Nicki Minaj Got By on Good Will in Toronto

Scotiabank Arena, April 18

With Monica

Photo: Rolling Loud/John Cotter

BY Veracia AnkrahPublished Apr 19, 2024

Showcased on a series of screens were animated images of Chun Li, one of Nicki Minaj's many personas, dressed in a medieval knight's armour among a sea of similarly dressed soldiers. It was as if she was embarking on a journey to battle — until she hopped in a luxury vehicle and sped to her private jet before finally speaking to the crowd: "This is your captain speaking."  

The Pink Friday 2 World Tour is Minaj's journey through her fan-populated Gag City, a glossy, pink fairy tale land that encompasses Minaj's various eras and affords her a Barb-run haven from the outside world. Her Thursday night set at Scotiabank Arena included time-capsule boxes labelled "Harajuku," "Barbie," "Roman," "Red Ruby" and "Chun Li," each named for the song she performed while inside it, plus a futuristic prop train and loads of pyro and smoke effects.

Nearly 20,000 Barbz were present, dressed in impressive assortments of chromed, bedazzled and tasselled pink — some even tossed on a cowboy hat for good measure, a nod to the Lourdiz-featuring "Cowgirl." Fashion-wise, the gworls showed up and showed out (as did Minaj), but apart from some fancy outfits and wide-screen theatrics, it was an underwhelming performance.

At around 9:45 p.m. — the show was slated to begin at 8:30 — Minaj emerged on stage in a metallic armour bustier and a long, transparent silver wrap-around skirt. She opened with the appropriately titled intro song from the OG Pink Friday, "I'm the Best." Rumoured show opener Monica did not, in fact, open the show (there was no opener of any kind, not even a DJ), instead performing as a special guest who appeared on stage about three quarters into the night, in a silvery jumper, performing cult classic R&B cuts like "So Gone," "U Should've Known Better" and "Angel Of Mine."

Although Minaj didn't have her Toronto fans waiting for hours for her to begin the show, she did have us waiting between acts. There were several intermissions between sets, sometimes in silence and other times soundtracked by a song or subpar motivational speeches full of vaguely biblical phrases like, "We will always be here, we receive our blessings because we worked for them." At other times she recited soliloquies of nursery rhyme affirmations as if she were a grade-school teacher advising her students.

As an artist with one of the most notorious internet troll fan bases, Minaj perpetuated her toxic fandom from stage, encouraging the Barbz present to beat up anyone who isn't a member of Gag City. It's up for debate whether the rapper was being facetious, but for her younger crowd, these calls to action from an artist with so much influence should not be up for debate.

It was another troubling example of Minaj's skewed judgment as of late. Among her various beefs and questionable collaborations, her husband Kenneth Petty's criminal record has become a point of contention in Minaj's career, often referenced by her as a ploy by the entertainment industry to critique her morality and attitude. After the release of her latest album, Minaj has continued to spar with her female peers, including Cardi B, Latto and particularly Megan Thee Stallion. Minaj has responded to the Houston rapper many times on Instagram live, Twitter and in her rebuttal diss track "Big Foot," claiming Thee Stallion lied about Tory Lanez shooting her in the foot during an altercation in 2020. (Lanez has since been found guilty of three felonies relating to the assault and sentenced to 10 years in prison.)

Nicki lashing out to remind her audience that she can't be stopped, despite show delays and her peers publicly commenting on her taunting tactics, are all connected. Minaj has a clear chip on her shoulder, and it's evident in her stage show.

After a period of chatter-filled silence from the stage, the Queens rapper reappeared with a new outfit and an alternative pink wig. Her stage crew spent these various interludes wheeling out different moving parts of her stage set, but at times they would have to be re-positioned before Minaj made it to the stage. It was the sort of sloppy misstep that shouldn't be noticeable to the crowd, especially on the 25th night of a tour more than a decade into her career.

Not to mention the fact that Minaj seemed to forget her lyrics a few times and turned her mic to the audience in hopes they'd do the heavy lifting. At one point, a mic handed to her wasn't working prompting her to scream, "Is it on?!" And while performing "Save Me," she commanded her band to stop as it was taking too long for them to progress to the bridge. At times, she wasn't shown on the mega-screens behind her, so those sitting in the nosebleeds likely couldn't see her at all.

A shaky, nostalgic wistfulness carries the Pink Friday 2 World Tour, where undeniable bangers like "Feelin' Myself," "Super Bass," and newer hits like "FTCU" and "Red Ruby Da Sleeze," garner powerful responses from the crowd despite the sometimes shoddy performance happening on stage. At this stage in Minaj's career, it seems like her heyday is in the past — fans who fell in love with the Barbie 15 years ago are simply taking what they can get. 

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