Nicki Minaj Updates Biggie’s “Dreams” With Her Fantasies About Today’s Artists (Audio)
The Notorious B.I.G. made an audacious move with 1993’s “Just Playing (Dreams),” a promotional single in which he lasciviously name-dropped female artists. Contemporaries like SWV and TLC got attention, as did treasured icons Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan. It was raunchy, pompous and potentially risky for an MC whose debut album, Ready to Die, was still in the pipeline. Of course, “Dreams” did nothing to hinder his success and is just one of many Rap songs placing women in the eye of a sexually aggressive deluge.
With “Barbie Dreams,” Nicki Minaj borrows Biggie’s panache and Lil’ Kim’s sexual autonomy to name drop not just the male stars she fantasizes about, but men she’s actually slept with (allegedly). The song is not a thinly veiled reinterpretation, either. At the top of the track, she says “R.I.P. to B.I.G.” and the beat doesn’t differ much from the original. It’s arguably the most talked-about record from her recently released album Queen, the roll-out of which has been marred by controversy. Many have criticized her recent collaboration with Tekashi 6ix9ine, who in 2015 pleaded guilty to a felony sexual crime against a minor. Critics have argued that her decision to work with him in the wake of her biological brother’s conviction in a child rape case is misguided. Additionally, her fan-base (commonly referred to as “Barbz”) has come under fire for threatening writers and others with violence when criticism is made against her music.
Despite some negative attention (or perhaps because of), Queen hasn’t suffered much in the way of publicity and “Barbie Dreams” is not short on prime, viral fodder. Passing references to Lil Wayne, Dave East, Quavo, Fetty Wap, YG, The Game, Eminem and others punctuate the three-verse record with humor, but there are a handful of mentions which have garnered more attention. Lesbian sexuality gets a place at the table with Nicki rapping “Young M.A. and Lady Luck, get the strap for this p*ssy” and she lampoons 50 Cent with the line “I tried to fuck 50 for a powerful hour, but all that n*gga wanna do is talk ‘Power’ for hours.”
The lines getting the most attention, however, pertain to Drake and Meek Mill. About the former, she lands the following jab, poking fun at the emotional nature of his music and Drake’s reputation for being sensitive: “Drake worth a hundred milli, always buyin’ me sh*t / But I don’t know if the pussy wet or if he cryin’ and sh*t.” About her ex partner, Meek Mill, she spits “Meek still in my DMs, I be havin’ to duck him / ‘I used to pray for times like this’ face-ass when I f*ck him.”
In the wake of reactions on Twitter and elsewhere, Nicki put fans and critics on notice, saying “This is FUN. Light hearted fun FUN”:
Evidence of the lighthearted nature of the song can be found on Queen‘s track list; Eminem, Lil Wayne and Swae Lee—each of whom are named in “Barbie Dreams”—make guest appearances on the album. The release of the song has also driven many to revisit (or discover) Lil’ Kim’s version of “Dreams,” found on her 1996 album Hard Core. That track is as daring as Biggie’s and more controversial than Nicki’s (“What the deal on that Prince cat? / He be lookin’ kind of fruity, but he can still eat the booty“). Controversy and criticism aside, “Barbie Dreams” is keeping the 1990s era of New York Rap bombast alive for a younger generation.