Album Review: Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday

Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
Young Money: 2010

Along with the meteoric Kanye West, Nicki Minaj is arguably the most polarizing figure in hip-hop music. Some listeners see her as a guiding light for the current crop of female emcees, while so-called purists hope for stronger lyricism from the Young Money member. With West, the nuance and sheer brazenness of his art has catapulted him to an iconic pedestal, even if his Twitter rants and interview antics obstruct his path to unrelenting adoration. For Minaj, the pint-sized spark plug from Queens, N.Y., there is no denying her strong work ethic, having appeared on songs with the aforementioned West, Ludacris and Mariah Carey, among several others.

On “Monster”, for instance, Minaj clearly outshone her male counterparts and aggressively addressed the vast perception that she’s fake and lyrically inept (“So let me get this straight, Wait, I’m the rookie?/But my features and my shows 10 times ya pay?/50K for a verse, no album out.”) That proclamation, supplemented by other respectable guest verses, makes Pink Friday a perplexing album, especially for a person with such a magnetic flair and unquestionable grind. We’ve all heard Minaj’s capabilities with others, but her debut album sounds safe and somewhat conflicted, leaving me to wonder if she put too much energy into her peers’ projects, and not enough into her own.

On Pink Friday, Minaj seems stubbornly determined to shrug off hip-hop’s constraints and indulge her pop influences, as evidenced by the album’s heavy reliance on singing. On the surface, it also sounds like Minaj wants to distance herself  from the persistent Lil’ Kim comparisons that begrudgingly follow her career. Aesthetically, the similarities center on the artists’ materialistic affinities—from the florescent wigs they sport, to the eccentric costumes they wear. Musically, however, there aren’t any similarities between Pink Friday and Kim’s debut—Hardcore—released thirteen years ago. While Minaj sounds more Rihanna than rap, Kim’s album was unabashed hip-hop, with plenty of sexual and monetary references throughout the vulgar recording.

Minaj mostly harmonizes her way through Pink Friday, but not without referencing Kim on “Roman’s Revenge”, featuring rapper Eminem. “Look at my show footage, how these girls be spazzin’/So fuck I look like giving back to a has-been,” Minaj rhymes over a spacey, energetic instrumental. She doesn’t let up on the condescending “Did It On ‘Em”, a methodical and blatant diss to female emcees looking to capture her crown. But then there’s “Right Thru Me”, a stilted love song that disturbs the album’s flow and drifts Minaj far from her comfort zone. The same goes for “Save Me”, which finds the artist paying homage to her role models, even if Minaj’s off-beat stacato stifles the song’s positive message.

As legend has it, Minaj would live life through created characters when times got rough. There was “Cookie”, an alter ego she created to deal with her parents’ incessant fighting. Then there’s the “Roman Zolanski” image she used to deliver an animated verse for Trey Songz’ “Bottoms Up” song. With the over-reliance on multiple personalities, it’s almost impossible to find the real Nicki Minaj behind the voices, staggered faces and artistic petulance. Perhaps the schizophrenia is done on purpose to shield the public from emotional scars. Maybe it’s done to hone the dramatic education she received at LaGuardia High School in Manhattan. Ultimately, Pink Friday is left to suffer because of it, as an uneven recording with few highlights and blurred musical vision. There is true talent in there somewhere, hidden too far beneath the layers.

2.5 out of 5

27 thoughts on “Album Review: Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday

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  1. I think it’s important to review pop records as well as underground stuff, because it makes the ratings scale much more objective & universal. There’s such a thing as a good pop record, as well as such a thing as a terrible “underground” record.

  2. Listen, despite her pop proclivities, Minaj can fucking rap. All you have to do is listen to her spit on Monster from Kanye, and you can’t deny that she’s got talent. I think this review is well-done and thoughtful. I can’t wait to see how this artist grows into her career.

  3. “her debut album sounds safe and somewhat conflicted, leaving me to wonder if she put too much energy into her peers’ projects, and not enough into her own.”

    “There is true talent in there somewhere, hidden too far beneath the layers.”

    I agree with both of these statements, and any highly talked about album deserves a listen before dissin’. I know I won’t be playing this album again anytime soon. It’s not trash and it’s not for me either. I think she’s got potential to be great once she grows up a little, good review.

  4. It’s all subjective man. That’s what it boils down to. I haven’t heard enough of her and haven’t heard her album at all, but I do feel like you don’t have to a dope lyricist to be entertaining. I enjoyed the review, though.

  5. People always complain when “mainstream” albums get reviews and flood the comment section. Where are the comments for Boog Brown’s album? What about The Left’s joint? What about Mag Legend’s joint? If you don’t like the album/artist/review don’t comment/read. It’s that simple. All this time and energy on music you don’t like instead of focusing the good ish. I don’t get it.

  6. shit wrapped in shit. why is she famous? no more lauryn hill’s… all we have now is bullshit gimics in a slutty package.

