Consuming Nicki Minaj’s 2017 output is like binging the entirety of Game of Thrones in one sitting. In Onika’s world, everyone is a potential threat, usurper, or challenge to the throne — the Red Wedding with a dash of pink. The air surrounding Nicki’s celebrity is that of a gifted artist intent on securing her legacy.
Nicki is still the one who unseated Aretha Franklin as the female artist with the most appearances on the Billboard Hot 100, but her verses this year have consistently centered on three themes: her past success compared to competitors, reaffirming her standing in the rap canon, and sexism in the music industry.
Below is an examination of where Nicki is now and how it may point to where she wants to be.
Nicki Loves Numbers
In another life, Nicki should have been an accountant. Her world is one where numbers don’t lie, and that belief increasingly codes her 2017 releases. In February, Nicki took to Gucci Mane’s “Make Love” to voice the declaration, “You see, silly rabbit, to be the queen of rap / You gotta sell records, you gotta get plaques.”
Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots... EVERYBODY
February 25, 2017 marks the day a legendary shot was heard 'round the world. With the release of “ ShETHER,” Remy Ma threw gasoline on a beef that was simmering since Nicki rapped, “Tell that bitch with the crown to run it like Chris Brown,” in 2007 over Terror Squad’s “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” Since then Nicki and Remy have been in a back-and-forth. Nicki got her fair share of jabs in:
Who Is Nicki Fighting For?
Nicki’s fight is separate from contemporaries like Drake or Kendrick Lamar. If rappers like MC Lyte helped create the female rapper archetype and Lil' Kim transformed it into something supremely commercial, then Nicki is fighting to remove the perennial asterisk that appears in discussions about women in hip-hop. She admitted as much in a string of recent tweets:
The Doll House
Nicki has a rabid fanbase. Arguably no rapper does a better job than Minaj of making her Barbz feel like family. The side effect of this is that it creates an echo chamber of eternal praise. In recent months, Nicki has taken to Twitter and Instagram as a way of annotating her verses.
If Beyonce’s Halloween tribute to the original Queen Bee can teach us anything, it’s that relevancy is fleeting, but influence is forever. No one can take away what Minaj has done for hip-hop culture. With the imminent release of her new album, Nicki doesn't need to cement her legacy or status. All most fans want is a more vulnerable, personal look into the life of one of the world's most talented rappers.