With both Lil Wayne's highly-anticipated Carter V and Nicki Minaj's long-awaited The Pink Print both scheduled to come out this year, Young Money is poised to have a major second half of 2014. And while Wayne has been dropping songs—"Believe Me" and "D'usse," as well as the first snippet of "Tina Turn Up Needs A Tune Up"—that are getting fans excited for classic Weezy again, Nicki has been dropping fire and promising fans a "return to her hip-hop roots" with her upcoming third album, and dropped a first single of her own last week with "Pills N Potions." But there's still much that's up in the air about Nicki's LP, so XXL combed through the many hints and quotes to pull together everything we know about The Pink Print, and what we can expect from the Queen of the Barbz. Welcome back. —Dan Rys

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The Sound

This is one section that Nicki has been very adamant about—she's coming full circle, and is returning to rap. “I went so far to the other side that there’s only one place to go from there,” Minaj explained to MTV last month. “You can either continue doing costumes or you can just say, ‘Hey guess what? This will shock them even more. Doing nothing will shock them even more'...The tracks on Pink Print are back to my hip-hop roots. And I don’t think it’s something that I’m necessarily trying to do. As soon as I started working on my new album, that’s just the songs that I’ve been writing."

She didn't totally commit to dropping a hip-hop-only album—outside of saying that she wouldn't be going near the feel of "Super Bass" or "Starships," she said she'd just be "following her heart"—and she backed that up when she dropped the first single "Pills N Potions," a slower, ballad-type song that features her rapping but in a more subdued way than with the venom she'd been dropping otherwise. And May 21, the day she dropped the song, she answered fans' questions on Twitter, promising that the album would be neither pop nor hip-hop, but rather "A new genre called Onika."

Fans will likely have to wait to hear what Nicki's got up her sleeve—she's known to pull some surprises to keep people on their toes—but a fierce foot in a hip-hop direction with a few slower, more melodic tracks sprinkled through is our slightly-educated guess.

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The Lyrics

If her verses on Young Thug's "Danny Glover" remix and her Young Money contribution "Lookin' Ass Niggas" are anything to go by, Nicki is out for blood on this album. Both tracks saw her smack down the guys coming for her and generally spewing venom at everyone around her with a confidence that hints she's back at her world-conquering best. Even though label boss Lil Wayne said that she could do better lyrically than "Lookin' Ass"—a frightening concept—it's definitely been a minute since someone came out and took a machine gun to the thirstiest snakes in the club like that.

Then came "Pills N Potions," and Nicki shed a little more light on the lyrical direction of The Pink Print. Written from the perspective of someone who had gotten their heart broken and was trying to deal with the outcome in any way possible, it was more personal, more vulnerable, and maybe a touch more real than the fiery verses she'd laid down previously. Before she performed at Power 106's Powerhouse show in mid-May, she stopped to chop it up with RapFix about the song, calling it "a great indicator of what The Pink Print will feel like in terms of the storyline." During her Twitter Q&A, she also mentioned that the song was about a couple different people, and that she wrote it in three days.

All of this gives a better idea of what we can expect: a woman dealing with the ending of a traumatic relationship who feels both deeply hurt and vindictive about how it all went down, which she confirmed in an interview with Ryan Seacrest on May 24. I just kinda feel like while I was working on the album I started realizing how much I’ve changed. How people change," she said. "And how people come in and out of your life and I just felt like talking about that. I had never really discussed that...I love that it has the [last] feeling of no matter what I still love. There’s still love there. And that’s pretty much what the song means to me. I think so many people can relate to that.” Look for more revealing emotional honesty, as well as a few tracks that bridge the gap between those two extremes, on the rest of the album.

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The Features

It's just about guaranteed that we'll see Lil Wayne pop up on the album at least once, and it's a pretty good bet that Tyga—who seems like he's been everywhere lately—will be involved as well. Nicki was critical of Drake's Nothing Was The Same for leaving much of the Young Money team off his album, telling DJ Whoo Kid back in November, ”I think your team is your team. Who gives a fuck about trying to be different? I’m always gonna want my team to be a part of my project. No matter what. In some way.”