  7. If they posted only songs they listened to, what would be the point of giving reviews? If its music they like, obviously the ratings are going to be high. And it would be a tight spectrum of music. The fact that they include albums like MBDTF, Flockaveli and Pink Friday is just to give us close minded hip hop heads a look into the world of pop, or atleast thats how I figure..

  8. Dannyshitzlle you sound dumb as fuck right now..

  9. David Reyneke|

    Shit man, I look forward to a Justin Bieber review too!

  10. P.S. After reviewing the YouTube clips, I give you a 1/3. Nicki wins.

  11. No prob at all, Danny, I just hope you can see where we’re coming from in reviewing this stuff.

  12. dannypizzle|

    JK, I think it’s safe to say that I employed critical thinking in so far as I’d made an assumption and I’m now examining that assumption.

    But thanks for your input. I think you really added to the conversation. Well done.

    Andrew, I respect that, and thank you for all the great new music you’ve turned me onto in the last couple of years. Just didn’t think this album or artists fits in with previous posts.

  13. This dannypizzle kid is hilarious. If he’s over 18, I’m a little spooked for the future of our species, though…but shit, that’s already true. Thanks for the LULZ, guys.

  14. Like Kanye and Wacka Flocka these are the albums that majority of people want to read about so why not review them, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re the corniest bull around but at least people know about it then. and I think it’s a clear statement in itself for quality music that potholes only post reviews for projects like these and not songs

  15. @Dannypizzle: I agree on the part of how bad Nicki Minaj is, but only reviewing quality albums (4.5/5, 5/5) makes no sense.. You have to make a selection, whether it’s quality music we all prefer, or also some weak(er) albums. But when you only pick quality albums, there’s no need for doing reviews.

    And I bet a lot of Pothole visitors know Nicki Minaj of the big hype, but don’t want to ruin one hour of their life with listening to the album, but who are still curious to read about how the album is.
    Same for me, based on what I’ve heard I don’t want to listen to the full album, but I’m curious to read a review by a reliable/similar source (PIMB in this case) to see what the hype’s about. And IF it turns out good, then maybe try it in the end anyway, but that’s a big NO in this case.

    Just my two cents as an ‘outsider’.. I see where you’re coming from, but the whole point of doing reviews is to cover an entire spectrum, not only 4+/5 star ratings. Then what’s the point of the first three stars anyway?

  16. dannypizzle never learned critical thinking in middle school.

  17. I meant we cover albums in the realm of music we post, such as hip-hop, electronic, and indie rock.

  18. dannypizzle|

    I look forward to your review of Justin Bieber’s new album.

  19. Funny, I ONLY enjoy reviews of shitty albums.

  20. I’m at a loss.

    I’ll simply say this: We try to cover everything we can in our reviews. We only post music and videos we enjoy.

  21. dannypizzle|

    That’s a weak argument. Quality Music. It’s your mission statement. Why does it only apply to music you post and not music you review?

    You don’t have to like music just because it’s performed with integrity.

    Can you tell me why there is a real talent in there somewhere? I listen to it and I hear something that’s been done a thousand times before. Better.

    The lyrics are appalling, sub pre-school. Tone & diction are garbage. The beats sound like they took a trainee 10 minutes. I’m regretting getting into this because it means I’ve actually listened to her and I feel a bit dirty…

  22. I know what you’re saying, but that only applies to music we post and enjoy. There would kind of be no point to reviewing only the albums we like.

  23. dannypizzle|

    By highlight I meant giving focus to or covering. Not hyping.

    A while back you stated that Potholes was not a Hip-Hop blog but “a blog that provides coverage on quality music, plain and simple”.

    Can you honestly say that Pink Friday falls in that category? Can you honestly say that listening to it inspires excitement? Can you honestly say that lyrics like:

    “When I was a Geisha he was a Samurai
    Somehow I understood him when he spoke Thai”

    don’t make you yearn to listen to someone with a modicum of skills and half a brain cell?

    If so then fair enough. Personally I can’t.

  24. Yeah, a review isn’t a highlight but merely our way of trying to cover what we can.

  25. David Reyneke|

    I agree somewhat – but we try our best to review, not necessarily “highlight”, all the relevant music on both sides of the spectrum. Whether you like her or not, Nicki is entertaining, and she deserves a review.

  26. dannypizzle|

    I’d ignored her but having now listened to “your love” I’m glad I did.

    Laughably bad. Ignoring the lyrics (which are tripe) and the use of autotune. Her flow is awful, she can’t write a 16 without fluctuating her speed and intonation. Other MC’s use staccato for vocal effect, she uses staccato because she can’t figure out how to structure a line. She is not Hip Hop, bad pop at best.

    There is so much great innovative music that you could be spending time highlighting (which, admittedly, you usually do). Instead your wasting your time on this gibberish. Please try harder…

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