The Pinkprint is just a record, as far as hip-hop is concerned. Nothing more, nothing less. But for Nicki Minaj, it’s a career-defining moment. Even after she weathered a storm of rap critic scolds unhappy with her for completely crossing over the line she once straddled so well, the dance-pop successes of her last album, Roman Reloaded, overshadowed her artistic credibility. How would she bounce back? As Nicki well knows, hip-hop will only take it so far. Onika Maraj would be a damned fool to fill her third LP with “mixtape Nicki,” no matter how many purists plead for it. That style may have gotten her the attention of Lil Wayne, but it certainly didn’t earn her platinum plaques or a spot on the Super Bowl halftime show. With The Pinkprint, Nicki gives listeners the right dose of everything she’s got to offer.
Here the YMCMB queen offers the most honest, introspective version of the real person who exists underneath the wigs, the makeup and the red carpet wardrobes. All that has really been known about Nicki Minaj until now is that she’s a multi-dimensional woman who works pretty damn hard. Remember, she’s already on album number three in a four year span. That’s a one-hot-album-every-year-and-change average.
And speaking of Nicki’s core, it’s not like the love songs ever stopped her from rapping. While she’s not the best MC (kinda nice she still calls herself that) in the world, she’s got enough punchlines and flows to hold her own alongside rap’s current crop. Truth be told, the competition is barely there (male or female) and all she really needs to do is breathe on the track. Plus, Nicki’s performance — her multiple personalities, the drawn out last syllable, her articulation — has always been more entertaining than her wordplay or subject matter in a straight-up rap verse. And that’s fine. Because when your peers are talking surface level stuff all day, a little heartbreak, a hot 16 and a clever metaphor goes a long way. Nicki’s a technical rapper, and her talent is, as ever, in her vocal delivery. Her quick-tongued flow and versatility speaks volumes in 2014, when a 20-year veteran like Busta Rhymes is still the one holding up the bar in this category. (Nicki goes from rap to singing to Island-inspired chant with ease on “Trini Dem Girls.”)
On “Feelin Myself,” a Hit Boy-produced hypnotic bounce, Nicki recruits none other than Queen Bey so the two can ooze self-serving praise all over the track. It’s incredibly infectious, and not so humble. Bragging is the new feminism. Yay? And while the overtly sexual context of it, “Anaconda” (which Nicki has said was a joke) and other select verses throughout The Pinkprint (plus the entirety of her Ariana Grande collaboration “Get On Your Knees”) can at times be too much to stomach, the beats and the catchy choruses will keep you sucking on that crackpipe. Keep smoking it. Eventually, you’ll learn that it’s killing our community.
With an album title sorta kinda borrowed from Jay Z (who sorta kinda borrowed it from KRS-One), it’s hard to avoid comparison conversations. But there really is no correlation. Nicki’s strength is and always has been her heart, while Jay’s during The Blueprint was not having one.
So what is Nicki’s purpose with The Pinkprint? Is she trying to lay a foundation for female hip-hop artists? Or female artists as a whole? Or for hip-hop artists in general? With great power comes great responsibility?
Stop putting everything on one woman’s shoulders. She’s got enough mouths to feed.