Editorial

In Depth: Nicki Minaj

Like I ain’t make all these bitches start spitting metaphors and all of dat

The Pinkprint Freestlye

Now while the above quote is clearly false and just a moment of a rapper being their usual overconfident selves, because lords knows if female rappers like Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, Da Brat, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliott, Eve  etc didn’t actually have bars prior to Onika’s existence, that line and freestyle made me want to look more into the rapper. This piece will focus mainly on her as a rapper but you can’t ignore the fact that over the years Nicki Minaj has exploded in more fields than just music in ways that some of the artists who came before her couldn’t or never got the chance too. “I’m talkin’ bout my brand while you talkin’ bout your brands, the difference is a lot of MMMMMMs to your couple hundred grand.”

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You know, a lot of people ask me why I feel that, you know, I’ve gotten a lot of notoriety so quickly and I don’t know. People seem to be under the impression that I’ve made it to this point, fast. And you know, obviously for me, I don’t feel like that. Cause it’s me. I feel like I’ve been doing it for ten billion years. But every-time someone says something like that to me I really remember to thank God for getting me this far, cause sometimes you don’t realize how far you’ve gotten until you look around and look at the people who are still trailing far behind you; And I know that no matter what, it’s, in the end, it’s not going to be about my talent. You know, it’s not going to be about connections, It’s not gonna be about my looks. It’s gonna be about, who wants it the most and I want it the most.

Intro x Beam Me Up Scotty  

This was not Nicki’s first mixtape, but it was around this time that I noticed her and wanted to know more about who Nicki Minaj was. Listening to Beam Me Up Scotty in 2016 feels nostalgic in the sense that here is Nicki before all of the extra antics, the crazy costumes and fried chicken necklaces. This was when she caught the attention of the world but hadn’t completely bit into the apple. We even get an appearance from an equally energetic and extra, but less mainstream, DJ Khaled on Shopaholic.

I was on the plane with Dwayne, you can call me Whitley I go to Hill-Man. Listen I’m the baddest in the school, the baddest in the game. Excuse me, honey, but nobody’s in my lane.

Itty Bitty Piggy

I mean how can you not go up for Itty Bitty Piggy? It’s impossible no matter how much you might not like Nicki. Here you have an arrogant rapper on her way out of the ‘up and coming’ label to being mainstream. She knew she was about to blow up and didn’t hold back. Add her bars over the instrumental of Soulja Boy’s “Donk” and that’s a win-win (regardless of how terrible Soulja is, that beat is nice). There are a few bright spots and some dim ones on Beam, but the songs that are good, are damn good and leave an impression on the listener that makes you hopeful for what’s to come from her in the future. You could hear the hunger and earned arrogance in her voice, regardless if she was proving she was a lyrical miracle or not that didn’t really matter. The tone was set and a void that had been missing for awhile was being filled.

Sidenote: Lil’ Wayne, who is featured multiple times of course, rapped “Weezy F Baby and the “F” is for a bunch of shit” on Go Hard. While that line may be very insignificant we later learned that one of the Fs stood for “Phenomenal.”

nicki-minaj-pink-friday

After much anticipation we entered the world of Nicki Minaj with the release of Pink Friday. In hindsight this album served as a bluepinkprint to what we could expect out of her as she continued moving forward musically, it was just in the process of being refined.

The album opened up with I’m The Best and it was a nice blend of her rap and pop personas to churn out an attention catching album opener and sustained momentum going into the next few tracks. From the start of Roman’s Revenge I knew I was in for a treat, it was also a plus that it featured Eminem. That pounding beat with playful yet arrogant and brash lyrics from both parties made for an interesting mashup that didn’t disappoint me.

Look at my show footage, how these girls be spazzin, so fuck I look like getting back to a has-been? Yeah I said it, has-been, hang it up. Flatscreen.

Roman’s Revenge

The declaration that “all these bitches is my sons” and “if I had a dick, I would pull it out and piss on ’em” over a Bangladesh beat On Did It On ‘Em started an endless loop of the “you my son” narrative being used, but nonetheless it made for a memorable moment in her then blossoming career. Safaree shouting sinacle and unwarranted lines during the hook could be done without though. Then, there’s the tamed Right Thru Me. Nicki pulled back from her infamous voice changes and delivered a record that displayed her singing voice with her rap skills; and it wasn’t cringeworthy in the slightest compared to other efforts. Some other standout or overall good songs on this album are Save Me, Here I Am, Blazin and Dear Old Nicki. All of those songs did a good job at either being introspective or showed that she had a rightful place in the game.

