Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint, the highly anticipated third album from Young Money’s First Lady may have been her most important to date. She was already the superstar that we thought she could be, but for a moment it appears as if she abandoned her hip-hop roots in favor of being a full fledged pop artist. She came back this year with a point to prove, opening eyes and ears with anthemic singles, show stealing guest verses, and provocative visuals that put her in those MVP discussions in end of the year hip-hop debates. The Pinkprint was going to be that defining factor.
A unanimous favorite was one of the two Jeremih collaborations, “Want Some More.” Nicki takes the gloves off on Zaytoven and Metro Boomin’s engulfing instrumental and lays her game down quite flat—she isn’t just a “female” rapper. Nicki often receives the backhanded compliment so she wastes no time reminding us of where she stands amongst your favorite rappers by using your favorite rapper’s co-sign to validate her claims. It’s her best showcase of rapping on the album. She takes command of the phenominal instrumental that would have drowned most emcees and delivers a record that Lil’ Kim might even catch herself nodding to.
Who had Eminem on the first album?
Who had Kanye saying, “She a problem?”
Who the fuck came in the game, made her own column?
Who made Lil Wayne, give ’em five million?
Why the fuck I gotta say it, though? You niggas don’t know it yet?
Football touchdown, on the Boeing jet
You my son, but I’m just not showing yet
– Nicki Minaj, Want Some More
All true and the second verse was even better than the verse.
Another standout was the Jessie Ware featured “The Crying Game.” Jessie gives Nicki an alley oop with her sensational hook, but Nicki doesn’t slack when it comes to her vocals either. The story here plays out like a war-torn relationship. Constant arguments turn into physical altercations, pride stands in the way of feelings, and all it leads to is both parties yearning to be loved again. Nicki knows this merry-go-round all too well. The rhymes sound personal, characterized by her reflective tone. Jessie and Nicki trade vocals on the bridge, before the song builds up to in the climactic chorus which is tailored for radio.
Nicki did her fair share of singing throughout this project. Along with “Crying Game” there was “I Lied,” “The Night Is Still Young,” “Pills and Potions,” and “Grand Piano.” At times she hit, but then there were the many misses. I understand what she was trying to do on “The Night Is Still Young,” but it was a reach. What may work for Miley Cyrus doesn’t work for Nicki Minaj (unless it’s twerking). “Grand Piano” was the most vulnerable we’ve ever heard the oh-so confident Nicki Minaj, which was refreshing, but her vocal performance wasn’t strong enough here. The risk taking can go either way.
So did Nicki earn her respect back after feeding off of her young demographic of pop fans and such? Yes and no. The album is two-sided. There are songs that will quiet the “Nicki went pop” chatter, but there are moments where it’s evident that she’s seeking chart placements. Who can blame her? She’s in a position where she can capitalize on two demographics and reap full benefits from it and that is the basis of The Pinkprint, the female version of Jay Z’s Blueprint, showing the ones coming after her how to get it. Mission accomplished, but the lowlights are so dim that you’re reminded why she’s in this position of having to prove herself over and over again.