You might not dig her style, and you might not be feeling her lyrical content, but you’d be hard-pressed to name one female rapper that is even in the same ballpark as Nicki Minaj right now. Prior to Minaj, female rappers were a dying breed, scoffed at by major labels, in and out of prison (Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Remy Ma and Da Brat, specifically) and constantly playing second fiddle to their male handlers.
Not Minaj; she recognized that her forbearers had completely dropped the ball, so she picked it up and ran with it. A slew of magazine covers, show-stealing cameos, and baseless, hateriffic rants from Lil’ Kim have followed, and through it all she’s remained remarkably steadfast in her quest for utter domination of Hip Hop and Pop music, poised to release one of the most feverishly anticipated albums of the year.
With Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj turns the oftentimes tenuous relationship between Hip Hop and Pop music on its head, blurring the lines between them with total confidence and reckless abandon. It’ll definitely piss off Hip Hop purists; but it’s also going to be huge.
Pink Friday is brash, funny, cocky, girlie, imperfect…and kinda irresistible.
Make no mistake about it; Like Minaj herself; Pink Friday is poised to be among the most divisive albums Hip Hop has ever seen. Heads will probably slam this album for its unabashed pop leanings, comparing it disparaging to ‘real Hip Hop” like Slaughterhouse, J Cole and Nas.
This critique gets and misses the point at the same time. Nicki Minaj wants to be a pop star. She’s not an imposter or an interloper; she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s a phenomenal rapper with charisma and quotables to spare, rhyming and singing over infectious, super-accessible beats. Where artists like Ke$ha, Fergie and Lady Gaga are pop stars that incorporate rapping into their repertoire as an aesthetic, Minaj makes pop numbers like “Right Through Me” and the Will.I.Am-assisted “Check It Out” work by rhyming in a way that is accessible yet wholly legitimate. Artists like Flo Rida and Pit Bull do this to some degree, but Minaj differentiates herself from them as well; rather than rhyming solely for the clubs, confessional tracks like “Here I Am” and “Dear Old Nicki” actually mine personal territory. In other words, Nicki Minaj is actually quite unique, occupying and owning a space very few artists have ever tried to fill.
You can compare Pink Friday to Eminem’s Recovery, or Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, and both would be apt. “Roman’s Revenge,” featuring Eminem, is a Swizz Beats-produced monster, with Minaj sending hilarious, thinly-velied shots at Lil’ Kim, sneering “Nicki she just mad cause you took the spot/Word, that bitch mad cause I took the spot?/Well bitch if you ain’t shittin’ then get off the pot/Got some niggas out in Brooklyn that’ll off ya top.” Meanwhile, the somber and meditative “Save Me” is a left-field gem, with Minaj showing off a surprisingly respectable singing voice. Nicki collabs with a plethora of high-profile individuals throughout Pink Friday, including Rihanna, Kanye West and Drake, but she’s never once outshined, even driving some of the albums weaker moments home (such as the somewhat half-baked “Moment 4 Life” or the rock-tinged, perhaps overly-giddy “Last Chance”) with the sheer force of her indomitable personality.
Which makes perfect sense; it’s why Britney Spears can become a worldwide phenomenon despite never releasing an album that wasn’t hit or miss. Pop stars are like buffets; they only fail when they don’t cast the widest net possible. Nicki Minaj is the first female rapper to try and succeed at this, and that’s why she’s at the top of the game.
As she explains on the album opener, “I’m The Best’, “I feel them coming for me/because the top is lonely/But what the fuck they gon’ say?/What the fuck they gon’ say?/I’m the best bitch doin’ it.”
No arguments here.