But whether Drake himself will make the cut is also a question; the two had their differences in the past, but have both reiterated that things are fine between them now, and Nicki mentioned that Drake may be involved with The Pink Print, but cautioned that she didn't want to confirm anything too soon. “So far he’s sent me two joints already for the album,” she told Seacrest last week. "We’re still discussing them and still making some changes, but I don’t have an official Drake song yet. So, I can’t say that Drake will be on my album because I never want to just say stuff until it’s official."

Outside of that, Nicki has always had some heavy hitting features on her official projects—Kanye, Rick Ross, Nas, Jeezy, 2 Chainz and Cam'ron all popped up on Roman Reloaded—and it would make sense for one or two of them to make appearances on The Pink Print. She's also made passing references to working with Remy Ma when the Bronx rhymer gets out of jail, but as that may not be until July 31, it might not make the album. Then there have been the hints that she's working with Rihanna, which wouldn't be too far out of her comfort zone. But we'll have to see about those.

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The Producers

Soulja Boy was behind the boards for "Yasss Bish!," an anthem for Nicki's fans that reportedly won't make the album, while "Lookin' Ass" utilized the skills of Detail for its production. "Pills N Potions," the poppiest song she's released so far and the only one confirmed for The Pink Print, was helmed by Dr. Luke, whose track record in the pop realm—Flo Rida's "Good Feeling," Kesha's "Die Young," Katy Perry's "Wide Awake"—speaks for itself. She's also been spotted in the studio with Mike WiLL Made It—one of the hottest producers out right now—though she mentioned that nothing really came from the session in the end.

If she does go further back in a hip-hop direction, she could always get back together with some of her Pink Friday collaborators, such as Swizz Beatz, Bangladesh and T-Minus. But with a sound that she describes as "more stripped-down," she could also look in the direction of DJ Mustard, who owns the clubs across the country right now with his ratchet bounce sound. And don't count out Kanye and Pharrell, either; the former would make a lot of sense, either as a producer or rapper, while the latter is coming off one of the greatest 18-month stretches we've seen in recent memory. A lot of options for the Queen to assess.

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The Singles

Nicki caught everyone's attention by unleashing a ferocious verse over PTAF's "Boss Ass Bitch" right at the end of last year, and followed that up with "Lookin' Ass" on Feb. 12, "Chi-Raq" featuring Lil Herb on April 8, and "Yasss Bish!" featuring Soulja Boy on May 3. But her "tragic love story" "Pills N Potions"—which officially dropped May 21—was the song confirmed as the album's first single, marking a different direction than many had thought. But seemingly the only thing that that confirms is that the album's second single will be another heater, comforting fans who were concerned that she wouldn't keep her word on the album's direction. She's due for a big, properly-promoted club banger, and it wouldn't be surprising to see that come down the pipeline some time in the very near future.

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The Release Date

The big question, and the one that nobody has the answer to just yet. The delay largely came from her work on American Idol and her retail and business projects, but now that there's music to back up the claims that the album is in the works, the question of when, exactly, it will see the light of day looms larger. She announced last May, to little surprise, that she wouldn't return to the singing competition in order to focus on her album, and mentioned in September of last year that she was about to get started, with a target of a 2014 release.

Then in November, Nicki made reference to working on the album, repeating that it's slated for 2014; she followed up the release of "Lookin' Ass" in February by telling Hot 97 that The Pink Print wouldn't have a release date at all, and would instead just drop from the sky a la Beyonce. Of course, the problem with the Beyonce tactic is that no one had any idea Bey's album was coming until it just landed in everyone's laps late one night, whereas Nicki has been talking about this project for the better part of 15 months now. The most recent mention we've got came during her interview with Seacrest, when she mentioned that a lot of people were wondering when the album would come, but "I'd rather not say the date yet."

Our prediction? We'll get a seven day countdown, or at least something in that neighborhood, similar to Lil Wayne's three day heads up he gave fans for his Dedication 5 mixtape last summer. That would allow her Barbz to get their pre-sales in motion and set her up for a No. 1 debut; the reality, of course, is that albums have been raining down from the clouds with a shorter and shorter announcement time for the past year. It's hard to tell when we'll see The Pink Print, but it won't come before Wayne's Carter V, at least.

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