Sidenote: I’ve never cared for any of Nicki’s pop tracks. Ever. So Fly, Last Chance and even the popular Super Bass all were a no from me then and still are a no to this day.

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When the Roman Reloaded version of Pink Friday came out, this is when things became tricky, underwhelming and just plain confusing for me. Now, keep in mind that I’m not a fan of Pop Minaj, but my one opinion is meaningless because a lot of people are and that’s what has gotten her to the commercial level she’s  at currently. But this album was just a clussterfuck of what the fuck and why (excuse my language). The majority of this projet is filled with some of the most bubble gum pop I’ve ever had the inconvenience to listen to and it doesn’t help that the rap tracks on here are sub par at best so there’s no real contrast for what the listener has to experience.

So, we’re going to get these songs out-of-the-way early. Starships, if there was a word I would use to describe how I felt when this dropped it would probably be repulsed. It didn’t help that it was EVERYWHERE! Chosen as the lead single it was clear that commercial success was what was being aimed for. That success was achieved but at what cost? Things continue to go downhill as each one of these songs comes on and comes to an end. Pound The Alarm, Whip It, Automatic, Va Va Voom, Masquerade and Beautiful Sinner are all forgettable, Young Forever is the least unbearable track out of the bunch but it’s still very much skippable, in my opinion.

Even if all of those records were removed, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded would still go down as her worst album up to this point. The track Roman Holiday opens the project with “Take your medication, Roman. Take a short vacation, Roman. You’ll be okay.” Judging by those lyrics I would assume that this meant a more toned down Nicki would appear throughout the rest of the album but boy  was I wrong. Thanks to Rap Genius for clearing the meaning up. From start to finish everything about Roman Holiday is all over the place, I mean…did you see that Grammy performance? Exactly.

Come On A Cone sounds like it was channeling The Flight of the Bumblebee mix that with the hysterical voice of her Roman Zolanski character boasting about money, stats and iced out stones, so innovative. The lyrical content doesn’t vary that much but I did appreciate the line “Hottest MCs, Top 5; you need money? I got mine. More knots than Eric on Basketball Wives.” Hilarious.

Even though this album is far from being in my playlist during this or any lifetime, there are a few bright spots scattered throughout.

HOV Lane is where Nicki just breezes through the production with the typical braggadocious flow you’d expect, but it’s always accepted when it’s delivered the right way and in this instance, this is the right way. Champion has bars that cover the usual but there’s also sentimental value incorporated within the song, She covers her rise to stardom, her hard work and even losing a family member all of those topics convey well over 40s subtle production plus Nas, Jeezy and Drake all come correct with their respective verses. If I had to pick a personal favorite from Roman Reloaded it would be Fire Burns. I love the overall sound from the beat selection to the lyrics, even Nicki’s singing is welcomed here to make for one of the few standout tracks on the whole album.

Before I move on to the next album I have to rant about Stupid Hoe…what was she thinking? The childish lyrics mixed with one of the most cringeworthy beats ever, made Stupid Hoe go on the list as one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard, and I survived the Soulja Boy era. It’s crystal clear that this was another shot at Lil Kim as the two continuously go back and forth but the song is just completely aggravating, I get a migraine just thinking about how it sounds. This was one of the first records released to promote the album and I knew then that it wasn’t for me just based off of this track alone. Nicki repeatedly saying “you a stupid hoe, you a, you a stupid hoe (stupid, stupid)” “Ice my wrist-es, then I piss on bitches. You could suck my diznick, if you take these jizzes” “Look Bubbles, go back to ya habitat. MJ gone and I ain’t havin that. How you gonna be stunt double to the nigga monkey? Top of that I’m in the Phatom lookin hella chonky.” Those were some actual lyrics to an actual song that she thought was FLAMES!! There is no way that anyone involved in the album making process should’ve signed off for this to be released, let alone make it on an album. Plus the video was just as annoying. That has to be a new record.

