of ferocious rap anthems and introspective, personal narratives. Critics praised Minaj’s lyrical depth and her dynamic, versatile delivery that switched effortlessly between raw aggression and emotional vulnerability.
“Chun-Li,” the album’s lead single, was celebrated as an assertive declaration of her reign in the hip-hop industry, and it reigned supreme on charts globally. Its impact was further amplified by a visually stunning and culturally rich music video that drew inspiration from various Asian aesthetics, a homage to the Street Fighter character after whom the song is named.
Five years on, Queen remains a significant chapter in Nicki Minaj’s career. It solidified her place in a male-dominated industry, proving that she was neither a novelty nor a side act — she was a powerhouse. It has since become a beacon for aspiring female rappers, an example of what is possible when talent meets tenacity.
Moreover, the album challenged the status quo of what it means to be a female rapper in the 21st century. With Queen, Minaj proved that female rappers could be as bold, brash, and brazen as their male counterparts, without sacrificing their femininity or grace.
While “Chun-Li” and “Barbie Dreams” were standout singles, Queen was replete with gems. “Majesty,” featuring Eminem and Labrinth, was a majestic blend of rap and pop, showcasing Minaj’s unparalleled ability to hold her own alongside industry legends. “Good Form,” featuring Lil Wayne, became an anthem for empowerment and self-assurance.
In the year Queen was released, Minaj didn’t just stop at her album. She was featured in a slew of collaborations, most notably “FEFE” with controversial rapper 6ix9ine and “Woman Like Me” with British girl group Little Mix, further emphasizing her versatility and widespread appeal.
2018 was a year of transformation for Minaj, professionally and personally. She made headlines not just for Queen, but for her candidness in interviews and her willingness to use her platform to advocate for issues close to her heart.
Her appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she discussed her love life and her decision to “dedicate a year of her life to her own happiness,” was refreshingly honest and gave fans a deeper look into the woman behind the legend.
What makes Minaj’s story truly remarkable is her resilience. In a world that often tried to pit her against her contemporaries, she consistently rose above, refusing to engage in divisive narratives and instead focusing on her craft and her fans.
The Nicki Minaj that emerged with Queen was one of strength, maturity, and reflection. It wasn’t just about chart-topping hits; it was about artistry, narrative, and emotional exploration. It was a declaration: Nicki Minaj was, and is, here to stay.
As Queen turns five, we are reminded not just of an album, but of an era. An era of Nicki Minaj at her most raw, unfiltered, and passionate. As she has evolved, so too has her music, but Queen remains a testament to her skill, her journey, and her indomitable spirit.
In a career marked by chart-topping success, ground-breaking performances, and a fierce dedication to her craft, Queen stands as a crowning achievement in Nicki Minaj’s illustrious career. It is more than an album; it is an enduring legacy of one of the most influential artists of this generation.
Rest assured, the Queen still reigns supreme.
Listen to the Queen album below and stream it everywhere else here.