Nicki Minaj's "Chi-Raq" Still Feels Like an Apology for 'Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded'

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Late Monday night, Nicki Minaj released "Chi-Raq," a brand-new song featuring Chicago rapper Lil Herb, teasing fans who are eagerly awaiting her next album. The single, a hard-hitting rap track with a rumbling bass line and an eerie Halloween-esque piano line, finds Minaj bragging about her fame, her money, and her success. What else is new?

Got a money fetish, I’mma fly to Venice

Got a big house, I can play some tennis

Lil’ Herb, what’s good?

I’m a bad bitch and I f--- good.

“Chi-Raq” is the second promotional song Minaj has released recently. “Lookin’ Ass,” another aggressive rap track, sparked some controversy when it was released back in February due to its cover art. The startling thing here is that Minaj's goofy voices and trademark “punch line” rap style are missing. Instead, she is giving us straight-up trap beats and hostility. It certainly seems like Minaj thinks she has something to prove — and maybe she does.

Minaj’s career as a “serious” rapper came into question in 2012 after the release of her last studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The album, which was basically separated into a rap/R&B section and a pop section, divided some fans — and Minaj has been scrambling to earn back her supposedly “lost” credibility ever since. In fact, in response to criticism, Minaj released The Re-Up, an all-rap EP, seven short months later.

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Even though Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded gave Minaj one of her biggest solo hits to date, “Starships,” she feels like she needs to apologize for it. Why? Because she wanted to try something different? Because she wanted to challenge herself and expand into other genres? Minaj is an incredibly talented rapper — releasing a few pop songs doesn’t change that. But it's a complicated issue. Rap is a male-dominated genre, and female rappers are under constant pressure to "prove" themselves and show that they can "hang with the guys." Maybe some see dabbling in pop as a sign of weakness.

Still, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded wasn't the first time Minaj experimented with pop music. Just look at her debut album, Pink Friday’s, lead single “Your Love.” Or the will.i.am-produced “Check It Out.” Or the Rihanna-assisted “Fly.” Or “Super Bass” for crying out loud! You get the picture. Truthfully, Minaj is at her best when she’s blending genres. I don’t understand why anyone would want to stifle her creativity and chastise her for branching out. To be honest, “Chi-Raq” is kind of boring and Minaj doesn’t sound like she’s having that much fun.

In a recent interview with Rap-up, Bryan "Birdman" Williams, the head of Minaj’s record label Cash Money, said that her upcoming third studio album, The Pink Print, will have “a little bit of everything, but more rap.” Well, that’s a little encouraging. I hope Minaj doesn’t leave her pop fans in the dust. It’s one thing to “forget where you came from,” but it’s another thing entirely to try to grow as an artist and attract more fans by attempting something new.

During the outro of “Chi-Raq,” Minaj says, “I always got a trick up my sleeve. I might give you a new trick every week until this album drop, I don’t know.” Sounds like we’ll be hearing more new music from Minaj in the coming weeks. Let's hope we get to hear some variety next time around. Check out "Chi-Raq" via Minaj's official Soundcloud below.

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