Nicki Minaj, ‘The Pinkprint’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
It’s been four years since Nicki Minaj emerged as the savior of female hip-hop with her 2010 debut ‘Pink Friday.’ Since then, like the carpenter that is Jesus, she has successfully created her own lane, infusing rap, pop and her island flare to create a movement like no other.
With the release of her third album, ‘The Pinkprint’ it’s obvious Nicki has matured. At 32, she is comfortable in her skin, and most importantly, aware of her genius as an artist and the influence she has on society. She’s learned to live with fame, dealt with heartache, family issues and industry gripes. Now empowered on her own accord, she’s standing tall -- and even taller in heels -- and ready to share her lyrical diary.
Reflecting on past mistakes, fame and family, Nicki sets the tone for the album with the raw track ‘All Things Go.’ The emotions run deep as she recalls the loss of her cousin to a “senseless act of violence,” the child she never had and how she remains real in an industry saturated in fake personalities and leeches. Not only does the opener reveal skeletons in the MC's closet, but it highlights the elevated level of lyricism Nicki brings on the overall project.
Watch Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda' Video
An R&B touch adds a seamless transition into the Mike WiLL Made-It-produced ‘I Lied,’ which finds her addressing matters heavy on her heart. At first listen, it becomes evident she's been going hard with her lyrical exercises, but Nicki’s also enhanced her vocal skills. ‘I lied / To keep you from breaking my heart,’ she sings like a pro on the hook.
Her sing-song sappiness is an ironic breath of fresh-air, but Nicki doesn’t spend too much time in that pocket before easing her way back to rapping on the Jessie Ware collaboration ‘The Crying Game.’ The track is reminiscent of her ‘Right Thru Me Days’ offering a bouncy snare-infused slow jam, complemented by Nicki’s dissection of relationships of the past. However, crying is far from how a Queen holds her throne.
Over her pity party in a flash, the dominant and aggressive Nicki emerges from her deep pink sea of versatility on ‘Get On Your Knees.’ With the help of Ariana Grande, she sails smoothly over the beat as she directs her own sex scenes featuring her latest conquest. “Let me see what you working wit / If I’m ridin’ I’m merkin’ it / Slow grindin’ I’m twerkin' it / Yea I bagged him, I Birkin-ed It,” she rhymes. Nicki rubs off on the seemingly shy and timid former Disney star as Ariana gets sultry on the hook, further instructing the rhymer's sex slave to "beg for it" -- on his knees, of course.
By the fifth song in, it’s apparent the vibe does get more ‘Flawless’ than the remix. Nicki and Beyonce team up again on ‘Feeling Myself,’ which finds Bey rapping and Nicki delivering an assortment of quotable punchlines. Led by an old-school West Coast-inspired loop, the song is a clear example of just how well these two collaborate together.
She taps into the Young Money empire for features from Drake and Lil Wayne on 'Only,' an instant club banger. The beat is minimal, but the xylophone-like chimes knock, supporting Nicki's bold rhymes: "Hut one, hut two, bit titties, big big too." The rapper also gets an assist from Chris Brown on the hook.
Watch Nicki Minaj's 'Only' Video Feat. Drake, Chris Brown & Lil Wayne
On ‘Wants Some More,' she spits acid-riddled bars, eventually picking up the speed to remind you she reigns supreme amongst rap's male elite. “You seen that list it was me, Baby, Jay Z and Diddy,” she raps on the Yung "Hitmaka" Berg and Metro Boomin-produced beat.
There's an essence of nostalgia on ‘Four Door Aventador,' where Nicki sounds like she's back to her good old mixtape days. The effort serves its purpose, igniting the inevitable two-step and head nod while reinforcing the Queen’s bottom line: she earned her place at the top.
Nicki shows growth -- the EDM and pop-flavored songs of the past don't overrule the record -- and she's applying that to all aspects of her life, including the romance department. Jeremih adds his vocals on ‘Favorite,’ which showcases her vulnerable side as she professes her yearning to be someone’s one and only. With her real deal relationship with Safaree Samuels behind her, this is a song that comes straight from the heart.
The heartstrings continue to play tug of war on 'Buy a Heart.' Meek Mill serves some rhymes, abandoning his signature turned up rap style. The two pair nicely on this cut, serving as one of two features from the Philly MC.
And what’s a Nicki Minaj experience without an ode to her island girl roots? She wines up for the ladies on ‘Trini Girls Dem’ with a little help from Lunchmoney Lewis. However, it’s not all about the Caribbean gals. She makes it an international affair by inviting Jamaican, Australian, South African and European girls to join the movement.
Transition from winin’ to twerkin’ for ‘Anaconda,’ the rump-shaking track that leans on Nicki’s humorous side. The song gives praise to those with big booties while clowning the skinnier women who lack "buns, hun."
If uptempo efforts from her catalog like ‘Starships’ are welcomed then ‘The Night Is Still Young’ is sure to get spins on any party playlist. Nicki embraces the night life with rhymes about living in the moment -- a pop gem that can easily become another chart-topper.
From a night on the town to drowning your sorrows, ‘Pills N Potions,’ the lead single from the album, retreats back to picking up the pieces of Nicki's broken heart. It’s as if the placement of this song is as strategic as the more upbeat anthems, another reminder of her many layers. She's tired of the betrayal and puts the past to rest with ‘Bed of Lies.’ Skylar Grey assists on piano as Nicki unloads venom, recalling relationship issues.
Watch Nicki Minaj Perform 'Bed of Lies' Feat. Skylar Grey
If there is one thing to learn about Minaj, it's that she's set on never losing. She serves that as a constant reminder in her lyrics on this project. ‘Win Again' is an example of that, as she successfully meshes a sing-song serenade and cut-throat bars -- no competition here.
As if 19 solid efforts weren’t enough, the deluxe album version also offers the Auto-Tune-laced, dreamy track ‘Mona Lisa,’ a ballad centered on self-esteem. She also adds another Young Money team-up with the holy trinity of herself, Drake and Lil Wayne for the close-out dance cut ‘Truffle Butter.’ This is a surefire hit that comes courtesy of Maya Jane Coles' 2010 silky house anthem, 'What They Say.'
As a whole, ‘The Pinkprint’ is Nicki Minaj's best work to date. She's vulnerable, arrogant, vulgar, emotional and heartbroken. Connecting with fans through honest songwriting isn't an easy feat, but the rapper does that as she also continues to move seamlessly between singer and MC, which is commendable. The alter-egos don't get much shine as on previous projects -- not much of Roman Zolanski here -- allowing Onika Maraj to be heard loud and clear.
Watch the Ultimate Nicki Minaj Twerking Supercut