The pink wigs, the Barbies, the eyelash bats and British accents. All of these external eccentricities have been off putting for some who feel Nicki Minaj isn’t fully a “Hip Hop” artist. Well, the truth of the matter is, she isn’t, and that’s exactly what Pink Friday reveals. Nicki Minaj sees the Hip Hop landscape and has altered it to craft her own success story, whether you like it or not…
Nicki entered the scene froggy style licking lollipops and crafting mixtape tracks like “Kuchi Shop,” to which the world replied “Not again.” Watching Nicki talk shit in a stairwell though, we knew the potential was there. Plus, after that mixtape era, Nicki has gotten better and better. When Lil’ Kim entered the scene with ‘96’s Hard Core (yes, we’re going there), people were none too thrilled with the direction women in Hip Hop were about to take. Rap was still living off the high of tracks like “Ladies First,” plus a budding Lauryn Hill gave the industry hope. If you ask a Lil’ Kim fan now though about Kim’s mark on Hip Hop, she’s the matriarch. We all have to start somewhere, and that’s what Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday really is – a jumping off point for Nicki’s future, whatever that may be.
When Nicki’s real success began toward the late last year (when her BET Awards Cipher opened some eyes that the girl can spit), her emphasis quadrupled. Hip Hop’s tears still hadn’t dried from being left by Lauryn, Jean Grae wasn’t getting the success she deserved, and Rah Digga’s album hadn’t dropped. When Minaj emerged, she had the finesse and lyrical prowess that had jaws dropping and mouths watering for her debut album. Problem was, Nicki wasn’t here to rip mics apart with her teeth. Sure, she knows how to, but she’s outwardly said her goal in music is much greater. She has the attention of young girls everywhere, and is no longer taking that for granted. Pink Friday may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but many will embrace it.
Pink Friday holds no smoke and mirrors; this album is built on Hip-Pop. From the opening synths of “I’m The Best,” it’s obvious that the sound is geared for the mainstream. However, Nicki’s lyrics don’t falter, despite being clogged with a syrup drenched MPC. She rides some Pop rollercoasters better than others, like the Kanye West-assisted “Blazin” and “Moment 4 Life” with Drake. Nicki has a knack for excelling lyrically when she’s competing with others on the track (hence why eyes were left wide open on “Monster” and the PF track “Roman’s Revenge” ). When she’s left to her own devices though, her poppiness comes out, and while “Here I Am” and “Save Me” are surefire wins, the album tracks we were predisposed to (“Right Thru Me” , “Check It Out” and “Your Love” ) appear overwhelming. Nicki has the potential to win the respect of all, but Pink Friday is clearly for the Barbies. Choosing to box out a whole Hip Hop population wasn’t exactly the best move, but Nicki never claimed to be on a strictly Rap path. Jay-Z’s “Moment of Clarity” comes to mind: “If skills sold / Truth be told / I'd probably be / Lyrically / Talib Kweli / Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / But I did five mil. I ain't been rhymin like Common since.”
That’s not to say hardcore Rap fans can’t find any merit in Pink Friday. “Dear Old Nicki” is reminiscent of her mixtape track “Autobiography,” and Roman Zolanski fans will enjoy the robotics of “Did It On’em”. The three bonus tracks on the deluxe edition – the M.I.A.-inspired “Muny” , “Blow Ya Mind” and the bassy “Super Bass” are probably the best tracks on Pink Friday. Had these parts made the greater whole, the album would have sounded completely different.
Pink Friday was one of the most highly-anticipated albums of 2010, largely due to curiosity. The reality is that it could have never lived up to the hype it prematurely received. Still, there’s room for growth, and Nicki Minaj has both the skills and the following to keep moving up.