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If You Ain’t First, You’re Last: Nicki Minaj’s Battle With Number Two

An analysis of how Nicki has been dropping the ball since 2010.

The year is 1998 and DMX has just dropped his debut album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot. The “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” compelled listeners to stop, drop, and shut ‘em down open up shop, so much that the album sold over 250,000 copies in the first week along with debuting number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. No, no, the year is 2008 and Lil’ Wayne has just released his third studio album, The Carter III,  which also entered the Billboard 200 at number one, sold over a million copies in the first week, and birthed such hits as “Mrs. Officer”, “Got Money”, and “Lollipop.” (R.I.P. Static Major).

In 2018, despite album sales dropping in an era of streaming, one thing that has not waned in value is the desire to hit the charts at number one, and certainly not to Nicki Minaj. Minaj’s fourth studio album, Queen, was released on Aug. 17. In spite of selling over 185,000 units, she failed to debut number one on Billboard. The rapper expressed her displeasure with not having the top spot, both in an interview with Funk Flex on Hot 97 and “Queen Radio,” her personal Apple radio show.

Though Minaj presented her reasons for not acquiring the top chart position–such as Spotify taking away a promotion, or apparel contributing to sales for Astroworld rapper Travis Scott–she hasn’t accounted for familiarity. Queen did not present anything outside of what the audience has come to know about the rapper for years, unlike Scott who is still building his repertoire. As Minaj enters her late 30’s, not much of the content has changed since the release of Pink Friday in 2010. It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and The Carter III respectively brought in a fresh wave of stories. Such artists gave listeners an opportunity to follow their journey without expectations, without being too familiar of what would appear on the next release. While Nicki is still immensely popular, she has nothing more to prove nor a newness that many are constantly hungry for. Being a boss and expressing her sexuality has always been the name of Nicki’s game, but if she desires to have another number one debut outside of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which dropped in 2012, perhaps the game will have to change. The ball is in Nicki’s court, as she remains the best-selling female rapper of all time, but reinvention may be the key to keeping it in her possession.


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