CD / LP / DL
New York battle-rapper, songwriter, actor and pop queen Nicki Minaj released her latest album, The Pinkprint, just before we broke up for Xmas. It’s an album that, according to Fat Gay Vegan, “swings wildly between fabulous camp pop, old school hip hop, R&B ballads and middle of the road self-empowerment songs”. Check out his full review by reading on…
The Pinkprint is a masterfully-concocted collection of tracks with a sometimes erratic feeling from an artist at the top of her musical game. It’s just a shame about the lack of social commentary.
I sometimes like my music to have broader themes than just the likes, dislikes and dysfunctions of the featured artist. I’m happy to worship at their altar of grandiosity but can’t usually manage 19 tracks of the stuff.
That is exactly the predicament I find myself in with The Pinkprint, the third studio album by Nicki Minaj. Every single moment revolves around the artist with barely a mention of the world outside. Repeated listenings of the long player leave me feeling a bit swamped by Minaj’s sense of self-importance. This Deluxe Version of The Pinkprint is a lot of self-reflection and congratulations to stomach.
Even Morrissey can muster enough disinterest in the world to concern himself with injustice. Gaga cries on stage for the gays on the daily. Of course these (and most) pop stars are deliriously self-concerned, but The Pinkprint explores little other than Nicki Minaj and her immediacy. No matter how pink and sugary it is, it is still a tough pill to swallow at times.
And if we move into the realm of hip hop and rap, some of my biggest musical heroes have delivered rhymes about the world around them. Queen Latifah, Salt’n’Pepa, Missy Elliot and of course my all-time favourites Public Enemy. I’m not here to school Minaj or anybody on black music history, but I do miss unique black voices in the mainstream helping me to explore themes other than sex, money and being better than everyone else. I adore Minaj’s vocal style and straight talking sensibilities, but lament that these qualities are not employed to politicise or educate.
That’s my moan about lack of social commentary content out of the way. What about the songs? A lot of the music, production, vocals and rapping on The Pinkprint is outstanding and could be held up as examplars of multiple genres.
Featuring Chris Brown, Drake and Lil Wayne, Only is the most explicit song I’ve ever heard about three people not fucking each other. I adore the stripped back, haunting music and beats of this song but must admit I do not enjoy hearing any man refer to women as bitches. Add the fact that it is Brown, a person prosecuted for assaulting his partner, and I find myself resisting what would otherwise be a more-than-impressive track.
The standout track by a million miles is definitely Four Door Aventador. This is an incredibly impressive hip hop excursion that transports listeners directly to the West Coast of the USA. UK producer Parker Ighile helped shape the sound of this track as Minaj lays down old school-style rhymes that are irresistible as she recalls the golden age of SoCal rap.
The Night Is Still Young is a bonafide dance floor filler but sits a little uneasy within a collection of R&B, hip hop and rap tracks. On first play through, the track instantly recalled Kesha so it came as no surprise to discover it was produced by longtime Kesha collaborator Dr Luke. Each track seems to have been carefully considered for a different market, so I’m imagining The Night Is Still Young is for the European dance clubs and fans who wanted a follow up to previous hit Starships.
Minaj is more than an accomplished rapper and I would hazard to say she has no peers in the mainstream right now. I haven’t heard anyone this skilled in the top 10 since Missy Elliot was the queen of everything. Minaj often conjures the flow style and intonation of Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton of legendary Salt ’n’ Pepa, especially on aforementioned Four Door Aventador. It makes me wonder if it is a purposeful tribute. As a quick S’n’P aside, it is also noteworthy to mention that Minaj rhymes ‘Bill Bellamy’ with ‘felony’ on Pinkprint track Bed of Lies. Pepa made the same connection in rhyme way back in 1997 on the Salt ’n’ Pepa track Friends from long player Brand New.
Picking up on the Bed of Lies mention, it needs expanding that this odd Skylar Grey duet contains the worst lyrical moment on The Pinkprint. Hackneyed doesn’t describe it well enough. The folk-pop singer asks if a lover thinks of her as they lie in their bed of lies. She continues to tell us that the sheets are ‘1000 count’ but do not hold a thread of truth. Truly dreadful.
The subpar balladry continues on Grand Piano as Minaj gets a little too Evanesence for my liking with strings, piano and vocal echo. I enjoy the experience of hearing Minaj sing a ballad but I feel her lyrical smarts better suit the stop and start smart arse flows that have elevated her to mega stardom. This track really is Roman going on holiday and it makes me seriously long for his return.
Guest singers are lining up for their Pinkprint pay checks. You can hear Beyonce sing about stopping the world on Feeling Myself, Ariana Grande asking a lover to Get On Your Knees, R&B singer Jeremih wants to be Minaj’s favourite and Meek Mill asks if anyone wants to Buy A Heart. Mill returns for track Big Daddy, maybe the only rap song I have ever heard reference my hometown of Brisbane, Australia. Seriously.
Nicki Minaj swings wildly between fabulous camp pop, old school hip hop, R&B ballads and middle of the road self-empowerment songs on The Pinkprint. It’s not hard to find a lot to love on a collection so diverse. Not every moment on The Pinkprint is classic, but Minaj and her team of producers have done their upmost to ensure there is something to appeal to all tastes… and she doesn’t miss a moment telling you how accomplished she is in the process.