Although Scattered, Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pinkprint’ Proves Captivating
Nicki Minaj • The Pinkprint • Republic • US Release Date: December 15, 2014
“Oh my gosh, look at her butt!” Yep, that bold phrase managed to dominate the airwaves as one Nicki Minaj managed to one-up her own edginess as an MC. If “Beez In The Trap” from her previous album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded wasn’t enough, one of today’s most adventurous artists outdid herself, lifting a Sir Mix-A-Lot sample in the process. “Anaconda” would only build anticipation for what was sure to be some kind of album. The Pinkprint is just that – all over the place! That said who does ‘all over the place’ better than Nicki Minaj?
“All Things Go” initiates The Pinkprint much more seriously than previous albums. A stark contrast, the maturity of “All Things Go” is off-putting. Even so, the song serves as a revealing opener and definitely takes the album in a different direction than most anticipated. Similarly, follow-up “I Lied” eschews “anacondas” in favor of heartbreak and a comparable level of sensitivity that characterized the opener. Sensitivity doesn’t keep Minaj from dropping some ‘bombs’ (“If it was a record, it would have been classic / but f*ck you though, orgasmic”), but it all seems to contribute to more ‘depth’ via emotion and intensity.
On “The Crying Game” continues the devastating nature of heartbreak, though does so with more groove and rhythm compared to the previous joints. Throughout, Minaj spits some legit rhymes, including “Welcome to the crying game where you lose your soul / where it ain’t no easy pass, you got use to the toll / ain’t no cruise control, you ‘bout to lose control…” Again, give credit to Minaj’s bold opening statements through a more subtle, more refined approach.
The tone changes, unsurprisingly with “Get On Your Knees” featuring Ariana Grande. How big is the change? “Got a bow on my panties because my ass is a present…I be laughing when you beggin’ me to just put the head in…” Risqué, sexed-up Nicki returns full-throttle, and honestly, there’s nothing wrong with it, particularly given the three more ‘respectable’ cuts that arrive ahead of it. On “Feeling Myself,” Minaj is definitely confident, per lyrics like “B*tches ain’t got punchlines or flow / I have both and an empire also.” The confidence only grows with an assist from Beyoncé. Hit – of course.
So, consider “Get On Your Knees” and “Feeling Myself” the warm-up one of the album’s nastiest, boldest numbers, “Only.” The restraint and softer side of earlier cuts is erased as Nicki Minaj and her all-star cast – Chris Brown, Drake, and Lil Wayne – “go in.” Is it irresponsible – definitely, but it’s hard to resist being sucked in by its sinfulness, particularly ‘Drizzy’s’ verse.
“I’m in this b*tch, I’m getting money,” Minaj asserts on “Want Some More,” a big-time brag-fest. Brash and unapologetic throughout its course, Minaj wipes away her sensitivity in the least. Among the best lines is “That’s why I’m throwing shade, like it’s sunny,” though “These b*tches suck, so I nickname these b*tches BJ” is as raw as things come – no pun intended. The production work on “Four Door Aventador” is superb, separating itself from rest of the album. That doesn’t mean the catchy track is the crème de la crème per se, but it does earn the listeners attention.
“Favorite” follows, featuring the distinct sexed-up tenor of Jeremih, who sings, “You know that you need a rider, babe.” Keeping it sensuous, Nicki Minaj unsurprisingly embraces the vibe, brilliantly exemplified by a double entendre such as “I’mma have you coming in my palace / London, Tokyo, Paris, let me update your status.” Ultimately, this track is oxymoronic, delivers with softness, yet still edgy. The beginning of “Buy A Heart” is dominated by Meek Mill, who cleverly quotes himself (“They say it’s levels to this sh*t…”). Ultimately, the song feels a bit undercooked – it seems to be missing that extra oomph.
“Trini Dem Girls” is tropically infused, definitely a change of pace from the majority of The Pinkprint. While this cut doesn’t rep the best of the best, it does give Minaj a fine background to rap, sing, and do her thing. Obviously, the raunchy, number two hit “Anaconda” is the main attraction, as Minaj joins the rampant trend of adoration for the butt that dominated 2014 – ask J. Lo, Kim Kardashian, or Miley Cyrus. The best way to describe Anaconda – raw, unapologetic, bold, and “Bootylicious.” It is definitely a sexual overstatement.
“The Night Is Still Young” lightens the mood following the controversial “Anaconda.” Living up to its energy and irresponsibility is an elephantine task, but “The Night Is Still Young” sports the typical Dr. Luke/Cirkut sound, which is another sound change of pace. On the high-flying chorus, Minaj sounds particularly strong vocally. Keeping things ‘lighter,’ Minaj’s underrated “Pills N Potions” follows, the complete opposite of more cutting-edge numbers like “Only” or “Anaconda.” Even though “Pills N Potions” didn’t receive the same attention or acclaim, it is another solid NM record overall.
Penultimate cut “Bed Of Lies” serves as yet another pre-release single, this time featuring Skylar Grey. Less intriguing than the elite, solidness still characterizes this kinder, gentler number. “Grand Piano” ends the standard edition of The Pinkprint, which itself clocks just a couple minutes shy of the 70-minute mark. The deluxe edition adds three tracks – “Big Daddy,” “Shanghai” and “Win Again” – which move The Pinkprint to just under 80 minutes.
Overall, The Pinkprint has plenty that bodes well in its favor. It is a scattered album, but the same could be said about Nicki Minaj artistically. Minaj isn’t content just to do one thing, so her restlessness artistically translates across all three of her albums. Sometimes she opts for gentle fare, while other times she plays right along with the boys in the game, spitting some of the rawest rhymes you’ll ever hear. Then other times, she wants to sing about heartbreak, showing her more feminine, sensitive side. Minaj is complicated, but all in all, she does complicated well.
Favorites: “All Things Go,” “I Lied,” “Get Down On My Knees,” “Feeling Myself,” “Only,” “Anaconda,” “Pills N Potions”