Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint Tour Is A Celebration Of Boss Women

Nicki Minaj is approaching the peak of of her powers. She is a 32-year-old woman, finally flexing, knowing that she can. If she falls, it won’t hurt – but trust me, she won’t. She’s in control, and it looks incredible and sounds even better. Her show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last night proved as much. We are lucky to have Nicki, and we will have her for a long time.

As Nicki delivered one of her many monologues in front of a sold out crowd, clad in a spangly gold two-piece, I watched the girl sitting next to me frantically texting her friend. “I feel so powerful,” she typed. “We’re all women.” The stadium, full of women dressed in their finest, taking selfies, screaming and clutching the arms of their best girlfriends as they rapped very single line right back at Nicki, had an electric energy. Things truly started to spark the moment Nicki did her verse on the “Flawless” remix, prompting the crowd to sing back the lyrics we all know by now, via hashtags and Instagram and the infinite loop of our “Fuck This, It’s Tuesday” playlists. Hearing a stadium full of women screaming, “I look so gooooood tonight,” felt like the best kind of positive affirmation. As someone not easily swayed by either affirmations or moments of manufactured camaraderie, I got goosebumps. Every single person in that room was focused solely on Nicki, screaming their truth. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Throughout a set that was packed with hits old and new, Nicki peppered the performance with some stage banter: “Are these n- – – -s treating you right? First of all, you guys got motherfucking nerve; I’m gonna need you all to get on the floor and kiss the ground we walk on!” she said at one notable moment. The crowd roared back in frenzied, joyful agreement.

The show itself was a huge upgrade from the first time I saw Nicki, opening for Lil Wayne in 2011. Her energy is infectious as always, but now she comes with all the flourishes of pop stardom. There are four backup dancers, performing choreography that looked like a fancier version of your pre-game ritual. There’s a full band backing her up. There are costume changes galore. None of the added spectacle detracts from the fact that, no matter the bells and whistles, Nicki is someone who is going to go hard as hell, and make you feel it every step of the way.

Despite a few missteps — notably, the ballads section, complete with grand piano, prom dress and fake snow — the show was a tight rundown of Nicki’s career. Her persona as a performer is controlled, with calculated moments where the facade drops. She punctuates poses with side-eye and incredulity, but breaks into big smiles and giggles at the sheer ridiculousness of what’s going on. She even peeled back a bit of the veneer to show a softer side. Her boyfriend, Meek Mill, opened for her. Let me repeat, so it really sinks in: Nicki had her boyfriend Meek Mill open for her. Meek didn’t resurface until the very end of the show, when he and Nicki ran through their duets, including “All Eyes On You,” the video for which you can watch below:

They actually, really like each other. Like, Meek knows he got a good one here. At the end of their set, they exchanged a long kiss, prompting screams from the audience. Their love is real, guys. Trust me.

Watching Nicki Minaj perform is to watch a woman who is in complete control of herself, her career, and her adoring fans. It’s thrilling to be in the presence of such greatness. Ascribing “realness” to any pop star seems like a flawed conceit from the jump; they are pop stars, so any attendant authenticity is clearly at least partially an illusion. But that’s not the case with Nicki. As she conga’ed offstage, barefoot and holding her Louboutins in one hand, one thing became abundantly clear: Nicki is real as hell.