Courtesy of Nicki Minaj via Youtube

Whether you know her as Megatron, Barbie, the Queen of Rap or Roman Zolanski, from her controversial hot takes on the COVID-19 vaccine to the many sound bites from her energized Queen Radio bits and Instagram live rants, Nicki Minaj has become one of the most recognizable figures in contemporary popular culture. 

“Do We Have a Problem?” (2022) marks her return to music with a widespread promotional release. Breaking her three-year hiatus, the trap-infused single demonstrates Nicki Minaj and Atlanta-based rapper Lil Baby’s ear for catchy melodies and lyrical bars. The song was released on Feb. 4 with an accompanying ten minute music video, racking up 15 million views and counting. 

Inspired by the Angelina Jolie-led 2010 blockbuster “Salt,” Minaj’s background studying theatre is on full display as she plays the role of a luxurious double agent tasked with assassinating the head of a top criminal organization. Despite its pleasing visual aesthetics and high production value, the video is narratively quite generic. Dim, moody close up shots of Nicki Minaj compliment the trap synthesizers that carry the beat of “Do We Have a Problem?”

Her opening verse memorializes recently-deceased rappers: “This one’s for Pop, This one’s for Juice / I am the one, b— you a deuce.” In the months following commencement of The Nicki WRLD Tour in early 2019, news of the emo-rap pioneer Juice WRLD’s accidental overdose sent shocks across hip-hop fans in December of that year. She has since been vocal about her grief, dedicating her Billboard Game-Changer award in the late rapper’s honor. Sustaining the memory of lost legends is a staple part of hip-hop culture. 

Ever since coming onto the rap scene, Nicki Minaj has earned respect from her peers for writing all of her own lyrics. Her seasoned lyrical capabilities ring true with the triple entendre “son your whole set like it’s a round six.” This bar not only asserts her authority over the “sons” who take influence from her sound and style, but is also a play on words: she could be referring to the 6 o’ clock sunset or a type of gun which holds six rounds of bullets in it.

While it is not surprising for Minaj to push her pen on a track, one notable point of improvement on “Do We Have a Problem?” is her singing ability. Dating back to her debut album “Pink Friday” (2010), Nicki Minaj has been no stranger to vocalizing, but she has always maintained her position as a rapper at heart. Because of this, her sing-song melodies usually have a distinct, nasally tone. However, she harmonizes impressively on the hook of this track. “There’s no autotune on me, is there?” she subtly boasts in a candid in-studio conversation with her producer at the start of the third verse. Cuts like this bring energy and personality to the song.

Lil Baby makes an appearance on the second verse to outline his goals for the new year. He also pays homage to the groundbreaking Jay-Z album “Blueprint” (2001) with the line “I done really trapped in the carter, I got the blueprint.” His ability to dominate on a track without resorting to flashy, over-the-top gimmicks is remarkable. Lil Baby’s subtle, laid-back approach to rap allows for his lyric to speak for itself. 

The beat lacks any major progression changes or switch-ups, placing emphasis on both rappers’ flows. There is no mistaking that each of their vocal cadences and bars are the focal points, foreshadowing the dominant sound listeners should expect to hear on Nicki Minaj’s highly-anticipated fifth studio album. 

Verdict: For the optimal “Do We Have a Problem?” listening experience, skip the long-form visuals and stream the single or shortened video to avoid constant audio breaks. This song is an overall standard hip-hop record, but it is surely a vehicle for the rollout of music to come from fan favorite, Nicki Minaj.