It's been over 3 years since the release of The Pinkprint, making it the longest stretch of time without a Nicki Minaj project since she first dropped her debut Pink Friday in 2010. Nicki has been teasing the album for some time, though she's always maintained that she's taking her time with the album. "I can't say if I'm fifty-per-cent, eighty-per-cent or ten-per-cent done, because I don't know," she said in September. "Tomorrow, I might walk into the studio and decide that I don't like anything I've done in the last six months. Or, tomorrow I might walk in and feel like the whole album is done. There's so much beauty in not knowing." One thing was certain in all of her interviews: this album was special.

"This era will be a billion times more epic than anything 'Anaconda' could have delivered," she said. "I think this era will definitely be the most memorable and the most impactful of my career yet." After cramming over a dozen features into 2016 and a few singles that ended up being false starts to the rollout, Nicki's two new singles "Chun-Li" and "Barbie Tingz" released together on Thursday, feel like a guarantee that Minaj's fourth album is finally on its way. In anticipation of the project, we've decided to dig into the new tracks and extract what they might be able to tell us about the album. Listen to the songs and read our observations below.

Barbie is back

The Pinkprint era marked a turn in both Nicki’s appearance and her rap persona. The colorful wigs disappeared in favor of a more natural look, while the cartoonish eccentricities in her rapping (often attributed to alter-ego Roman Zolanski) were also toned down. With the release of “Barbie Tingz,” Nicki is teasing a return of her more outrageous side, bringing back the wild, vibrant fashion we saw so much of circa Roman Reloaded, as well as tapping back into the unhinged rap style and spacy beats reminiscent of “Come On A Cone” or “Stupid Hoe.” At the same time, she’s maintaining the incisive New York punchline style of Pinkprint to make for a refined merger of her styles.

Nicki is making sure she gets credit for her influence

Nicki has expressed that her 2014 album The Pinkprint was as much a project as it was a guide for women in rap. Her goal was to make a similar statement as Jay-Z’s 2000 classic The Blueprint, while speaking specifically to female rappers. In her new songs, she’s confident that artists are in fact following her strategy, and she’s making sure that she gets the credit she deserves for for it.

Rap bitches tell they team, ‘Make 'em like Barbie’
Had to come off IG so they can't stalk me

All they do is copy looks, steal music too
Want to see what bitches do when they lose the blueprint
I mean the Pinkprint, hoe, let it sink in

She’s also looking for the very rappers looking up to her to be vocal about where the style comes from.

When it come to stealin' flows, these birds is fluent
But they stutter when they get asked
'bout the queen's influence
When it's clear they bite me
I'm flattered they like me
I don't wanna check bitches
Tell 'em wear their Nikes

Before you accuse her of punching down on up-and-coming women in rap, note that she namechecks Asian Doll, Kash Doll, Maliibu Miitch, Ms. Banks, and even Azealia Banks, who she’s had issues with in the past, in her Apple Music interview. All of those mentioned showed love back to Nicki. 

 

Her positioning of herself, Drake and Wayne as a hip-hop supergroup continues, and we won’t be surprised to see another collab from all three on NM4

I spoke to Jay the other day, he's still the kingpin
He's still the only n***a that I woulda signed to
If I ain't sign to Wayne's perfectly designed crew
'Cause we the big 3, don't need a big speech
We made the biggest impact, check the spreadsheet
That's Lil Weezy, the Barbie and Drizzy Drake
N***as gettin' more cheese, kissy face
 

In the midst of Drake and Meek Mill’s long, furious beef, at which point Nicki was dating Meek, it seemed that the Young Money dream team may never reunite. After a number of developments, the three rappers were back together on Nicki’s “No Frauds,” at which point they were positioning themselves as a rap supergroup like never before. On “Barbie Tingz,” Nicki has continued to mythologize the trio as rap’s reigning royalty, or “the big 3” as she says on "Barbie Tingz." It seems very likely that we’ll find another crew track from the trio that’s “made the biggest impact” on Minaj’s upcoming album.

There will be many lines interpreted as Cardi B disses, whether they are or not

"I ain't never played a hoe position
I ain't never had to strip to get the pole position"

Nicki has been known to pepper her verses with unspecific “these bitches is my sons” taunts, and whether or not any of those lines apply directly to Cardi B, know that someone on Twitter will be assuming that they are. In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, Nicki explained how beef was assumed by fans and media through a misunderstanding, but also checked Cardi for what she deemed a lack of respect in at least one interview. At the end of the conversation, we were more or less back where we started in terms of determining whether or not there is real tension between the two New York rappers. As a result, some of disses on Nicki’s fourth project that aren’t attached to specific names will likely be spun as shots at Cardi.

With that being said, expect some less ambiguous shots at Remy Ma

The beef between Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma has been out in the open for a while now. While things have simmered, the knowledge that Nicki has been writing throughout her very public feud with Remy means that it’s pretty likely there’ll be a bar or two for her on the album. Her line, “'Cause you hoes too old to be gossipin'” from “Barbie Tingz” has been speculated to be aimed at Remy Ma, as well as Queen Latifah, who revealed that Missy Elliott had been sharing Remy's “SHEther” diss with a few other legend-status women in rap.

Nicki is introducing producer JReid to the world

Rather than enlisting a superproducer like Mike WiLL Made It or Metro Boomin for her new tracks, Nicki is working with a much lesser known Atlanta beatmaker by the name of JReid. Despite being from the south, JReid prides himself on filtering his beats through New York boom bap to suit Nicki’s style. At the same time, he has the futuristic touch of Hit-Boy, who as we know has an incredible chemistry with Nicki through songs like “Feeling Myself” and “Come On A Cone.” We have a strong feeling this isn’t the last collaboration we’ll hear from the two on the album. And for JReid, whose phone has been blowing up since the drop, this is just the beginning.

Nicki is focusing on bars now, but history tells us a pop single is on the way

Prior to the release of the Pinkprint, Nicki released some of her hardest rap tracks to date, including “Boss Ass Bitch (Remix),” “Lookin Ass,” “ChiRaq,” and “Yasss Bish!!!” None of the tracks made the album, and were balanced out by the proper lead single “Pills N Potions,” a pop ballad. It’s possible Nicki could be going in an entirely rap-oriented direction this time around, but if she’s following her own Pinkprint, expect some variety in the music we’re about to hear.