November 26, 2010

My Gut Reaction: Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday (November 22, 2010)

After the interlude that was the Kanye West review, this year's focus on the female emcee ends today with the debut album from newbie Nicki Minaj, entitled Pink Friday.  (If you predicted this album seeing a write-up because of the dates I revealed for the stunt blogging week, then congratulations!  You get a cookie.)

Nicki, born Onika Maraj (which actually helps make sense of her rap name), is a Queens-based artist (I know, I had no idea until today, either, as it's not as though she sounds like she could hang with Mobb Deep or anything) who released a couple of mixtapes before finding herself signed to Lil' Wayne's Young Money imprint.  She's currently being positioned as this generation's amalgamation of Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, in that she's willing to flaunt her body in music videos and during live performances while making cameo appearances alongside rappers and R&B singers alike. 

However, everyone needs to have their own hook, and Nicki Minaj plays off of the fact that she pretends to be batshit crazy.  She frequently speaks in bizarre, ever-changing accents (see: her cameo at the beginning of Kanye West's "Dark Fantasy"), switches personalities on a dime (in this field, she seems to rival Kool Keith and MF Doom, two artists she will outsell in a fucking heartbeat), and appears to be visibly bored whenever she performs, not unlike KiD CuDi.  In fact, a lot of her appearances in music videos seem to capture her trying to amuse herself.  When you discover that she was a drama geek in school, though, these sudden out-of-character outbursts seem absolutely justified.

After signing with Lil' Weezy, Nicki appeared alongside her new crew, Young Money (I don't know if the group was named after the label or vice versa: it's a "chicken or the egg" kind of deal) , on their debut, the creatively titled We Are Young Money.  This project also featured her labelmate Aubrey "Drake" Graham, also a recent signee, along with a bunch of no name I-don't-give-a-fuck-about-them artists such as Tyga, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, and Jae Millz, along with Wayne himself.  This project was a success (which isn't surprising, since most rap fans these days appear to be fucking morons), so as the lone female emcee in the group, she was poised to be the second solo artist out of the gate, right after Drake was finished capitalizing on his new post-So Far Gone following.

Minaj decided to release "Massive Attack", a, um, massive departure from anything she had ever dropped before.  In the video, she was seen writhing around in a jungle wearing a green wig (shades of what Lil' Kimberly Jones was wearing in her "Crush On You" video.  See, it's all been done before, folks.)  However, Minaj's bid to become the hip hop equivalent of Lady Gaga was dashed by a poor mainstream response, so the track, originally intended to be the lead-off single for her debut Pink Friday, was immediately removed from the final cut, while Nicki went back to the drawing board.

Pink Friday is the second-most highly anticipated rap album of this Thanksgiving season (sorry, Lloyd Banks and My Chemical Romance), due to her multiple hit singles (none of which I've ever heard, but I'm told Nicki Minaj is quite popular), her "breakthrough" guest appearance on Kanye West's "Monster" (which appears on the actual most highly anticipated rap album of this Thanksgiving season), her flaunting of her live-action Barbie doll persona, and promised cameos from Eminem, Rihanna, Drake, and absolutely nobody else in the Young Money crew, a tactic Drake also used on his debut, Thank Me Later.  What good is having a crew if you can't even be bothered to throw them a bone?  (Lil' Wayne, who would have almost certainly provided a verse, was in prison during the recording of Pink Friday, so I'm sure he'll pop up on a remix or something.)

However, you should consider today's blog as a public service.  Under absolutely no circumstances should you actually pick up Pink Friday for any of your loved ones.  I'll explain why.

Nicki plays it straight on the first Pink Friday track, dedicating her album to women everywhere who have been told that they will never succeed because of gender politics. It's a nice message and all, but it sounds a bit foreign when it's coming from Minaj's mouth, since throughout her short career, it's never really been established that she has met any sort of adversity along the way: it's almost as though she suddenly appeared and has been critically acclaimed ever since, without the usual obstacles that most female emcees face (see: Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown). Still, this is a Nicki performance that doesn't hide behind ridiculous accents or tons of studio trickery, and as a result, she actually sounds genuine over this Kane Beatz instrumental. She's far from the best, but on here, she's definitely not the worst rapper I've ever heard. Huh.

