Nicki Minaj “Freedom” Lyrics Breakdown: Welcome to the Re-Up

Nicki Minaj Freedom Lyrics Feature
Posted on 11/20/2012 at 8:30 AM

Related To: Lyrics, News

The Popdust Files: Freedom, lyrics, nicki minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded: The Re-Up, roman reloaded: the re-up

Barely seven months after dropping her second LP, Nicki Minaj is back with an expanded rerelease, the awkwardly double-coloned  Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded: The Re-Up. It’s a power move for Minaj, the type of stunt only pop stars at the top of their game are allowed to pull off, and from the brief listen we’ve had of the album’s seven new tracks, Minaj delivers.

Of the septet, it’s “Freedom,” released as a single earlier this month, that shines the most light on where Minaj is at in her career at the moment. (You may recognize it from the American Music awards, where Minaj performed the song dressed as Stormella the Ice Queen.) The humble/brag track is Minaj at her most natural: No guest verses, no characters, no Blossom references, just Onika Manaj rapping about her place in the world. To commemorate the occasion of The Re-Up‘s official release, we decided to run “Freedom” through our patented lyrics-analysis regimen to see if we could get a sense of what it’s like inside Nicki’s head right now.

They’ll never thank me for opening doors
But they ain’t even thank Jesus when he died on the cross

What an intro that is, like someone took Pusha T’s “New God Flow” opener and made it read Atlas Shrugged a thousand times. That’s a mountain of passive aggressive self-pity to unpack here; even labelmate Drake might blanche at spitting lines this self-aggrandizing. In Nicki’s mind, she’s on top of the throne (hard to deny), blazing a trail for other female MCs (generally accurate, though Missy Elliot and Lil Kim may disagree) and beset on all sides by haters intent on taking her down. As with athletes, that last point works as a motivator even while unconnected to any actual facts; when a kid like Justin Bieber can pretend like he’s got a legion of enemies plotting against him, we can’t knock Minaj, who actually does have some high-profile detractors, for doing the same.

‘Cause your spirit is ungrateful, bitches is so hateful, I remain a staple
My career’s been the pinkprint
When I retire tell ‘em think pink
Pink Friday is the imprint
And these bitches basic, instinct

More of the haters still refusing to acknowledge the way that Minaj’s influence has made their life easier. Who are these haters? There’s a possible clue in the Basic Instinct/basic bitches line, but that’s probably a red herring: Ciara is featured on another Re-Up track, and it’s generally bad form to slam someone on one track and work with them on another. Just chalk that wordplay up to Nicki being a fan of erotic thrillers from the early ’90s, we guess.

Also, in case you’re counting, this is the second song this fall to rhyme “hateful” with “grateful” in a rap verse.

Oh shit my commercial’s on
Did I really body bitches with commercial songs?

In a shrinking sales landscape, how do pop stars measure their own success? For those at the top, it’s through endorsements. (Here’s Taylor Swift talking to the New Yorker last year: “I’ve always wanted to be a Covergirl. I’ve always wanted to have a fragrance.”) Expanding the brand is the goal, and screw anyone who calls that “selling out”: If Nicki Minaj can go from rapping about “shitting on ‘em” to selling a million copies of “Starships” to little girls who want to be princesses, that’s a savvy growth strategy Pete Rosenberg should be in awe of.

But before I continue let me thank my crew
So that was Young Wayne, Mac Maine, Baby, and Slim K, Tez and E.I., told ‘em it wouldn’t be in vain

Conspicuously, no mention of Drake in the Young Money shout-out. Further support for our theory that there’s something going on between them right now?

‘Cause prior to me signing, I could’ve went insane
And even now I think, do I really want this fame?
Let’s get up and go, 700 to go, overseas for a show
Everybody get quiet when I’m starting the show

After “We’ve got to live right now!” and “It gets better, so believe in yourself!” “I kind of don’t really enjoy being famous” is the musical motif of the moment. Overdone, like in the worst Weeknd songs, all that woe can seem grating and disingenuous, but Nicki refuses to be drawn down into the morass. She touches on it—and yeah, from where we’re sitting we can see some definite disadvantages to the pop-star life—but she backs off quickly; even from the top she can remember how crazy frustrated she felt as just another Queens wannabe. To paraphrase Russell Brand, being famous is the absolute worst thing in the world, except for not being famous.

Man I’m birthing these artists, and I’m starting to show

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Nicki verse without a reference to giving birth. This time, though, she’s flipped her traditional “These artists are my sons” boast; she’s still reclaiming her femininity as a mark of authority (can you tell we went to college?) but now she’s focusing on the active work of childbirth. In a song about looking back on the hustle, Nicki wants us thinking about labor, in both senses.

I feel free, I feel freedom, why they mad?
You should see them, burn a L
Cause it’s crazy in here, crazy in here, crazy in here

Nicki backs off the boasts for the track’s sing-song chorus. She’s emphasizing the positive now—the freedom to make the art you want to make, a height few stars ever really reach—and the song obliges in turn, trading the hard beat for a tender piano. It’s maybe the sweetest piece of music Minaj has ever put her name to. There’s doesn’t seem to be a point in calling out the trolls now, better to shrug in amusement and move on. It’s crazy, the things people say, isn’t it?

