After a tumultuous 2017 and a torturous hiatus, Nicki Minaj has returned with two new singles, “Barbie Tingz” and “Chun-Li,” and she’s back with a menacing vengeance.
Think of “Barbie TIngz” as a 2018 version of Nicki’s perennial hit, “Itty Bitty Piggy.” “Let’s be real, all you bitches wanna look like me / Wanna be in demand, get booked like me / Wanna run up in the lab and cook like me,” Nicki calls out all the female rappers that bite her style and flow and never claim her as an influence or give her her props. “Barbie TIngz” is simultaneously playful and cutthroat. This clear shot at Remy Ma (“How you still dissin’, still can’t find some hits? / Was it worth it, dummy? I ain’t mind a bit / Still on that show gettin’ no chips, time to dip.”) comes at the very beginning of the song, there is not beating around the bush. The hood renaissance imagery of the single artwork is apparent throughout the song. Hood Nicki is back, Mixtape Mentality Nicki is back and she is the most hungry she’s been in a while.
On the other hand, we have “Chun-Li,” titled after a vengeful Street Fighter character. This track is a clear stream of consciousness about her side of her infamous 2017. Over the course of the last year, Nicki’s name was riddled with lies and dragged through the mud while her talent and impact were discredited at every turn. On “Chun-Li” Nicki rails against everyone “painting her out to be the bad guy.” With a slight shot at Cardi B (“How many of them coulda did it with finesse? / Now everybody like, “She really is the best.” / You play checkers, couldn’t beat me playin’ chess.”), “Chun-Li” is clever and my personal favorite out of the two.
With these two singles, Nicki did what she had to do. She returned with two undeniably great solo hip-hop tracks with bars all the way through. “Barbie Tingz’s” hook is proof that her pop sensibilities are still here and the imagery of the two singles already points toward a more focused era. Nicki’s flow, enunciation, and delivery were immaculate on both tracks and once again she has raised the bar not only for female rap but for the rap game in general.
SCORES: “Barbie Tingz,” 81 + “Chun-Li,” 84