Nicki Minaj - The PinkPrint
If you managed to sit through the DVD that came attached to Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, The Re-up, you'd have no doubt seen a rather large male kicking it with nicki pretty much constantly as the trotts her way around the globe. That's Safaree Samuels, SB, or Scaff Beezy, long rumoured to be the man behind Nicki Minaj. If you're that big of a fan, you will also note that Nicki rarely goes in depth on her personal life. That all changes on The Pinkprint..
Whilst Lil Wayne has endured the worst promo period for his much anticipated record Tha Carter V, Nicki has rolled out a golden carpet ahead of herself. Right at the start of the season she began by dropping Lookin Ass, Chi-Raq freestyle and Yash Bitch, all of which served as a reminder that on her day, there are only a handful of males in the industry who can compete with her bar for bar. The 'real' hip hop fans had their thirst quenched. Then came Anaconda, Pills n Potions, and Bed of Lies. In the process she reigned in her teenage following and satisifed them with bubblegum pop and the love balladry they are more used to hearing from Taylor Swift. Promo complete.
The Pinkprint is.. Well, it is different. It is nothing like her previous 2 records, or her mixtapes. On Pink Friday and Roman Reloaded, she straddled the chasm between hardcore rap dominatrix and sickly sweet EDM Queen. It wasn't a particularly delicate balance, with Roman Reloaded top heavy with street cred and filled out at the back end by radio fodder that would make Katy Perry blush (Starships, Marilyn Monroe, Pound The Alarm). The Pinkprint takes the colour in name only, as she moves to quash that dichotomy and reinvent herself as a true hybrid of the music industry. There's no 'rap' Nicki vs 'pop' Nicki on here, this is the woman herself with the aim only of expressing herself in the most potent way possible.
The record begins with three tracks that you'd normally find scattered in a traditional Nicki tracklist: All Things Go, I Lied, and The Crying Game. All are brutally autobiographical, and together they shed more light on the woman behind the persona than the entirety of her previously recorded work. All Things Go is a brutal opening as she reflects on the loss of a cousin, a possible abortion, and her younger brother Caiah's college dreams. I Lied strips the outer layer off totally, and then The Crying Game applies salt to the wounds, "We was just planning a wedding", "Is it too late to talk? Did I wait too long?" "I'm just abusive by nature, not cause I hate ya, I guess I wanna imitate ya". She mixes her frank, simplistic rap flow with a hybrid of singing to convey that this is Nicki, pure and simple, and this record will be like no other she has released.
Whilst it shares lineage with Jay-Z's The Blueprint, it's more closely related to The Black Album, as the songs play out like a movie script with Nicki pulling half the strings, and the other half just spilling out of her, uncontrolled confessions. Only is a disgusting romp that sounds like the ultimate break up party smash, with Drake and Wayne explaining their various carnal thoughts about Nicki and what they'd do to her when she is no longer spoken for. Buy A Heart, with a brilliant performance from Meek Mill, casts her as the cold and emotionless, calculating lover that stays well on top of the games men play to win her over, "you said you was in love, and I still didn't budge / Cause I already seen how you be going in when you be in them clubs". When Pills N Potions and then Bed Of Lies cut in, they sound like expressions of the same problem, with Nicki outwardly dismissing a relationship that inside she can't let go of, despite her best efforts. Grand Piano continues this theme, although it backtracks to before the relationship is over, as she shrewdly observes herself being drawn in to the negative consequences of a toxic relationship, "Am I just a fool? Blind and stupid for loving you".
Despite the candid nature of these tracks, it must be viewed in relative terms. They are candid for Nicki Minaj's standards, but she has nothing on Taylor Swift. There's still a huge amount of innuendo and unanswered questions. Who did she say yes to in 2006 when they proposed? A partner, or the rap game in general? Who is playing her head like a grand piano? When Drake says she has a man, is it still SB? And is she admitting to attacking him with a bottle of Ace of Spades? It's a puzzle that, given past acts, she won't soon help us solve.
Of course, she can still spit. She lays lyrical waste to Iggy Azalia on Win Again with a withering verse of subliminals. She trades heat with Drake and Wayne on two separate songs, although the unfortunate Truffle Butter (admittedly a deluxe edition bonus track) is woefully undernourished. Yung Berg (remember him?) drops by for a brilliant piece of eery angst on Shanghai which she tears to absolute shreads, "All these bitches in pocket, I'm bout to make a deposit / Tell em go head and gossip, as long as your house is the size of my closet". The much awaited link up with Queen Bee is dominant, with both legends dropping to the kind of trap flow that would make established underground artists bow their head in shame. She enlists Ariana Grande not to help her on a love ballad, but to dissect the importance of a man who gives good oral sex and is submissive when he's told to be.
And yes, Anaconda is actually listenable if you give it a chance..
The Pinkprint, initially, might seem odd to you. She blurs the lines between rapper and singer so expertly that her previous work sounds clunky and conspired in comparison. It takes more than a couple of listens to digest it and recognise what it is. All of a sudden, the title begins to make sense.. There's no woman in the game with half as much talent as Minaj, and whilst we all desperately want her to drop a project of pure, dazzling rap acrobatics, she still manages to delight by redefining the term Queen. Beyonce might have that on lock right now, but the way Nicki has put together The Pinkprint she is coming for the throne.