Nicki Minaj’s hometown stop on The Pinkprint tour was for all the bad girls. As if that needed to be explained, halfway through the glittery two-hour set at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Sunday, she asked the crowd, “Where my bad bitches at?” The arena erupted. She then addressed the men: “I’m gonna need you to get down on your motherf—ing knees and kiss the floor we walk on.” More cheers. “The men are like, ‘Why did I come here?'” She laughed, trotted back up stage and launched into “Anaconda,” this year’s ultimate appreciation of Minaj and the female form.
It was the perfect message in a performance that closed out Minaj’s headline-making week: tweets about her lack of VMAs nominations turned into a Twitter debate with Taylor Swift, and boyfriend Meek Mill — more on him soon — called out Drake for ghostwriting his raps, mentioning Minaj in his shade-laden tweets. (He apologized to Minaj, but, for the record, still thinks Drake and his comeback track are “soft.” We know this because he said so while opening for Minaj.)
But on Sunday, Minaj seemed unfazed about whatever waves she made last week. Her main goal was making sure everyone knew she’s still at the top of her game with The Pinkprint, her 2014 album, which was her most personal and provocative collection to date.
She barreled through career highlights (“Superbass,” “Monster,” “Pound The Alarm”) and Pinkprint hits (“The Night Is Still Young,” “Crying Game,” “All Things Go”), brought out guest star and mentor Lil Wayne, shared an onstage love fest with Meek Mill, invited fans on stage to sing “Whip It,” and reminded us that she’s rap music’s queen.
“Stop hating on people and start living your life,” Minaj said to the crowd in one of a handful of heartfelt monologues. “There will always be petty people in your life. Don’t even give them a tenth of your energy. Eventually everyone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart will fall away.”
From there, Minaj easily transformed from feminist rapper to sincere balladeer and back again. She became all the characters in her discography, weaving between lyrics about cunnilingus, falling in love and independence, never letting on that something was amiss even while fumbling a few verses here and there. It didn’t matter, though, since the audience was able to fill in the blanks for her.
Later in the show, she introduced Lil Wayne, repped Young Money, and thanked him for signing her. “I think you are the best rapper alive,” she said. “Thank you for changing my life.” He turned around, called her the greatest rapper alive — “I would agree with her, but there is a certain person by the name of Nicki Minaj who is kicking my ass” — and launched into his hit singles “A Milli” and “6 Foot 7 Foot.”
After Wayne crowned Minaj G.O.A.T., the rest of the set was a sprint to the finish line. Meek Mill, who simultaneously praised her and took shots at Drake in his rousing opening set, joined Minaj for three songs.
“Make some noise for the baddest chick in the rap game,” he said as they rose out from under the stage together. A montage of photos of the couple rotated behind them. “Make some noise for the girl who got me star struck!” Together they ran through “Buy A Heart,” Mill’s “Bad For You” and “All Eyes on You.” And when they shared a romantic kiss, the crowd went haywire.
It was a moment she prepared fans for earlier in the show, setting up the importance of this big, public love:
“Have you ever been in love?” she had asked the crowd about an hour before. “Actually, I don’t like being in love. I don’t like giving away my power. I don’t think you should have power over my emotions, but when you’re in love you can’t help it, right?”
The baddest of all the bad bitches who had become a role model for female autonomy had fallen in love with the lovelorn rapper from Philadelphia, who, by the looks of this show, worships every single sequin sewn into her stage bras.
“Would you rather be in love or not?” she asked the crowd.
“No!” the stadium responded.
“Do we need love?
“Do you need somebody to lay in bed with every night?”
She laughed: “But it’s nice, right?”
Minaj’s Pinkprint Tour continues in Toronto on Tuesday. See a full list of dates on her website.