And that tiny amount of goodwill I developed for Nicki Minaj during “I'm The Best” is now fucking decimated. This song is almost entirely unlistenable: it's like someone took a shit in your ears while force-feeding you a burger tainted with mad cow disease, and you're now suffering from the aftereffects. Swizz Beatz, who continues to get work because of why?, gives an uncharacteristic instrumental to Nicki's Roman Zolanski persona (hey, maybe next time you shouldn't take your name from a convicted child rapist, eh?) and Marshall Mathers, who trots out Slim Shady as though his newer fans are somehow cognizant of that early Eminem doppelganger: they only know him as a guy who is willing to record songs with Rihanna.  The accents are on full blast for both of these motherfuckers, but while Eminem's bars actually sound like he took his time with writing them (that's my only compliment for this song, so enjoy it while you can), Minaj seems to have only read a single page in labelmate Drake's playbook, as nearly all of her bars use that offhanded metaphor flow that sounds really fucking stupid now. Also, borrowing a Busta Rhymes line from A Tribe Called Quest's “Scenario” for the “hook” only leads me to agree with my wife's comparison between Nicki Minaj and a Busta Rhymes that needs his Ritalin dosage upped, thanks to her spastic line readings and substitution of shouting in place of lyrical depth. Groan.

Producer Bangladesh, who was involved in a lawsuit against Young Money very recently but is now apparently producing for the crew again, tries, yet again, to replicate the success of his background work on Lil' Wayne's “A Milli”, but comes up with unfortunate results, thanks to Nicki's obsession with defecating on her competition. Surprisingly, this really terrible (I don't want any of you two thinking otherwise) song features a Minaj performance that comes the closest to meeting those comparisons between her and Missy Elliott that were prevalent when she first appeared on the scene. In no way is this a good thing, though: I enjoy Missy's music, but Nicki comes across as a copycat who missed the whole point. This is just sad.

This ode to a significant other is one of Pink Friday's singles. What's hilarious about it is how she takes the potential sweet line, “You see right through me”, and undercuts it with, “How do you do that shit?” (italics mine), thereby negating the message of the song. Minaj does sound the most vulnerable that I've ever heard from her on here, but the song itself sounds false and vapid, which probably means that, not only is this a huge hit outside of my household, young women everywhere have already claimed it as their own ode to their husbands, boyfriends, or life partners. Young women everywhere need to pick up some better taste the next time they're at the store.

Rihanna, who has never declined a request to perform in a guest capacity on a rap song, handles the vocals on “Fly”, which purports to be an inspirational track, but its intention is diluted when you realize that Minaj was just rhyming about shitting on her opponents not two songs ago. Still, Nicki plays it straight on this track, too, sticking with just the one voice and focusing on her lyrics. Given Rihanna's presence, it's a given that this will eventually become a single, and while I will absolutely always change the channel when it comes on the radio, it isn't entirely worthless.

Like her labelmate Drake, Minaj harbors dreams of being both a rapper and an R&B singer, so “Save Me” is played without a hint of irony, and to be honest, her sung vocals aren't completely horrible. They're certainly not great, either, but listeners will be able to cope, thanks to the unexpected drum-and-bass breakdowns littered throughout the instrumental, which instantly turn this song into something more interesting than it really is, thanks to the beat's tendency to snap you awake at random intervals. I'm sure Young Money/Cash Money/Universal will quickly excise the lone curse word on “Save Me” and unleash this as a single for adult contemporary audiences. Hell, they turned nearly every song on Drake's Thank Me Later into a radio single, so why the fuck not?

Speaking of Drake, he returns the favor Nicki did for him on his debut album by providing an expected guest verse for Pink Friday. His presence guarantees that this will become one of the more popular joints off of Pink Friday, but his own performance is the worst part of this song. The T-Minus beat sounds like an obvious bid for radio airplay, but while Nicki's verse is quite terrible, her singing on here isn't, and the hook grows on you after countless repetitions. Expect to hear this shit crammed down your motherfucking throats for the remainder of 2010.

With “Your Love” scoring big in Nicki Minaj's main demographic (twelve-to-sixteen year old girls who shop at Aeropostale and don't understand what good music is supposed to sound like), she quickly scrambled for a new, pop-leaning single, settling on this atrocious shit that swipes part of The Buggles's “Video Killed The Radio Star” for its beat. Nicki's bars sound gimmicky and awful (on tracks like these, it's almost as though she records a reference track for herself to fill in the blanks later, but afterward, she gets lazy and elects to release the version filled with fucking gibberish), so obviously “Check It Out” is someone's most favoritest song ever. (If that someone is you, then you're not allowed to read this blog anymore.) The Black Eyed Peas are currently (and have always been, if you ask me) the worst representation of hip hop culture still making music today (yes, I rate them as worse than Soulja Boy and Waka Flocka Flame, because the output on their earlier, pre-Fergie work indicates that they should fucking know better), but isolating from the rest of the group creates mixed results: his solo career rightfully ended before it even started, but as a producer, he's done some alright work for Nas and The Game. Not for Nicki Minaj, though: predictably, this song also falls into the “unlistenable” category, right next to “Roman's Revenge”. I couldn't skip past this mediocrity quickly enough.

Nicki Minaj's obsession with ruining the music of the 1980s for me continues over this Drew Money beat, which rips off “Don't You (Forget About Me)” from Simple Minds (best known as the song from The Breakfast Club). Luckily, her evil plot against me is thwarted this time around, as the instrumental on here bears little to no resemblance to the Simple Minds hit. Kanye West, whose guest appearance was inevitable given Minaj's contributions to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, spits an extra-long verse on here (not Cappadonna on “Winter Warz”-length, but still pretty long) that reaches no new ground, but is still refreshing to hear, as him hogging the microphone means that Nicki was prevented from unveiling yet another new persona with yet another asinine accent. But this overall track was bleh.

I usually disregard rap song choruses, as they tend to suck on an inordinate number of balls, but this track's hook sounds like it's incomplete, rushed to store shelves without any sort of quality control. The beat is much more dramatic than Nicki Minaj deserves: it sounds like it could be a better fit for one of The Lox's crime tales. But I've noticed that I can tolerate the tracks on which Minaj sticks with her main persona-slash-voice, and “Here I Am” is no exception. In other words, this was alright.

Taking the whole “schizophrenic” trait by the horns, Nicki Minaj pulls a Kool Keith and uses one personality to address an entirely different personality on this song. The pre-fame Nicki, according to this song, was an underground artist with the integrity that Minaj had to discard once she hit it big. This seems like it should be a track featuring Nicki lamenting what she had to give up in order to get to where she is today (not unlike Slim Shady eulogizing the Infinite-era Eminem, except that event never actually happened), but instead, we get an artists who thrives in the spotlight and refuses to change. Oh well, maybe dear old Nicki will pull herself out of her grave when Roman Zolanski's homicidal tendencies start to cause some problems for Minaj's career. The Euro-pop sensibilities of the Kane Beatz instrumental also don't help matters any: if anything, it only underscores the overt contradiction of the song.

After the failure of “Massive Attack”, Nicki elected to take an opposite approach, deciding on a shitty love rap that your girlfriend can't get enough of, which, by the way, is a terrific and entirely justifiable reason to drop her. (I got lucky: my wife finds Nicki Minaj abhorrent, although to be fair, she's only familiar with her work on Kanye West's “Monster”. However, she feels no need to conduct any further research, and I respect that.) Sampling Annie Lennox worked for The RZA (his “Tragedy” bites from “Here Comes The Rain Again”, technically from the Eurythmics, but still), but for Minaj, using “No More I Love You's” creates a sound that doesn't actually exist in nature. If I didn't already have a pounding headache before, “Your Love” just sealed the deal, as it is the audio equivalent of banging your head against the wall and expecting a different result each time.

For the final song in the original program, Nicki Minaj aims for the pop charts yet again by recruiting British songstress Natasha Bedingfield (of “Unwritten” and “Pocketful Of Sunshine” fame) to sing over a guitar-driven Drew Money concoction. Given the fact that the guest star spends the last minute of the track singing about shooting people, though, the message is more than a bit muddled. Thankfully, Nicki sounds as unfocused as ever on here, so my interaction with “Last Chance” is limited to listening to it just this one time. Huzzah!

