Since her mixtape “Playtime is Over” dropped in 2007 and her subsequent rocket to fame, Nicki Minaj has caught the attention of music lovers time and time again. Through her fierce, rhythmically complex rapping style, alter-egos, impressive singing range and colorful fashion sense, Minaj has garnered a huge fan base. Although she is well-known for all of these things, she has never delved much into her personal life, until her most recent album “The Pinkprint,” released in December.
“The Pinkprint” is arguably Minaj’s most personal album, with songs that detail her life and struggles, but not without her usual song style. The popular single “Anaconda” is a notable example. The album itself has a nice pacing, beginning with some more mellow and sentimental songs, building up to songs with more vigor and oomph, followed by a winding down, and again another rise in energy. Many other artists are featured on the album, effectively rounding it out with different styles.
The first track, “All Things Go,” addresses some of Minaj’s regrets and difficulties, such as the loss of a baby when she was a teenager – “My child with Aaron would’ve been 16 any minute,” – and the murder of her younger cousin in 2011. From the start, listeners realize this is an album that will be different.
“I Lied” and “The Crying Game” (which features Jessie Ware) are also intimate. “I Lied” features Minaj’s fluid singing skills, while Ware’s voice lends a breathiness to “The Crying Game.” The way Minaj enunciates her verses in this song brings to mind the speaking manner of slam poetry, in the charged spaces between words.
The energy begins to pick up at this point with “Get on Your Knees,” which features singer Ariana Grande’s honeyed vocals and was co-written by Katy Perry, whose musical influence can be heard. Though considered by some to be a feminist song, this one is much less profound.
“Feeling Myself” features Beyoncé in a much-anticipated collaboration between two of the most influential female pop artists. Beyonce’s powerful voice complements Minaj’s somewhat babyish vocals in this song.
“Only,” which is the third single from the album, features artists Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown, and opens with a candid declaration from Minaj. The video for this song raised some controversy due to imagery that was similar to Nazi symbolism. The next few songs seem to blend together in terms of sound, even though a number of artists are featured. “Four Door Aventadore” has been noted by many for being reminiscent of ‘90s rap, while the next track, “Favorite,” has a sound similar to early 00’s R&B music. It features artist Jeremih and a heavy, stylized use of autotune.
The album follows a plateau until the 12th track, “Anaconda,” which of course samples Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” This is the high point of the album, energy wise.
“The Night Is Still Young” is likely to top charts in the months to come. Reminiscent of “Starships” and “Moment 4 Life,” this track is not unique in terms of content (a catchy, party anthem type of song), but it is definitely enjoyable. The song lapses into double time for the chorus, giving it a staggered feel before Minaj resumes her verses. The synth bass sound in the background is a groovy touch.
“Pills N Potions” was the first single released for “The Pinkprint,” and was well-placed in the sequence of the album as it begins to wind down. Skylar Grey lends her vocals to “Bed of Lies,” an extension of the storytelling at the beginning of the album. The song has a pleasant transition from the intro to Minaj’s verse, and features harmonization by both women.
“Grand Piano” is a lovely heartache-y ballad. Minaj’s singing voice is bursting and beautiful in this track, which appropriately features the instrument sharing its name.
The final three tracks on “The Pinkprint” are more vigorous and strong in sound, but not spectacular in any way. “Big Daddy,” featuring Meek Mill, while a song you can definitely bump to in your car, is generally unremarkable. “Shanghai” has a digitized sound combined with the distorted notes of what sounds like a sitar.
“Win Again” is the last track on the album and showcases Minaj’s singing and rapping talents equally. In it, she talks about her origins and where she has gone from there. Though the album feels a little bit long-winded, this track is good enough that the message isn’t lost.
The effort and life Minaj put into this album is evident. “The Pinkprint,” while not quite captivating the entire way through, could be Minaj’s best album. If nothing else, it’s certainly the most fully rounded.