Nicki Minaj may be on one of her infamous social media hiatuses, but that’s not going to stop her from making music and showing love to her island roots. The Trinidad born rapper has always been proud to rep her island, to the point where I can’t remember a time when Nicki wasn’t bursting with homeland pride. From the easy to miss, “I really got a thing for American guys,” line in Pink Friday’s Super Bass, to the, “Trinidad, Trinidad, my island,” intro that starts out Beautiful Sinner on Roman Reloaded, and the 2012 Carnival anthem Pound the Alarm with its overall island vibe and steel drum dominated beat from the same album, Nicki has always been proud of who she is and where she comes from.
We can see this throughout her entire career with the track Trini Dem Girls from the 2014 album The Pinkprint, to her hard hitting lines in her late November 2016 single Black Barbies, and most recently, her remix of Skeng’s song Likkle Miss for her Queen Radio Volume One compilation album, and the Fine Nine megacollab remix of the same track (both released in 2022).
It’s no surprise that Nicki hopped on this new Carnival anthem for 2023.
Shake the Place by Machel Montano featuring Destra has an iconic, summer of 2000, Who Let the Dogs Out energy to it, bringing some warm island sun to the rest of the world, just as we need it most.
However, unlike Who Let the Dogs Out, Shake the Place is not about disrespectful men at the club. This anthem is very much about Carnival and how important it is to the community. The original song, which falls into the Soca genre specific to Trinidad, was released on January 25, 2023, and the official music video was released on Valentine’s Day (a mere 3 days before the Nicki remix dropped.)
Machel Montano is no freshman. The 48-year-old Soca singer, songwriter, record producer (and even actor) has built a 30-year music career, dating back to 1985, with an impressive number of solo records, guest appearances, and albums with the band Xtatik. Destra Garcia is also no newcomer. The 44-year-old Trinidadian singer, songwriter and musician is “one of the most popular female soca artists in the world” according to her Wikipedia page, and has been creating music and performing under her stage name of Destra since 2001.
Shake the Place is the first collaboration between the two, but they seem to make a powerful duo. Released on February 17, by Monk Music, the remix of this Carnival anthem adds Nicki Minaj’s sultry vocals to the slow, soothing intro of the song that is reminiscent of a sunrise on a great day, as she introduces the track and who it’s by.
Then, to set the tone of the song, Destra comes into the first verse with powerful lines such as:
Feel it in the air from the time I wake
Spirits come alive when we celebrate
What we bring to life doh happen everyday
Is a kinda high that they can’t replicate
As well as:
Look how the ground shakin’, all over town shakin‘
‘Cause we on the ground shakin’
Which leads into the chant of:
Jump up and, jump up and shake up the whole place
Shake the ground, shake the ground
Shake up the whole place (Kyuh, kyuh, kyuh)
Shake up ya, shake up ya, shake up ya whole waist
Shake the ground, shake the ground
Shake up the whole place
Nicki Minaj adds some extra spice to the already fiery track with a new verse two for the song.
As usual, Nicki Minaj adapts her flow to fit the soca beat, which speeds up into a high RPM drumline which feels very much like your heartbeat racing in your ear when you’ve really been dancing and having a good time, fitting the Queen of Rap’s style perfectly.
Her verse opens up slowly, first attacking the main drumline, before quickly evolving into a faster pace that matches the whole beat. The opening to this verse is also referenced again in the bridge later on in the song.
The Queen takes the moment of celebration to drop some truly iconic bars like:
I’m gettin’ a real bag (Kyuh), I get to them real bad (Brr)
They know they can’t compete with Trini girls, they goin’ out real sad
As well as:
I’m reppin’ that red, that white, that black
I’m reppin’ my real flag
This moment took the Barbz by surprise, since Onika has been on a social media hiatus for a few months now. She considerately took the time to explain the importance of this year’s Carnival (Trinidad) in her Instagram stories, saying:
“Wishing my country a very blessed & prosperous carnival season this year. Haven’t broken my lil “hiatus” but I had to do this for Machel & Destra for the first carnival back outside in a couple of years.
Barbz, relax… i got you.
Talk soon.”Nicki Minaj’s IG Story (Instagram)
Nicki also shared an Instagram Reel to promote the song within 24 hours of the remix’s release, which features clips from the official Shake the Place music video, as well as footage from Nicki’s 2012 Pound the Alarm video to stay true to the Carnival vibe.
The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is taking place Monday, February 20 through February 21, and Nicki Minaj posted in her Instagram stories that she touched down in her home country on Sunday, February 19, alluding to the fact that she’s not going to miss this historic “first carnival back outside in a couple of years.”
Shoutout to all the people celebrating at the Carnival this week!
Shake the Place is a fun song that really takes a few moments to explain this celebration in a way that conveys the collective importance of the tradition. By hopping on this remix, Nicki helped get that message to a much larger audience.
And I still can’t “shake” the feeling that this moment is as monumental as when Who Let the Dogs Out hit the mainstream, but only time will tell.