Who I wanna work with? Nobody
99 percent of them is nobody

Maybe don’t tell that to Cassie, Ciara, Tyga or Lil Wayne, all of whom appear on The Re-Up. Or Ludacris and Kanye West, who gave Nicki prime guest slots when she was coming up. That’s the nasty side of stardom. You start to raise the drawbridge, deny others the same chances you needed to get your shot at the top. This is true of all industries, not just rap; those Mitt Romney rumors might have something to them after all.

Bitches acting like they killing shit, OK
When I checked these bitches’ guns, no bodies
These niggas is fake fucks and opportunists
Niggas spend their last dime to say they copped the soonest
Why these niggas going broke to get your approval?
Pretty soon they’ll be back up on them ramen noodles
Bible, queen is the title
And if you are my rival, then that means you suicidal
And if you in the club then it’s a Young Money recital

We don’t have much to say about this part, which seems a little boilerplate. We do like the ramen noodle line.

I’m just that vital, I’m busy never idle
I’m your idol, I’m your idol, I’m your motherfucking idol

As “Come on a Cone” showed, Nicki’s thing is repeating points verbatim to make sure we got them. On the Nicki Minaj Scale of Badass Achievements, judging American Idol is apparently on roughly the same level as sitting next to Anna Wintour.

Pink Friday at Macys, thongs and some pasties
(What other female rappers’ perfume’s in there? Because I must have missed it)

Another sign that this is how celebrities actually take stock of their individual worth. How many platforms are you on? How many demos are you reaching? The time has long passed when we could get annoyed about developments like this; this is the world we live in now. One good thing about this? The articles we write about pop stars’ perfumes are now Serious Journalism!

12 milli to kick my feet up
Get ready, this is the Re-Up

As Nicki’s pal Mitt would know, one of the best things about being on top is that the Law of Diminishing Returns gets turned on its head. For business types it’s through capital gains, for artists it’s through endorsement deals and judging gigs, but the result is the same: Once you’ve got money, it takes less and less effort to get more. You may even, if you’re big enough, re-release your album the same year you put it out. Twice the money for a fraction of the work? That’s the real freedom, right there.

The full lyrics are below. You can listen to the song at the bottom of the post!

They’ll never thank me for opening doors
But they ain’t even thank Jesus when he died on the cross
‘Cause your spirit is ungrateful, bitches is so hateful, I remain a staple
My career’s been the pinkprint
When I retire tell ‘em think pink
Pink friday is the imprint
And these bitches basic, instinct
Oh shit my commercial’s on
Did I really body bitches with commercial songs?
Did I really prophecy everything I do
But before I continue let me thank my crew
So that was Young Wayne, Mac Maine, Baby, and slim K, Tez and E.I., told ‘em it wouldn’t be in vain
‘Cause prior to me signing, I could’ve went insane
And even now I think, do I really want this fame?
Let get up and go, 700 to go, overseas for a show
Everybody get quiet when I’m starting the show
Man I’m birthing these artists, and I’m starting to show

I feel free, I feel freedom, why they mad?
You should see them, burn a L
Cause it’s crazy in here, crazy in here, crazy in here

I feel free, I feel freedom, why they mad?
You should see them, burn a L
Cause it’s crazy in here, crazy in here, crazy in here

Who I wanna work with? Nobody
99 percent of them is nobody
Bitches acting like they killing shit, OK
When I checked these bitches’ guns, no bodies
These niggas is fake fucks and opportunists
Niggas spend their last dime to say they copped the soonest
Why these niggas going broke to get your approval?
Pretty soon they’ll be back up on them ramen noodles
Bible, queen is the title
And if you are my rival, then that means you suicidal
And if you in the club then it’s a Young Money recital
I’m just that vital, I’m busy never idle
I’m your idol, I’m your idol, I’m your motherfucking idol
Pink Friday at Macys, thongs and some pasties
(What other female rapper’s perfume’s in there? Because I must have missed it)
12 milli to kick my feet up
Get ready this is the Re-Up

I feel free, I feel freedom, why they mad?
You should see them, burn a L
Cause it’s crazy in here, crazy in here, crazy in here

I feel free, I feel freedom, why they mad?
You should see them, burn a L
Cause it’s crazy in here, crazy in here, crazy in here

Mirror mirror won’t you realize I just have to decide
What you hiding from
What you hiding from
Mirror mirror won’t you realize I just have to decide
What you hiding from
What you hiding from
Hiding baby

Would you would you give your
Would you would you give your
Would you would you give your all for you
Would you would you give your
Would you would you give your
Would you would you give your all for you

I feel free, I feel freedom, why they mad?
You should see them, burn a L
Cause it’s crazy in here, crazy in here, crazy in here

I feel free, I feel freedom, why they mad?
You should see them, burn a L
Cause it’s crazy in here, crazy in here, crazy in here

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