Nicki Minaj is nothing if not steadfast. Continuing the press tour surrounding her latest studio album, Queen, Minaj sat down with Ellen to explain why she believes she did in fact debut at No. 1, despite the fact that Queen actually (in real life) debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, behind Travis Scott's ASTROWORLD.
“It’s not anger,” Minaj told Ellen, defending her desire to punch Travis Scott “in his fucking face” after the Houston rapper defeated her in a race for higher album sales numbers in Queen's opening week. “It’s just, what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s fair. I’ve had a number two album, and I’ve never cared. It’s just that when you have a number two album to someone who is selling shirts, and merch, and selling passes for a tour that’s not even announced yet, it feels like you’re being tricked. It feels like someone is playing a game and beating you at a game as opposed to just selling music. I want to sell music… He sold a lot of t-shirts and sweaters... and tour passes! And so we're not gonna have that!”
Anger or not, Minaj’s frustration is palpable. While Travis Scott did not invent the album-merch bundle, nor was he the first artist to package albums with ticket sales, he was also playing entirely by the rules. Merch bundles work, so Scott merely used a tool at his disposal. There is, of course, the obvious elephant in the room that is Nicki Minaj also sold merch packages including T-shirts and albums.
According to Billboard: "Queen, like Astroworld, saw its sales bolstered by an array of merchandise/album bundles sold via Minaj’s official website. Queen also benefits from sales generated by a concert ticket/album sale redemption offer with her upcoming co-headlining tour with Future." The other elephant in the room? Travis' North American tour starts November 8, while the North American leg of Nicki and Future's joint tour has been "postponed."
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“I wanna say, [Travis Scott] didn’t have the number one album. Queen was the number one album,” Minaj continued. Of course, the charts say otherwise. “By the way, I lost out on 12 hours of sales in my first week, because it was a secret album, so I was gonna drop it while I was on Queen Radio, and then I didn’t. Twelve hours later it came out...”
Yes, losing out on sales can be a huge hit to artists, but there is yet another problem here: Queen was not a surprise drop, it was available for pre-order. As we know, Nicki Minaj has a rabid fanbase that will support her at all costs, meaning that 12 hours or 12 weeks late, there is a good chance her core audience had their wallets ready.
Following the assertion that Queen was a surprise release, Nicki Minaj upended herself by reminding everyone that she loves being grateful ("I'm, like, the most grateful person in the world"), and constantly reminds herself of what it means to live without. She then dives into the truth that Black women in America do not always get the chance to defend themselves in the public eye, as their tone is policed far more heavily. While this is absolutely true and has impacted the way Nicki Minaj’s previous comments have been covered, it does not actually absolve Nicki Minaj of attacking a journalist or refusing to accept numbers for what they are. The point is, however, a potent red herring.
Almost a month removed from her album’s release, which is decades in Internet-time, perhaps Nicki Minaj could stand to take the advice of fellow artist A-Trak, who so thoughtfully reminded us that numbers are ascribed too much importance. Even our very own Yoh Phillips covered Minaj’s unhealthy obsession with numbers as a larger problem in all of hip-hop.
There is a villain narrative spun around Queen, but in moments such as these, it seems that people are overwhelmingly on Nicki Minaj’s team, just not in the way she would like.
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