Save for a handful of guest features, Nicki Minaj has been fairly quiet since the release of The Pinkprint in 2014. But that quickly changed Sunday afternoon when she dropped “The PinkPrint Freestyle,” a six-minute, two-part track that had me reeling — serving as a reminder of the title that Beyoncé bestowed upon Minaj in 2015, the Queen of Rap. Just in case anyone forgot.
Minaj uses the song as a way to re-establish her brand. She comes out swinging, stressing her clout, “I'm talkin' 'bout my brand and you talkin' 'bout your brands / The difference is a lot of MMMMMMMMMMs to your couple hundred grand,” and shouts out Lil Wayne, who discovered Minaj and signed her to Young Money in 2009. It’s an opportune moment to show her gratitude to Weezy F, who announced his retirement the day before the freestyle was released.
Her hat tip to Tunechi is just the first of many in “The Pinkprint Freestyle”; she incorporates a handful of references that once again validate her abilities as a lyricist. Over the production from Brooklyn rapper Young M.A’s hit song “OOOUUU,” she spits, “Young ma, it's the female Jay / I'm a brand accordin' to what retail say.” Minaj introduces herself to the young emcee, perhaps as one woman to another in the rap game. Minaj even gives a nod to Harambe the gorilla, “Bars for years, niggas thought I did a bid / I'm draggin' these hoes like Harambe did the kid,” using the incident as a means to flex her weight.
Minaj continually maneuvers between different styles, characters, and accents with ease. In the second part of the track, she returns to her Caribbean roots, and samples Emperor Ranks’ (a.k.a. Shabba Ranks) 1992 song “Ting-A-Ling.” She then slips into a pretty accurate impression of M.I.A., borrowing from her track “Paper Planes.”
“The Pinkprint Freestyle” is a slow-burn; on first listen, the song is tough and biting, yet — in classic Queen Bee behavior — requires some time to unpack. But that’s why I admire and respect Minaj: She continually shows her passion, offering up the many sides of her artistry, and proving that she can never be counted out.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram