It’s fair to say that 2014 has been the year of the ass, from songs like J-Lo and Pitbull’s ode Booty, to Kim Kardashian’s ‘Break The Internet’ photo shoot. Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was perhaps the most shocking instance of bum loving with its Sir Mixalot sample, provocative lyrics (“f*ck those skinny bitches in the club”) and meme-inducing video that makes Miley Cyrus twerking look like a daytime Disney show.
Don’t be fooled, though. Anaconda might be the lead single from ‘The Pinkprint’ but it’s far from indicative of the album at large. Instead, Minaj has mostly stripped away the caricatures and neon wigs for a far more serious, and dark, tone. Opening autobiographical track All Things Go discusses family issues, violence and death over a minimal trap beat, whilst second track I Lied explores self-preservation in heartbreak over sombre, spectral production. Later there’s the mid-tempo stuttering Favorite that features Jeremih doing a great Drake impression, a duet with Meek Mill in Buy A Heart and its whirring electronic production, and the downbeat ballad Pills N Potions that’s perhaps her most personal track to date.
A major highlight, is The Crying Game, a song that features vocals from Jessie Ware. It may seem like an odd pairing but in practice it’s sheer brilliance. Ware’s modern-soul style fits neatly with the R&B infused hip-hop of ‘The Pinkprint’, Minaj spitting out the pensive verses and Ware hauntingly slinking around the chorus melodies. It’s a song that epitomises two female artists at the top of their game.
And with a name like ‘The Pinkprint’ (probably a nod to counter Jay-Z’s ‘Blueprint’ albums), this is something of a feminist manifesto that proves Minaj can take on the boys. As a return to a core rap sound for this album, Minaj more than stands up to scrutiny compared to her male contemporaries, the likes of which she collaborates with on Only – Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. “I never f*cked Wayne I never f*cked Drake, all my life man f*ck’s sake”, is the aggressive line that opens her verse. And on Feeling Myself she duets with the Queen Feminist herself Beyoncé, Bey knowingly spinning the line “changed the game with that digital drop, know where you was when that digital popped, I stopped the world” in a statement of feminine power.
It’s not all serious, though, as Anaconda exemplifies. Minaj has always been best when she’s toying with both pop and rap (see Super Bass) and ‘The Pinkprint’ is no different. Pop princess Ariana Grande sings on the deliciously sensual Get On Your Knees and Skylar Grey features on the (fairly trite) pop ballad Bed of Lies. Trini Dem Girls sees Minaj hurling herself into Jamaican dancehall that will no doubt compete with Anaconda in the twerking stakes. The Night Is Still Young, meanwhile, is pure pop dance – something we’ve seen before from Minaj, but equally something she does so well.
‘The Pinkprint’ is a long-winded album, particularly in deluxe form. The likes of Want Some More and Four Door Aventador are little more than rap padding, final track Grand Piano is another needless ballad, and the odd lyric feels stilted (Only’s “yeah, that was a set up for a punchline on duct tape” especially). Overall, though, the good far outweighs the bad. Most of the year has seen Iggy Azalea taking over the charts, but she’s been superceded by Minaj as the female rapper on top.
* The Crying Game
* Get On Your Knees
* The Night Is Still Young
Listen: ‘The Pinkprint’ is available now.