Album Review: Nicki Minaj’s ‘Queen’

Delays. Date changes. Dick jokes. Diss tracks that she insists aren’t really diss tracks. And a last-minute release-date-change announced on her new Apple Beats 1 radio show, followed by fantastically weird commentary. We’d expect nothing less from Nicki Minaj and the album she’s titled “Queen,” an epic 19-track collection that stands as her best and boldest recorded work to date.

Minaj’s fourth album is powered by more-focused-than-usual melodies (showing the influence of Trinidadian/Jamaican reggae and Middle Eastern musicality), infectious samples and her trademark mix of foul-mouthed, cocksure rap attacks and sonorous but equally ribald vocals. There’s less quirk than quake to the production, which has an oddly direct, elevated uniformity of tone, despite collaborators ranging from Boi-1da and Supa Dups to J. Reid and Mike Will Made It. And while there are cameos from Eminem, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Future and Foxy Brown, Minaj is always the focus, working at the top of her game through exquisite space-soul ballads such as “Come See About Me” or ominously melodic hip-hop tracks like the pillow-talking “Rich Sex.”

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