I’ve never been a Nicki Minaj fan, except for her verse on “Monster” by Kanye West. Her pop/rap crazy mental illness rhyming and harsh but blunt lyrics have never really appealed to me. Nonetheless, I do acknowledge Nicki’s skills. She is a fantastic rapper, with amazing control of flow and rhythm structure, and a voice with tons of personality and animation. And I have to admit, despite my hesitations, this album starts off incredibly well.
Track 1, “All Things Go,” is a really sleek and simple track where Nicki raps really personally and shares real thoughts and concerns, which was a really nice change of pace to hear from a pop/rap artist. Track 2, “I Lied” is another really clean slow jam, followed by “The Crying Game (feat. Jessie Ware)”, and Nicki Minaj begins to make me believe she can really be a force in the rap world. I know that she already is, but it never hit me because from what she’s released, I had never felt like she could compete with the giants, except for of course her verse on “Monster,” which I had just believed to be an anomaly. Nicki isn’t here to fuck around anymore. We had the days of “Super Bass” and “Starships” and now Nicki is being real.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed about rap and pop in 2014 is this reversal of gender roles in popular music. Rap used to be, besides Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, & Lil’ Kim to name a few, highly dominated by male rappers and MC’s. With this, was a huge dominance on misogynist lyrics, which is still very much present. However, in 2013 and 2014, we’ve really seen a positive reversal in which female artists are beginning to turn it around and sing/rap more about sexuality and feminism.
With that being said, like overwhelming misogyny in some rap music, like “The Whisper Song” by the Ying Yang Twins, has Nicki taken the whole thing too far? She doesn’t have to fill the whole other end of the spectrum, just establish it. “Feelin’ Myself (feat. Beyonce),” is just one example of turning a good thing into absurdity. I mean, “Feelin’ Myself” is literally a giant masturbation euphemism gone too far. I love that women are finally expressing feminine power and energy and sexuality in rap lyrics and showing that they can compete and be just as good as the men in the industry, because there’s no reason why they shoudn’t, but there is a limit.
The track before it, “Get on Your Knees (feat. Ariana Grande)” does a good job of keeping the femininity spectrum end of rap a strong competitor and and equal. And it’s not because strong female rap is new to us, it’s because there are just some things that are too much to talk about, like “Feelin’ Myself,” a song that encompasses the theme of masturbation. Especially one that clearly missuses Beyonce (irrelevant to the point, but just sayin’).
The middle of this album hits a slump for me. The previously described controversial track is followed by maybe the most controversial track on The Pinkprint, “Only (feat. Chris Brown, Drake & Lil Wayne).” For those of you yet to have heard “Only,” let me describe to you the general plot and creation of the song. Nazi propagandist music video aside, Nicki wanted to capitalize on her rise to queen female rapper on this track here. The way in which she goes about it is though, unconventional. Props to Dr. Luke for this beat, as always, he’s a pop megamind, as well as the artists, for with all the terrible lyrics aside, have a couple of really good lines sprinkled in here and there.
“Only” begins with an average verse from Nicki about her ass and how well she fucks her man, and my attention is pretty much panned. This is all just what we already know Nicki is capable of. If she doesn’t top the last song about these topics, then the next song about the same thing isn’t gonna get more plays if it isn’t equal to or better than the last. The odd part about “Only,” isn’t everything you think it would be though. The odd part about “Only” is that her two friends and co-label rappers, Drake and Lil Wayne, rap verses about how much they want to have sex with her, with Drake describing in too real of detail how much he wanted to have sex with her once they left the video shoot for her “Anaconda” video in her car. Too real Drake, calm down. How is any of this okay? These are two of her close friends, rapping about how much they want to have sex with her to her face on her own song. Like this is nuts. Like this is really weird.
And we’re not done there. Next comes 6 songs that really don’t do anything for me to keep my attention, and then “Anaconda,” which I will never forgive her for what she did to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic ass anthem, “Baby Got Back.” The last 4 tracks bring the real, raw, and truthful Minaj I enjoyed from the beginning back, especially on “Pills n Potions,” but it wasn’t enough to make me forget the travesty and pure oddities of “Feelin’ Myself,” “Only,” “Anaconda,” and the whole middle of the album.
Maybe a 16 track LP with 6 bonus tracks is too much for her right now. I’ve always been a fan of quality over quantity, and taking the time, years if you need it, to put out truly great material. The idea of releasing music as fast as you can again after a hit record is overrated and false. If it’s good, the people will want it and the people will listen.
If this record were 12 songs long, and 4 of the not-so-great-actually-bad songs were deleted from the album, it would have been better. If your album is going to be 16 tracks long, it has to hold my attention and excitement for all 16 of those tracks, or at least 14 or 15. Overall though, Nicki is progressing. There is real solid material on the record, but there is also just straight up garbage as well. I believe Nicki is still trying to find her balance, and even so, this is her strongest work yet.