Review: Nicki Minaj makes bumpy, late-night Seattle return

Remember when hip-hop was supposedly a man’s game? Throughout its history, the genre has indeed been a male-dominated space. But

gazing across the current landscape, a renaissance is clearly underway, with women like Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat and Ice Spice

standing as some of hip-hop’s biggest new stars.

Nicki Minaj, an artist who came up alongside Drake as part of Lil Wayne’s Young Money Records, has achieved many firsts for female rappers. Since releasing her debut “Pink Friday” in 2010, Minaj has helped pave the bridge between the days when labels and crews made room for one (and only one) woman in their ranks and the recent wave of dominant female stars.

With a strong new album “Pink Friday 2” that produced the first chart-topping single for a solo female rap artist in more than two decades — the Rick James-sampling “Super Freaky Girl” — Minaj made her long-awaited return to Seattle for her first show since 2012. Playing to an amped sold-out crowd in Climate Pledge Arena the same night Hollywood gathered in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards, Minaj’s Emerald City return ran longer than an Oscars ceremony and featured even more Barbie-themed songs.

After waiting 12 years to see the so-called Queen of Rap (a crown we certainly will not challenge), Washington “Barbz,” as her fan base is known, waited a little longer on Sunday as Minaj took the stage at 10:15 p.m., more than two hours after the listed start time. (For what it’s worth, she hit the stage around the same time during her previous show in Las Vegas.)

It seemed all was forgiven by the time a statuesque Minaj emerged at the top of her three-tiered stage, standing like a Barbie in a display box, unflinchingly knocking out “I’m the Best” and the newer “Barbie Dangerous” as the crowd — dressed in pink at her majesty’s request — collectively lost it. Minaj kept her loopy bars in the newer “FTCU” on a tight leash, yanking her cadences tightly for effect over the twirling beat.

Throughout her set, there were moments of pure mastery. Minaj was fierce and commanding, harnessing the screw-loose cadences of her show-stealing verse on Kanye West’s “Monster” — the classic posse cut with Jay-Z and Rick Ross that announced her arrival to the broader rap world. It still stands as one of the most quintessential rap verses of the last 15 years.