The deluxe edition of Pink Friday contains the following bonus tracks.

“Super Bass” actually sounds like what I was afraid all of Pink Friday would be: Nicki trots out her personalities to spit some verses, and on at least one occasion, I was convinced that one of her personas was doing an impression of an entirely different persona. Other than the fact that this song exists for Nicki Minaj fan service only, as it doesn't further her story along at all, I couldn't figure out why this was left off of the main program, as it certainly doesn't sound any worse than some of the shit that made the final cut. Oh well.

Kicks off sounding corny as fuck, but the shitty introduction hides an undeniably interesting instrumental that another artists needs to appropriate immediately. I'm thinking Pusha T. Anyway, Nicki tries to adapt to the beat, and does just as well as you would expect, which is to say that I hated her performance, especially when she resorts to threatening to place her pussy on your chin. Because that would cause you to sit up and pay attention to the actual music, right?

16. MUNY
From the Nicolas Cage movie of the same name.

The following bonus track is only available if you're unfortunate enough to download Pink Friday from iTunes.

When I first read about this bonus track, my first thought was, “I bet Nicki somehow samples The Big Pink's 'Dominoes'”. And my second thought was as follows: “I fucking hate The Big Pink's 'Dominoes'”. If this song ever sees a proper release, it'll become a hit, and I'm dreading that day, because then I would have to flee to Canada, and getting through airport security here in the States has gotten that much worse. At least Nicki Minaj used all of Pink Friday to commit to her overall weirdness: nobody sane could ever release this project. But that doesn't mean that anyone should ever listen to it.

The version of Pink Friday sold at Best Buy contains two further bonus tracks, both produced by Swizz Beatz. Not only do I not have that version, I don't care enough to look up anything about it, thanks to Swizzy's involvement and the fact that Best Buy exclusives are usually crap. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I'm wrong, though.

THE LAST WORD: Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday eschews any opportunity to develop a loyal fan base by catering to the fickle pop music crowd, only throwing occasional bones to hip hop heads, most of whom don't give a fuck about Nicki Minaj anyway. As a result, the album is as schizophrenic as our host appears to be. She claims to have dedicated this album to women everywhere who are oppressed, but resorting to rhyming about her vagina doesn't send a clear message to anyone, except that Nicki Minaj is really aiming to become the new millennium's answer to Lil' Kim, who once did the exact same schtick, except without the need of multiple personalities. The production on Pink Friday is tailored to our host, which means that Drake would sound terrible over any of these beats (and he does, in fact, sound terrible on “Moment 4 Life”), which only click every so often, but when they do, tiny portions of Pink Friday are actually decent enough to listen to. Those moments are few and far between, though: Nicki Minaj doesn't bring anything new to the hip hop table, and yet she will inevitably sell more copies than any of the other female artists I wrote about last week. It seems as though our quest to discover new talent for our chosen genre has led us astray. Nicki probably has it in her to record an album or two that are actually pretty good, since not all pop rap has to sound dire, but Pink Friday isn't one of them. Neither of you two still reading are going to listen to this shit anyway, but if you were at all tempted, I'm telling you: Don't.



  1. To quote any random teenage Facebook user of today:

  2. the nicolas cage line has returned, i missed it

    1. What does that Nicholas Cage line even mean?

  3. I guess I'm lucky to say the only time I've heard Nicki Minaj rapping is on that Drake song from "Thank Me Later", which was terrible in itself. It sounds like I've been living under a rock, but lemme tell ya, I have NOT heard a single second off the radio in nearly six months and nor intend to make any changes cause from my last memories, the radio is as terrible as it was the first time I had the displeasure of hearing it. (but some ol' school gems do come on now and then)

    And btw Max, I got some small changes to the review of mine you'll put up soon and I'll mail them to you, so be on the look-out for it.

