Nicki Minaj is arguably the best female rapper of all time and has released a lot of quality music in her time. Emerging on the New York hip-hop scene in 2004, after A&R’ Big Fendi’ approached Minaj to appear on The Come Up DVD.
Before making it big, Minaj appeared on The Come Up DVD several times between 2004 and 2006. Under Mizzay Entertainment, an Atlanta-based management company, in 2007, Minaj’s segment appeared after Lil Wayne’s cameo. Noticing Minaj, Lil Wayne contacted the rapper’s management, and in 2007 she signed a record deal with Young Money.
Releasing several mixtapes between 2007 and 2009, such as Scotty Beam Me Up and Playtime Is Over. In 2009, Minaj featured on the smash-hit Young Money record ‘Bedrock’ alongside Lil Wayne, Lloyd, Drake, Tyga and Gudda. This exposed Minaj to the world, and the rest is history.
Across her 15-year career, Minaj has released four studio albums, one compilation album, and three mixtapes. She began releasing albums every two years in 2010. However, after her 2014 album The Pinkprint, she began releasing every four years until 2022. However, her 2018 album Queen is undeniably one of her best. In this article, we will delve a little deeper into the project to discover how the album’s lead single, ‘Chun-Li’, came to be what we know today.
‘Chun-Li’ takes its name from the legendary game Street Fighter II. Chun-Li is the name of a fictional character who appears in the game. She was the first-ever female character to appear in a fighting game. ‘Chun-Li’ the track was not only the lead single for her album but also the first track Minaj had released in four years following her musical hiatus. This meant there was a lot of anticipation surrounding the single.
2017 saw a lot of controversy surrounding ghostwriters in female rap. A year before the release of ‘Chun-Li’, Remy Ma and Safaree Samuels accused Minaj of using ghostwriters. Similarly, following the success of Cardi B’s track ‘Bodak Yellow’, many people were concerned about her use of ghostwriters. As a result of this, Minaj filmed herself writing ‘Chun-Li’ at the studio.
‘Chun-Li’ was produced by Atlanta producer J. ‘Chevi’ Reid, who has worked with the likes of Lil Wayne and others. J. Reid was introduced to Minaj by the rapper Brinx Billions, and from there, the two developed a rapport.
Produced in Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank, Los Angeles, and mixed down by Aubry ‘Big Juice’ Delaine (Minaj’s audio engineer), the beat for ‘Chun-Li’ was straightforward to build, according to Reid. Reid explained that when he made it, “I was in a big studio out there in Cali. It was just magical almost. It was the first beat I made when I got in the studio that day, and I remember just going crazy!” He presented it to her in the same studio in California where the song was recorded.
Reid began with the basic keyboard sound that provides the main melody and then introduced the saxophone sound, reminding him of early 2000s East Coast style beats. Regarding drums, Reid explained how ‘Chun-Li’ is comprised of two patterns which are layered, both doing different things.
After doing the drums, Reid divulged he added the 808s at the end. For the breakdown, Reid added flutes which he said most likely “gave her like some Chinese or like some real culture vibes like you’re getting ready to fight somebody, so she just really came with that Chun-Li.”
Minaj even spoke about the creation process of ‘Chun-Li on LA Beats Radio with radio host Zane Lowe. Below You can watch footage of Minaj recording and writing the song and see J. Reid explaining how he made the beat.