Truly, who does it like Nicki Minaj? Would punchlines about duct tape and long, “you b— can’t even spell Prague!” hair even exist had she not made them iconic talismans of her career? Absolutely not. In a year of Oprah-investigated monarchies ripe for the toppling, it’s only fitting that Queen of the Barbz Nicki Minaj reexamine her past. The rerelease of 2009 mixtape “Beam Me Up Scotty” is a pensive perusal of reconciling larger-than-life perception with the fear of being dethroned.
Back in 2009, Nicki Minaj’s rise as ruler of rap was sensational and, above all else, revolutionary. Minaj’s clear talent was matched with her copious charisma — all wrapped up in the bait-and-switch of her personas. In her music, she goes full throttle into a vertiginous verse that’s built to make you feel like a Barbie-level boss. But then she’s casual and carefree, a distant, famous friend fake-laughing with Jimmy Fallon and reminiscing over Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits. It’s how she’s stayed relevant since the age of Justin Bieber prepuberty bowl cuts and Kanye’s MTV VMA coup d’état. As much as the world tried to pare her down to its level, she chewed it up and spit it out, just to repeat the process on the next verse.
“Y’all boys get on the track with Onika Maraj and y’all still dyin’ man, what’s up?” Drake reminds on the track “Seeing Green.” With gospel singers belting notes in the background as rhythmic accompaniment to Lil Wayne’s discombobulated rapping, Nicki, of course, carries the track on her 5’2” shoulders. The song is a tribute to lasting friendships, born from utmost respect. Drake knows it’s Nicki’s world, the rest of us are just living in it. Such as the age-old story of Kanye nearly removing Minaj’s verse from “Monster” — mainly because it was just too damn good and Yeezus was insecure — a Nicki feature usually means a Nicki domination.
As Nicki reminds on the classic track “Itty Bitty Piggy,” when she has “Nicki Minaj, Nicki Lewinsky, Nicki the Ninja, Nicki the Boss, Nicki the Harajuku Barbie,” there’s little room in the spotlight for anyone else. Her ferocious flow on her mixtape’s classic tracks, along with her distinct flow, brilliant rhythmic structure and consistent, fast-paced, brash barbs, are all the reasons for why she couldn’t be overthrown in 2009.
The nostalgia of Minaj’s throwback mixtape is the reason why the album’s release reignited Barbz and TikTok youth to stream it. Bass-boosted “Chi-Raq’s” instrumental alone was a prominent TikTok audio.
In the song “Envy,” there’s early evidence of Nicki’s pop sensibilities and manifestations of being the most influential female rapper today. “Envy, all they do is envy / Don’t they know what’s in me?” Others doubted her then, and now female rappers would be lost if her pink wig wasn’t bright enough to light the way.
While it would probably be sacrilegious to critique Minaj, as you risk the wrath of the Barbz, a group that believes beheadings are not quite outdated in their queendom, addition “Fractions” doesn’t resemble 2009 Nicki. Throughout the track, buried beneath blame-filled verses, is the semblance of the bite of her previous raps. No longer is Nicki explicitly telling you how she feels, or is proudly being the villain in a rival’s rap career. No, she’s placing the blame on everyone else.
“Accusations on them blogs and they all fictitious,” she spits out, furious. It’s supposedly a reference to her husband’s alleged sexual assault victim, whom Minaj has accused of lying about being attacked. It’s disheartening to see that while she’s paved the way for so many others, she still sees herself as their competition. “I’m the final level bitch they on a mission to beat,” sounds sad, not satisfactory — a far cry from the empowering ideologies she built her career on.
On the original mixtape’s “Intro,” Minaj remarks “I know that, that no matter what, it’s / In the end it’s not gonna be about my talent, you know.” In many ways, her fears came true. Her empire has been threatened — she just has no one else to blame but herself.
Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].