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DJBooth Album Review
Over the last year rival armies have amassed to do battle over Chris Brown, Drake, Kid Cudi, the list goes on, but those battles look like skirmishes compared to the nuclear war that has been waged around Nicki Minaj. The first lady of Young Money saturated every radio station and blog known to man, causing many to recoil and declare themselves sworn enemies of Minaj (even as they admitted she outdid the likes of Kanye and Jay-Z on Monster). In the opposite trench the Barbie army dug themselves deeper, swearing their allegiance even as disasters like Massive Attack crashed and burned. Unfortunately, the truth for both sides is that Nicki’s debut album, Pink Friday, is nowhere as bad as the bloodthirsty would have hoped, or as brilliant as the Minaj supporters would like to believe; mostly because it’s impossible to figure out who Nicki is.
It’s hard to remember an album that changes focus as often and completely as Pink Friday. If by some miracle the album was your introduction to Nicki, based on the first three tracks alone you’d assume she was a relentlessly aggressive rapper. Friday opens with the straightforward rider I’m the Best, immediately segues into the heavily Busta Rhymes influenced Roman’s Revenge, which impressively finds her holding her own next to Eminem, and then finishes with the scatologically obsessed Did It On 'Em. While Nicki busts out her mic again throughout the album, most notably on the Kanye-assisted Blazin, three tracks in we’ve essentially heard the last of Nicki Minaj the hardcore rapper. Oddly, none of these tracks truly utilize the trademark schizophrenic rhyme style she used on Monster and Bottoms Up, instead often relying - scratch that, over relying - on the elongated pause structure that even Drake has admitted is played out: “Hang em up…flat screen.” “Let them bums blow steam…radiator.” “I’m really tired of this rhyme style…Nathan S.” (Ok, so that last one’s not an actual quote.) For a rapper who skyrocketed to fame for her insanely original flow, Nicki’s work on Pink Friday is surprisingly tame.
But if by some miracle Pink Friday was your introduction, and you happened to press play at track four, you’d assume that Nicki Minaj was a pop singer who also happened to rap. We get our first taste of Nicki’s surprisingly good singing voice on Right Thru Me, a sparkling song that embraces the vulnerability she so adamantly rejected on the previous three tracks. After a brief respite to let Rihanna take the r&b reins, it’s right back to relationship crooning on Save Me, a record that reveals that she can embed her singing with the kind of subtle touches completely missing from her raps. The result is an emotionally compelling and perfectly crafted ballad I’d be hard pressed to identify as coming from Nicki if I didn’t know better. From the sweetly hooked Moment 4 Life to the hyper-pop of Check It Out, Pink Friday is far more mainstream than I anticipated. In fact, and I couldn’t have imagined writing this before listening to the album, I just might prefer Nicki Minaj the pop singer to Nicki Minaj the rapper. I wouldn’t listen to an album consisting entirely of Did It On “Em. But an album of Save Me? I could be convinced.
Though far from the paragon of feminism many would prefer her to be, Nicki absolutely deserves credit for proving that a woman can achieve widespread success without openly prostituting themselves (Pink Friday is almost completely devoid of sex). And while you may not like her brand of originality, no one sounds or looks remotely like Nicki Minaj, and in an industry of cookie cutter artists, that deserves applause. As for Pink Friday? It’s hard to say. It’s not so much a coherent album as a collection of songs often tied together by nothing more than the name of the artist performing them. It’s as if Nicki Minaj is battling herself, fighting a war within her music to figure out who she is as an artist. It’s a war she may never win, but if she does, the sky’s the limit…Challenger.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Nov 24, 2010
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