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"Chi-Raq"
Promotional single by Nicki Minaj featuring Lil Herb
Released April 8, 2014
Format Digital download
Recorded November 2013; Los Angeles, California
Genre Drill
Length 3:51
Label
Writer
  • Onika Maraj
  • Lil Herb
Producer

"Chi-Raq" is a song recorded by Trinidadian-American rapper Nicki Minaj, in support of her third studio album, The Pink Print (2014).

Background[edit]

In September 2013, Minaj began working on her third studio album, The Pink Print (2014).[1] For the album, Minaj desired to return to her hip-hop roots, calling the albums sound "a continuation of The Re-Up with a lot more".[2] During an interview with MTV News Minaj stated that the sound of The Pink Print would be "next level" and will have "so much to talk about", saying: "I'm really excited and the people that have been working with me now, have been people that I haven't worked with before so it's like they're bringing a new sound to the album that I've never experimented with."[3]

For "Chi-Raq", Minaj worked with previous collaborator Boi-1da (pictured), along with Vinylz and Allen Ritter.

In November 2013, shortly before Thanksgiving, Minaj flew Matthew "Boi-1da" Samuels, Anderson "Vinylz" Hernandez, and Allen Ritter out to Los Angeles to work on The Pink Print. Once there, they worked in the studio for approximately a week and a half recording new material, although they were unsure if Minaj would end up using it. Samuels and Hernandez made "Chi-Raq" based around the rising Chicago drill music scene, and suggested that she include upcoming rapper Lil Herb on the track. Although Minaj was initially unsure about the song, she ended up growing to like it. Hernandez, who had never worked with Minaj before, had heard stories about how she was intimidating and serious to work with, which ended up not being the case.[4]

In the studio, Minaj joked around with them, decorating the room with neon lights, playing reggae music, and brought them food. According to Hernandez he had "always heard stories about Nicki being serious so [when] I came in the room I wasn’t trying to say anything stupid but she was actually very cool", although he said the end product was a "cool vibe". In an interview with Complex, Hernandez said that Minaj wanted his work on "Chi-Raq", along with the album, to be bouncy but "still something where she can get her lyrics". He attributed this to Minaj's continual push to distance herself from the sound of her second studio album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012), which was primarily a pop album. Hernandez went on to say: "so I guess she’s trying to get back to the lyricism. The beats are harder, I would say. She can show her lyrical ability. I was just blown away being in a room with these people. I’m new to all this but it’s a crazy feeling."[4]

Composition[edit]

Musically, "Chi-Raq" is an "eerie drill" song with a "sinister" beat.[5][6] "At this point, it's safe to say that Minaj's Barbie character is taking a permanent backseat to the lyrically acerbic alter ego she's been showcasing again lately. On "Chi-raq," the 31-year-old becomes a verbal assassin over the thumping beat." Lil Herb's hook goes:

Know a couple niggas that’s down to ride
For a homicide when it’s drama time
Run up on a nigga with the llamas flyin
Leave his loved ones all traumatized
One fifty I’m really with it
I’ll drop his ass and then forget it
I’m the man round my side of town
Might see a bitch and forget I hit it.
[7]


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Critical reception[edit]

Response[edit]

[‘Chi-Raq’ and ‘Lookin’ Ass’] are back to my hip-hop roots. And I don’t think it’s something that I’m necessarily trying to do. As soon as I started working on my new album, that’s just the songs that I’ve been writing. But there are other types of music on the album that I’m super excited for… It’s nothing like [those] so I don’t want people to think that I am only going to be doing that kind of music. I’m just going to do what my heart tells me to do.

[8]

Peter Rosenberg said: "I don’t think she’s leaving an audience behind or trying to seek out a new audience. I think that she’s making music that she loves to make and that was at one point her bread and butter, and I think still is her bread and butter. That said, I do think there’s a chance that there will be different ears on the music because it sounds different. But I don’t think you’re losing true fans. If she made true fans with “Starships” and “Super Bass” and songs like that, then those people really came on board and listened to her—because she’s already had rap on her projects—so I don’t think they’d turn around and say, “Oh my god, I hate this.” You might lose peripheral fans that weren’t real fans in the first place."[9] Writing for Bustle, Kadeen Griffiths said: "So far, Minaj’s heart has been nothing if not on point. She’s never been afraid to work with a wide variety of artists, put out a wide variety of music, and make appearances in everything from a documentary to reality TV to her upcoming film debut. Minaj isn’t just an artist; she’s an entire franchise that is still growing and learning and changing. To cage her into a single label is to do her a great disservice so it’s great to hear that she isn’t allowing herself to be caged. Whatever she’s done, and whatever she will do in the future, it will be done on her own terms, which is the really important part. Bad bitches like her are hard to come by."[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nicki Minaj Sets Record Straight on Collaborating with Miley Cyrus". Extra!. Deborah Thomas. September 26, 2013. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ Ramirez, Erika (May 28, 2013). "Nicki Minaj Will 'Focus On Rap' For Upcoming Album". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ Markham, Rob (November 4, 2013). "Nicki Minaj 'Delving Into Deep Sh--' on 2014 Album". MTV News. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Nostro, Lauren (May 7, 2014). "Interview: Vinylz Details His Production on "Believe Me," "Chi-Raq," and Working on Diddy's Last Album". Complex. Rich Antoniello. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  5. ^ Fitzgerald, Trent (April 8, 2014). "Nicki Minaj Debuts ‘Chi-Raq’ With Lil Herb". The Boom Box. AOL. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ Diaz, Jordan (April 8, 2014). "Lil Herb and Nicki Minaj Bring Death to Life on "Chi-Raq"". Fusion. Disney-ABC Television Group. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  7. ^ Gibbs, Adrienne (April 8, 2014). "Chicago’s Lil Herb a key voice in Nicki Minaj’s latest song: Chiraq". Chicago Sun-Times. Tim Knight. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Griffiths, Kadeen (April 18, 2014). "Nicki Minaj's Return to Rap is No One's Choice But Hers, Thank Goodness". Bustle. BDG Media Inc. Retrieved May 14, 2014. 
  9. ^ Frank, Alex (April 22, 2014). "Peter Rosenberg on Nicki Minaj’s New Music: “She’s Potentially the Greatest Female MC of All Time”". The Fader. Andy Cohn. Retrieved May 18, 2014.