Nicki Minaj has dropped her long-awaited new album, Pink Friday 2. Something of a follow-up to 2010’s Pink Friday, the album has a whopping 22 tracks and offers fans plenty to dig into. From big-budget samples like Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” to features including Drake, Lil Wayne, and Future, the album is sure to satiate Minaj’s throngs of loyal fans — known as the Barbz — for some time, and makes for a late addition as one of the year’s biggest rap albums.
Here are five takeaways from Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2
Welcome to Gag City
On Thursday night, ahead of the album’s release, Minaj shared the album’s long-awaited track list with a message on Twitter. “The Captain is preparing to make a brief descent to the #GagCity,” the tweet read. Gag City refers to the fan-created, A.I. generated universe of the album, draped in Minaj’s signature pastel pinks. Earlier this month, images made using A.I. tools began to surface on social media, courtesy of the Barbz. After releasing the official album art in September, fans online began constructing this elaborate universe dubbed “Gag City.” With invitations extended to past Minaj collaborators like Ariana Grande and even members of BTS (whom Minaj joined on the single “IDOL”), Gag City began as an in-joke among Minaj’s fans and has now become a major piece of the album’s rollout online, with futuristic-looking pink landscapes flooding social feeds and serving as a visualizer for the album’s tracks on YouTube.
Minaj may have broken the itty-bitty piggy bank clearing some of the samples on Pink Friday 2. The original Pink Friday is regarded as her pop-star breakout moment, and it makes sense that she’d re-explore that energy through sampling a slew of pop songs, including some classics: Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” on “My Life”; Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” on “Pink Friday Girls”; Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet” on “Everybody”; and Billie Eilish’s “when the party’s over” on “Are You Gone Already.” She also put her previously-released “Super Freaky Girl,” which sampled Rick James, on the album. Minaj has a history of sampling iconic records, including Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” on “Anaconda” and 2023’s “Barbie World” with Ice Spice. It speaks to her supreme confidence that she’d take on such ubiquitous songs that have their own identity and reshape them to be the soundtrack of Gag City. —A.G.
Drake and Nicki Link Up Once Again
Minaj has long been teasing a new collaboration with Young Money compandré Drake, and Pink Friday 2 delivers. “Needle” is a slinky, Afrobeats-infused tune that finds Drake squarely in his “One Dance”-era melodies. It’s undoubtedly where he shines, as he ditches the paranoia-drenched ethos of For All the Dogs for something softer, crooning the song’s chorus with a more graceful touch. Minaj, meanwhile, manages to remain punchy as ever, offering up a verse worthy of recognition in the genre’s pantheon of romance raps. Both sing on the song’s last chorus, giving listeners a taste of the impressive range the two artists possess. Drake and Minaj collaborated on the first Pink Friday, teaming up for the inescapable hit “Moment for Life,” which was released 13 years ago. With production from Boi-1da and YogiTheProducer, who build an infectiously breezy low-fi groove, it’s safe to say both artists took the occasion seriously, delivering fans with the kind of magic possible when two of music’s most versatile stars work together. —J.I.
J. Cole’s Legendary Run of Features Continues
Minaj is a couple of years older than J. Cole, but they’re essentially from the same generation of MCs. She grew up in Southside, Queens, but had a chapter of her rap career based in Atlanta, while Cole is from Fayettevile, North Carolina, but started his rap ascension while attending St. Johns University in Queens. Oh, and they’re both bona fide rap legends with rabid fanbases. The two have several interesting career overlaps, which makes it surprising that they haven’t collaborated until 2023 on Minaj’s “Let Me Calm Down.” Minaj starts off the smooth, ATL Jacob-, Hendrix Smoke-, and Kuji-produced song with a romantic scene with “My heart sayin’ I love him while I’m screamin’ that I hate him/And it ain’t no more debatin’, this time it’s a ultimatum,” delving into a story about a guy that’s a little too clingy for her. Cole follows up with his own verse from a man’s perspective: “She bad as fuck, but hard to deal with, and it ain’t her fault,” while reminding, “If you love her, then you gotta learn to play your part.” He’s been known as one of rap’s best feature killers, recently rhyming with Drake on “First Person Shooter” and Lil Yachty on “The Secret Recipe.” But this time, Cole’s verse isn’t a boast-filled battle rap or reflection on his career, the two take turns exercising their storytelling chops on one of Pink Friday 2’s standout tracks. —A.G.
Nicki Explores All of the Sounds
The album truly has something for everyone. In-demand producer BNYX offers up the beat for the brooding sound of “Blessings,” which manages to feel like the producer’s signature vibe pushed through a filter of Minaj’s Gag City universe. On “Everybody,” we’re in the Jersey-club register at the core of many of the year’s most viral hits, except once again Minaj’s capable of bending these sonic textures to her will, truly constructing a world of her own. Take “Nicki Hendrix,” where she’s joined by Future for a single that sounds as drenched in syrup as the rapper’s most forlorn early cuts. As the title suggests, she embodies Future’s lovesick alter ego, managing to imbue his signature sound with something quintessentially Minaj. Throughout the record, she traverses through sonic corners of hip-hop, R&B, and pop in this way. Almost like she’s waving a wand over the entire rap world, turning everything she touches into pink gold. —J.I.