Nicki Minaj performs during the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand… (Ethan Miller / Getty Images )
Fame is a funny thing, especially when it comes to someone with such obvious talent as Nicki Minaj, whose stardom seemed assured from the start. It was only a few years ago that the superstar rapper earned her ubiquity with a string of explosive, immediately identifiable cameos.
With a whip-smart wit, fantastic verbal skills and a fluid, inventive flow, Minaj was -- and remains -- a game-changing talent in a very competitive field. She reminded women that rapping offers expressive and financial freedom, and she made talented rappers from the opposite sex sound like amateurs alongside her crazy, roller coaster rhymes and delivery.
Unfortunately, there's little of that back story to be found in her new single, “Freedom.” A shockingly mediocre humblebrag track, the song finds Minaj recounting her ascent, her fame, her talent, her wealth and all that it affords. “It’s crazy in here,” Minaj raps after listing her many accomplishments, including a department store fragrance and international fame, seemingly unaware that said craziness lies within one of the most un-crazy tracks she’s ever released.
“I feel free,” she sings. “I feel freedom.” Bully for her.
At this point in the song, the hungry Nicki Minaj of yore would have thrown us for some sort of loop. She might have taken the voice of one of her alter egos to comment on her patronizing persona in “Freedom.” After so much boasting, a new character might have offered some kind of self-critique.
Even less appetizing than the track itself is the callous timing of its release. Minaj was raised in Queens, and it was a mere week ago that a big chunk of her turf was hit by a storm that killed dozens, ruined lives and destroyed thousands of homes. Parts of her city are still without basic services.
Minaj’s response? A track about how hard it is to have everything you’ve always desired and more, and how she wonders to herself, “‘Do I really want this fame?’” Must be rough. Later she raps, as if standing alone on her perch: “Who I want to work with? Nobody.”
Who should she work with? Perhaps an engineer, or someone in the past week who could have helped her add a verse about the responsibilities for those who have much freedom when tragedy strikes. Or how about a line for the American Red Cross? Surely Minaj can find a rhyme for the phrase, “Text $10 to 90999.” (Minaj, it should be noted, did Tweet about sending her prayers to everyone in the area as the storm was hitting.)
But from the perspective of the song, Minaj has a four word response to such ideas: “It’s crazy in here.” You should see what’s going on at home.
Watch the video below -- be advised there is some language not safe for work.