Nicki Minaj has had an incredible year, collaborating with just about every major rapper that had an album, and in many cases stealing the show. Sure, her ridiculous bodily proportions, unique facial expressions, and Gaga-esque wardrobe collection suggest that she’s nothing more than a concoction of some evil record company, but Nicki’s style is all her own. She created her own buzz through a series of mixtapes – a non-visual medium that doesn’t allow funny faces or wardrobe changes – actually creating a buzz from the verses she was smashing. Sooner or later she hooked up with Lil’ Wayne, signed to Young Money, and the rest is history.
Pink Friday is her debut, and unfortunately is the concoction of some evil record label. The unadulterated Nicki Minaj is the whole package – beauty, humor, style, skills, and sexuality – more or less and A&R’s dream. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find a way to channel all of it into a solid debut album.
Pink Friday reeks of A&R tampering, acting as if there was so much hinging on her debut that they felt they needed to “direct” the music that she “needs” to be making. The end result is a watered down version of the bad bitch from the Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape.
Dated production is one of the album’s biggest issues, as Nicki’s producers offer a series of non-threatening beats, perfect for the 14-year old girls Pink Friday is aimed at. The 80′s sample catalog is raped like Puffy circa 97, as songs like the ridiculously weak “Check It Out” (ripping Buggle’s “Video Killed The Radio Star) and equally insulting “Your Love” (taken from Annie Lennox’s “No More I Love You’s”) offer a saccharine-sweet version of Ms. Minaj. Only Kanye’s verse saves “Blazin”, which blasphemously takes Simple Minds “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, as Nikki prattles on redundantly on the hook “I fly, I fly high, I’m blazing, I’m blazing, feels like I’m blazing” and repeat.
And the show-stealing guest verses are one of the album’s other main issues. While Nicki has held her own next to the fellas all year long, she’s constantly bested by her male counterparts on Pink Friday. While her venomous indirect dis at Lil’ Kim on “Roman’s Revenge” stings, Eminem comes in and reminds us why he’s arguably the best emcee holding a mic right now. The same can be said for “Moment For Life”, where Drake delivers an incredible 16 bars, sandwiched in between Nicki’s sung vocals and T-Minus’s syrupy beat.
And perhaps that’s one of album’s biggest problems. Somewhere in between Nicki shitting on mixtape verses and making us laugh out loud with her guest appearances, she became a R&B vocalist. The terribly executed lead single, “Right Thru Me” is testament to this, as is the virtually indistinguishable letter to her old self, “Dear Old Nicki” and the sleepy “Save Me”. Other times, she’s just phoning it in with more blase’ pop production (“Super Bass”, “Last Chance”), doing little to inspire or innovate.
Ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to. The complete lack of innovation on Pink Friday. When Nicki stepped on the scene, she was like a new hope for female rappers (a sub-genre of emcees that we’ve heard little from in recent years). She was killing verses, making dudes look bad, flexing creative styles akin to Busta Rhymes or Freestyle Fellowship. And we won’t front, there are plenty of times onPink Friday where Nicki’s unique style comes through with clever, grin-inducing lines, but coupled with bad beat selection and an abundance of singing, those moments seem few and far in between. Pink Friday ends up being a missed opportunity to harness a great new talent. Maybe she’ll come back hard with Bloody Sunday.
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