Dec. 15, 2014. That was the date when Nicki Minaj released her most recent solo studio album, The Pinkprint. In the time since then, things done changed.
In the music world, Lil Wayne and Baby had an industry divorce, SoundCloud rap has taken over and a former reality TV star is leader of hip-hop's new class. In the real world, O.J. Simpson got out of prison, cryptocurrency has taken over and a former reality TV star is leader of the free world.
All the while, Harajuku Barbie has been semi-quietly plotting her return. With her recent push of song releases and media appearances, it looks like Nicki SZN is finally upon us. So what can we expect from her new album?
In the last three-plus years, the Queens rapper's life has been under the microscope more than ever, as we've seen changes in her relationship status, family legal issues play out and beef boil over. However, in the time leading up to now, Nicki hasn't revealed many details about the as-yet-untitled album—which has tentatively been dubbed NM4 by fans—other than broad strokes.
“I know it’s going to be my best body of work and I always love to be in real time, see my fans reacting to something," she told DJ Whoo Kid last June. "That’s what I’m looking forward to now. Obviously, I’m not telling them when my album is coming out, but I know that it’s gonna be amazing because I want to thank the people who’ve rocked with me for all of these years.”
Now that the Young Money first lady is preparing her big comeback, XXL dives through the news over the past few years to dig up details on her highly-anticipated project.
Mike WiLL-Made It Might Have Contributed to the Album
In March 2018, Mike WiLL Made-It teased a possible collab with Nicki Minaj on Twitter, captioning a Mercedes ad she starred in, “I guess Me & Nicki got [fire] otw ... #theyearoftheEar.”
She's Been Constantly Rewriting Songs
During an interview with Zane Lowe, Nicki revealed that her perfectionism has slowed down the process, as she constantly rewrites songs to get the best possible product.
"The quality of this album is at such an all-time high that if I have do it again, just to make the little final touches on the album, then I'll do that," she said. "Because what's most important is that people get quality music. And for the record, I rewrite things all the time. Somebody came to my studio the other day, and I asked Juice, my engineer, 'I need a masters. What version is it, Juice?' He goes 'Version 16.' And the person sitting there said 'Version 16?! What the fuck...' Yeah, because I'm a perfectionist. When I write something, it's never done until the moment it comes out; the moment you hear it. And you can ask everybody. You can ask Lil Uzi [Vert]; you can ask Yo Gotti; you can ask Diplo. I rewrite all the time, because that's just what Nicki Minaj do, ya dig? I love perfection."
This Album Will Be Deeper Than Her Previous LP
In September 2017, Nicki noted the album would showcase her diving deeper than her previous album, The Pinkprint. "I’m going to go even deeper than I went with The Pinkprint, because I have a lot to talk about," she said. "Why not?"
She's Aiming to Put Out a Classic
"I always feel like I gotta make [fans] proud," she told DJ Whoo Kid last June. "I gotta go hard. I gotta impress them, because they always waiting for me. You know, that's a blessing in itself. So that's next on my bucket list. To deliver my fourth album and make sure that it's a classic hip-hop album that people will never forget."
She's Found Herself Personally on the Project
"Sonically, I know what the album’s about to sound like," she said. "I know what this album is gonna mean to my fans. This album is everything in my life coming full circle... Now, I can tell you guys what happened for the last two years of my life. I know who I am. I am getting Nicki Minaj figured out with this album and I’m loving her.”
She Went on a Social Media Hiatus to Focus on the Album
Nicki abstained from social media for a full three months—from late December 2017 to early April 2018—reportedly to buckle down and focus on the finishing touches of her highly-anticipated project.
A DJ Mustard Collab Could Be on the LP
In late 2016, DJ Mustard stated that he's been working with Nicki on music that may end up being used on the new LP.
"I heard that Nicki had liked the song and I’d been working with her on some other stuff for her stuff," said the Cali producer. "I don’t know when it’s coming out or what’s going to be on it but we was working on some stuff for us together."
Nicki Thinks the LP Is Better Than Good
When asked about the status of the album last September, Nicki was ecstatic, telling fans, "Oh, the album. Oh my God! The album is so fuckin' good!"
She Thinks the Album Will Kick Off an Epic Era in Her Career
The Young Money first lady told Dazed that she thinks the album with be the start of some major in her career and be "a billion times more epic than anything 'Anaconda' could have delivered."
She added, "I think this era will definitely be the most memorable and the most impactful of my career yet."
The Album Might Have Had a Remy Ma Feature at One Point
Before the beef popped off, Nicki said she had a Diplo-produced collab with Remy Ma in the stash (Foxy also guested on the track). Clearly the song won't appear as originally intended, but perhaps a Remy-free version will pop up on the project.
Rising Atlanta Producer J. Reid Will Likely Have the First Two Singles
Both of Nicki's new tracks, "Chun-Li" and "Barbie Tingz," were produced and co-written by Atlanta beatmaker J. Reid. Minaj recently revealed she signed the up-and-coming producer to her label.
She Specifically Wanted a Boom-Bap Sound on Certain Records
"She said she wanted me to do some boom-bap beats," he revealed. "I'm from the South—we do trap. That's what I’m used to doing, but I was in band from sixth grade to 12th grade, and I played drums. So I was able to adapt to anything that she wanted to do, because I have a good knowledge about music, music science, music history, all that stuff."
Reid says they recorded "Barbie Tingz" in February and "Chun-Li" in April. He'd neither confirm nor deny whether they have any other tracks on the album.
Nicki Is Assisting With Production
Nicki had a couple of co-production credits on The Pinkprint and looks to be flexing her beat-making muscle on the new album as well. She assisted with the beat for both "Barbie Tingz" and "Chun-Li."
"I would've never made that beat without her telling me what she wanted," says producer J. Reid of the aforementioned tracks. "I have a catalog full of thousands of beats; I do not have one that sounds like that. So for her to pull that out of me, she definitely co-produced the record."
Nicki Will Return to Her NYC Roots
Nicki's style has been all over the place throughout her career, but it sounds like the new project will find her getting in touch with her NYC roots. Which could mean we'll be hearing shades of Mixtape Nicki circa Sucka Free and Beam Me Up Scotty.
“Everyone is so filtered these days," she said told Dazed. "I’m just back to being reckless and being a Southside, Jamaica, Queens, New York rapper. You know? I kind of feel like I’ve been having freedom with my look and my music. It doesn’t mean that I won’t go into depth about my experiences on this album.”
President Trump Might Get a Mention
Nicki has rarely—if ever—touched on topics like politics in her raps. But with the current state of affairs, she might delve into No. 45's tenure.
“Things have to be addressed, that’s all I’ll say," she teased last year. "Things that have to be addressed have to be addressed, and I will figure out a way to address them—you know, without being disrespectful. I think there’s room to have a respectful conversation, politically. I do think so.”
Her Alter-Ego Roman Will Return If Need Be
Nicki's British-accented alter-ego Roman—which she has employed on early tracks—has been dormant a while. But the character might make a comeback soon.
“Everyone has been asking me about Roman,” she said in a 2017 interview. “Will Roman come back? If Roman is needed, then Roman will be there. I’m not going to do anything that feels forced. I’m doing this for my core fans."