Sidenote: Aside from some ridiculous raps from Nicki, Wayne actually said “I get that pussy wetter than a dirty sewer” on Sex In The Lounge. Um…sir, I don’t think that’s a good thing. But congratulations I guess? Good job? I don’t know.

There is also a “revamped” version of this project called Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up that features an additional seven new songs. I only found one song to be to my taste out of the bunch which was High School…so yeah.

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After the slippery slope that was Roman Reloaded, I knew The Pinkprint would be no different which is why I initially ignored the project. Judging solely off of Anaconda and Pills N Potions I could tell that this would be yet another Nicki Minaj album that wouldn’t get any play over this way. So it’s been two years since it was released and this was my first time sitting through 96% of this album; and I have to admit the my reservations and assumptions were wrong. While I get why the songs that were chosen to be singles were…well chosen, they didn’t provide any context for what was to be expected. I didn’t care for Anaconda, Only and Trini Dem Girls; but other than those songs I actually enjoyed the majority of this album in one way or another.

This is a great project for Nicki because it showed growth in some aspects. The main problem I had with her artistry is that there was no balance. Even though Pop Minaj will never be my go to, I understand that there is an audience who craves that sound from her. But, there’s also the people who love the hardcore Nicki and the laid back crooner Nicki. The issue was whether she would figure out how to balance all of those markets to make an album that was somewhat cohesive; I think she’s on the right path with The Pinkprint.

Out of the twenty song tracklist there’s only one pop song and it’s pretty damn good in all honesty. The Night Is Still Young is subtle but still fun enough to party to, it’s also not unbearable to listen to and doesn’t throw off the vibe of the rest of the album. I was pleasantly surprised.

The singing portion of the record was well done also. I’m not the biggest fan of her crooning but she managed to channel the emotions from her personal problems to make some good music, I Lied is a perfect example of all of that. Pills N Potions didn’t connect with me during the initial rollout for the album. I still don’t think it should’ve been the first single but I get what they were going for. Listening to it along with the rest of the album, it sounds way better than I remember and I found myself hitting repeat several times. Grand Piano is completely stripped down and is just Nicki singing along to the chords, it’s nicely done and shall I say beautiful? Yes, I thought it was a very beautiful song.

The Pinkprint is where Nicki does what we all want Nicki to do, rap. The content wasn’t a total 180º to the norm but the mixture of bragging and personal rhymes were a warm welcome back into the world of being a Nicki Minaj fan. Bed of Lies, The Crying Game and All Things Go are three songs that focuses more so on Onika rather than Nicki and they cover the heartbreak that comes from failed relationships and the loss of loved ones. After that it’s just straight aggressive raps with beats to match. Want Some More (which has an impressive double time flow incorporated), Shanghai, Favorite and Buy A Heart all deliver in some way, even if the lyrical content isn’t out of the ordinary, the production along with the effortless rapping are what makes these songs great. The Biggie and Kim influence is evident on Four Door Aventador but that is in no way a diss or shade to Nicki, any time that she’s ever used that flow it comes off as genuine and she does a good job at pulling it off.  I can’t forget Big Daddy. I still skip Meek Mill’s verse because I refuse, but Nicki coasted through her verses like the pro she is and it’s what we like to witness her do.

The Pinkprint didn’t remove the doubts that I still have regarding Nicki Minaj and what she will do next but I’m less skeptical with what her future holds. After repeatedly listening to these projects, some for the first time, it’s clear that she has a right to be as cocky as she is, what rapper isn’t? But it was a matter of whether or not she would be able to put the pieces together for her own sake. All of the different endorsements don’t mean anything if the one thing people noticed you for is lacking. Her first album was the introduction, the second was solely for commercial success and the third saw the attempted reinvention of what she became known for in a process to connect back with her core.

I know the “you bitches is my sons” line won’t go away. Neither will the bragging and sexual content. But when you mix those things with Nicki’s vulnerability it can make for future records that would garner the positive attention from rap critics without slowing down the mainstream and commercial success that I’m sure she’s proud of accomplishing. If she can keep that up and continue pushing ahead instead of reverting backwards, much greater things can be achieved.

Also check out JAYBeatz mashup of The Crying Game that includes Miguel’s Sure Thing, it’s my favorite version of this song!

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