Monday, November 22, 2010

Album Review: Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday (4/5)

Ever since signing to American hip-hop heavyweight Lil Wayne’s record label Young Money, Nicki Minaj has since become the most exciting female rappers to emerge from recent times—mostly circulating the feature circuit—showcasing her unique animated rapping style, multi-persona’s and unorthodox lyrical approach to hip-hop, so what does her much-anticipated debut album Pink Friday have in store?

Pink Friday doesn’t re-call the same beat driven lyrical genius of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill nor does it indulge in same off-putting trash-talking gentile-obsessed profanities of Thug Misses—Minaj’s debut attempts to nurture a fitting balance between the archetypal self-indulging boasting angle of hip-hop as well as exuding a more restraint sound on the slower R&B-ish numbers, but does it work? There’s nothing on here that illustrates Minaj’s rapping talents as well as her animated cameos (notably Kanye West’s “Monster”) but there’s enough versatility demonstrated on here to establish a commendable debut.

First three tracks are pretty much triggered by your standard modern hip-hop production: skittering drum beats and electronic undertones. It all begins with “I’m the Best,” an introductory rags to riches story—I quite like how the soulful horns play out towards the end—it’s a nice touch. Next up is “Roman’s Revenge,” with Eminem where things get a little darker—a penetrating drum-driven series of vengeful outbursts by both parties, apparently Minaj is talking about fellow female rapper Lil’ Kim (“That bitch mad ‘cause I took the spot”). The Bangladesh produced “Did It On ‘Em” follows; gritty undertones and kinetic bass lines, it’s my least favourite of the three. Lyrically, It doesn’t do much either, but what do you expect when the opening lyrics are “I just shitted on ‘em.”

Following the orthodox hip-hop of its first quarter, comes its more poppy, R&B influenced middle section, covered by 5 tracks. The first of the 5 is the fluffy second single “Right Thru Me” a laid back pop ditty with progressive synthetic keyboard notes. The JR Rotem produced “Fly” featuring Rihanna is pretty good—sounds like a contender for a future single—trailing a more uplifting R&B sound; gleaming keyboards, skittering drums and a layer of soundscape clinched to the backdrop. Rihanna sounds nice on here too.

Pink Friday may not have not showcased Minaj’s unorthodox rapping talents as much as I’ve liked, however my favourite track on here is the all-singing “Save Me,” a fragile mid-tempo, in which she sheds some vulnerability, over some hollowing soundscapes, quiet electronic pulsing and cool drum ‘n’ bass beats—that was a nice surprise in sound. “Moment 4 Life” with label-mate Drake is another favourite; I think it’s being considered for the third single. It’s quite nice, very optimistic in the same vein as “Fly,” very drum-heavy with some R&B flourishes. The quirky collab with “Check It Out” is thrown on here too, I’m not sure why but it’s a fun slice of pop and ridiculous lyrics (“this is mega-nigga ultra niggmatic”).

We return from the pop-studded middle-section to the skittering hip-hop production of its last section. Minaj’s opening verse on the Kanye West-assisted “Blazin’” is the best rap verse on the album—Kanye puts in a good verse also. I love the Simple Minds sample too. The dark beat-heavy “Here I Am” follows, beginning with a bursts of accelerating electronic static—I had thought they were electronic guitars, but they sound more like a mimic of motor-bike engines—before it segway’s into its shadowing production. It’s defenceless in the same vein as Mary J. Blige “Take Me As I Am,” as she says (“why is that you can only see the worst in me… I could say I’m done with it but it lurks in me”).

Minaj channels her past self on “Dear Old Nicki,” it’s a nice lyrical re-calling—not as a deep as P!nk’s “Conversations with My 13 Year Old Self,” but it’s sentimental enough. The album ends on a bum note, with the wasted collaboration with British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield, “Last Chance,” this could have been something good, unfortunately sounds like filler.

With a few duds here and there, Pink Friday is a solid debut. Minaj may not have presented the level of quirk and interest she showcases on her features on here, but in-all it’s an admirable set, a sturdy balance of hip-hop and pop, I went back and forth on whether to give this a 3.5 or 4 but in the end a 4 was appropriate as Nicki Minaj does illustrate rapping and lyrical talents, placing her nicely behind female rappers that came before her. People compare her to Lil Kim like she is the pinnacle of female rap, but what about Missy Elliot? That’s the level of hip-hop craftsmanship any newcomer should be aiming for.

Best: Save Me, Right Thru Me, Moment 4 Life, Fly, Roman's Revenge, Blazin, Here I Am


ww_adh said...

I've been listening to this today. I like it! Better than I thought I would. I like the mix of styles, which you highlight--harder rap at first then R&B and pop. Her sampling choices in the second half of the album are a lot of fun. "Roman's Revenge" is pretty hard-hitting, but it's also pretty creative. "Blazin" is good. I like the song Rihanna sings on.

J.Mensah said...

Ahh! yay! I thought you be put off by "Did it on em" where she says if she had a dick she'd piss on them and so forth.

Don said...

I've yet to listen to Minaj's Pink Friday, but I had planned on take the time to give a thorough listen. Agreed - Nicki Minaj has been burning the charts on her collabo efforts and Roman's Revenge is HOT.

J.Mensah said...

Burning up the charts indeed, can you believe she's going to sell at least 435,000 copies of this this week? And her collaborative efforts are awesome, espically Mosnter and RV.

rcLoy said...

Not a big fan of Rap but I am in love with Your Love and Right Thru Me. I like her softer side, it's more relate-able. Wicked cover tho.

J.Mensah said...

Definately appreciate you giving this a chance!