It’s a shame that there hasn’t been many powerful mainstream female emcees this decade. Nicki Minaj seeks to claim that spot and neatly falls in between all we’ve seen before. She has the pop sensibilities of Lil’ Kim without resorting to overly sexual content, she can have the rawness of underground femcees such as Jean Grae and Eternia and is weird as hell at times like Missy. And really, I don’t think there has been any femcee who can sing and rap as well as Nicki does in each area since Lauryn Hill.
So what went wrong with this album? It’s disjointed. Plain and simple. While Nicki’s different personalities and musical sensibilities allows many different listeners to enjoy her music, this album does not feel as organic as others in the same lane.
While some of her peers have made hip hop music while adding some pop influences to make it easier for casual listeners to digest, Nicki’s songs are mostly very clearly defined and seem too calculated. It’s almost as if she’s thinking, “Ok this one is for the hip hop heads, this one is for the ladies, this one is for the pop crowd”.
That’s not how songs and especially albums should be created. For the most part, the album leans too much towards bubble gum pop, rarely releasing the beast she has in her on guest features like Kanye’s Monster.
There are some exceptions of course. Although Moment 4 Life, Blazin and Last Chance definitely sound pop enough to be singles, they still have enough substance to make them good songs. It also sounds like Nicki has some heart on those songs and is not just going through the motions.
Dear Old Nicki, probably my favorite song on the album, also has a pop oriented beat but has Nicki bearing her heart and is one of the only times on the album that Nicki really allows herself to be Nicki. We need more of that on this album because the rest of it shows very little personality.
She does unleash her inner-Monster on here a few times though with a few very clearly defined tracks for the hardcore hip hop crowd. Here I Am is one of the better songs on the album with Nicki spitting over a vintage sounding east coast beat, something that’s rarely heard on mainstream albums nowadays.
She absolutely tears apart Roman’s Revenge, spitting one of her hardest verses on the album, doing her best Busta Rhymes dungeon dragon impersonation. She even makes a few jabs to Lil’ Kim, responding to several of her comments this year.
“What the fuck I look like getting back to a has-been…You play the back, bitch, I’m in the front/ You need a job, this ain’t cutting it/ Nicki Minaj is who you ain’t f*cking with“. She continues after Eminem’s vicious verse, “Is this the thanks that I get for putting you bitches on?/ Is it my fault that all you bitches gone?/ Shoulda sent a thank-you note, you lil’ ho/ Now Imma wrap your coffin in a bow/ ‘Nicki she just mad ’cause you took the spot,’/ Word, that bitch mad cause I took the spot?/ Well, bitch if you ain’t shitting then get off the pot/ Got some n*ggas out in Brooklyn that’ll off your top“
Ouch. It’s too bad that the Swizz Beatz beat they are rhyming on is not only soulless but downright annoying and repetitive. This trend follows through on the next song. Did It On Em is another one for the hip hop crowd but the annoyingly droning beat and slow tempo of Nicki’s rhymes makes this a straight snoozer.
This type of soulless production is one of the biggest detractors from the album. All the beats sound very sterile and safe, catering a bit too much to the pop crowd. None of this is more apparent than on the first two singles.
Check It Out features Will.I.Am and is so bubble gum pop that it quite literally makes me cringe. This one is clearly for the tweens and is way too happy-go-lucky, even compared to the rest of the album. Will should be ashamed of himself for making music like this when he and the rest of Black Eyed Peas were actually respectable hip hop acts at one point.
The second single, Your Love, is definitely more tolerable, although it brings home my gripe that I have for instantly recognizable samples. In this case, the song samples Annie Lennox’ 1995 smash hit No More ‘I Love You’s’, which automatically makes me think of nothing but creepy trans-gender ballerinas when hearing it. Not a good look.
While not a terrible album and is solid for the type of audience she seems to want to service, mainly the younger and pop crowd, it truly is disappointing that she plays it so safe. There is very little of Nicki’s interesting personality shown here and even less of the Monster lyricist she has inside her.
I do have to give her credit though. She is the strongest mainstream female MC in the game right now and is a positive influence to the younger girls as she consciously avoids overtly sexual topics. It doesn’t hurt that she is a good singer too. I just wish she took the Lil’ Kim route and made a hip hop album first before delving deeper into the pop world, although her current status as a star may have pushed her past that realm of possibility at this point.
While I appreciate pop music and realize it has a place in the industry, I come from a hip hop background and so I can’t help but call it as I see it. Ultimately, ‘Pink Friday’ does not live up to Nicki Minaj’s potential as a deadly femcee and instead comfortably sits her in the category of talented artists who have yet to prove it with a classic album. Hopefully this will be successful and allow her to take some more edgy risks on her sophomore album rather than retreading familiar ground.
Check out our second opinion review here
‘Pink Friday’ was released on November 22nd, 2010