  4. After listening to Roman's Revenge, I almost put my fist through my monitor (I'm so serious).

  5. I know I'll be the only person (ever) requesting this, but can you review Homeboy Sandman's 'The Good Sun'?

  6. And can somebody explain to me this nonsensical Nicolas Cage joke?

  7. I couldn't agree with you more, I really couldn't. You REALLY took the words right out of my mouth. Roman's Revenge has to be the most ignorant song I have ever heard and I am COMPLETELY with you on the whole offhanded metaphor thing, it really needs to stop. It is simple. It does not require any type of lyrical prowess to spew out random words just because they rhyme and she does it too freaking much! I've also listened to Right Thru Me & Your Love and hated both songs equally. It blows my mind that people felt this woman was really talking about some good love on these tracks because all I heard was someone TRYING to rap about love but who couldn't really get her thoughts together and I totally agree with what you said about both of those tracks. I unfortunately DID NOT have the pleasure of listening to the rest this album, and I DO NOT plan on doing so in the near future. I'm just going to take your word for it :) Thank you for another spot on review!!!

    That GOOD GOOD Blog

  8. FuncrusherPlusNovember 27, 2010

    Good review for a bad album Max!

  9. creepy ass album cover

  10. Ayo Max, you've reviewed Drake and Nicki, how come you haven't reviewed Wayne yet? I'd like to see how bad you'll trash him, which you probably will lmao

    Your third reader, Rafael

  11. Ok fuck that, I m outta this shit for good. If I wanna waste my time reading about bad pop crap I ll just hit one of the million other sites that covers it. Dont say I didnt warn you.

  12. Peace out. You can't say I didn't warn you either: once again, you can't ignore certain aspects of rap music just because you have preconceived notions about them.

    Thanks for reading!

  13. Seriously Max, i dunno wtf is wrong with you: nobody in his right mind would go out and purchase such a piece of crap like this.

    I can't believe Nicki sold out like this. She actually wasn't that bad when she tried hard but it seems she prefers the fame over the recognition. Then again, i've heard worse than her.

    Only song i found to be halfway decent was "Roman's Revenge" mainly for Eminem's part. Then again, it wasn't anything that special.

  14. As mentioned before, this post was the logical conclusion of this year's focus on the female emcee - why not end things with the lone female that has actually become a star (for some reason) since the last run? This post was more of a public service than any actual encouragement to listen, though. Sometimes, I listen to things just so you don't have to.

    Thanks for reading!

  15. to me this aint no hiphop this is exactly what Parrish smith means on the song the crossover sucka mcs that go pop this aint hiphop this is pop for reak o yeah and another thing how can you take this album serious this is exactly what kills hiphop

  16. i hope nicki minaj dies.

  17. Good review Max, but are you ever going to review Kid Cudi's Man On The Moon II or J. cole's Friday Night Lights? Those are actually more worth reviewing than this pop shit.

  18. Oh gosh. Well, I should have read the last paragraph first, taken your advice, and not listened. I actually started listening to each track while reading your reviews on them. I have always thought Nicki was terrible from day one but would you believe my BOYFRIEND tried to convince me she was good? I told him he was blinded by her butt pads, but he said nah, give her a chance, and then he played that Dungeon Dragon crap for me, which literally caused me to double over in laughter at how shockingly bad it was. Anywho, I thought it was only fair that I gave this bummy chick a chance and not just cast her off as a plastic infused drama-geek before listening. BOY. After hearing her entire album, I'm no longer worried that she will ever have a place in rap or hip hop. She's a lame ass pop singer that sometimes "raps". I didn't think her music would be so DIRECTLY marketed to teenage girls but MAN, is it EVER! I'm shocked, in a way. And even I had been telling my boyfriend that she targets children with her pink stuff and her Barbie stuff and her singing, and then turns around and blabs about her stanky gross ass vagina. That got me to thinking - remember how you were saying that this bummy bitch Nicki came into the game without any opposition? I hate to be the one who sounds like a fucking conspiracy theorist or something but she has no opposition for a reason. Anything to send our young women down the wrong path. The media loves that shit. They let her get on because they know she's sending the wrong message directly to children. Just a thought. With or without all that deep pseudo-intellectual stuff I was just talking, GOSH she's terrible. MUCH worse than I initially thought she'd be. MUCH. And that is like... an accomplishment because I already thought she was THE WORST thing I've ever heard. And her album was somehow even worse than that. WHOA.

  19. AnonymousJune 18, 2011

    Everybody go to Youtube. Beyonce and Nicky are on a remix together on her lead single Run the World Girls. Its produced by this guy name Fyuchur. Its Hot!! Both of their fans love it

  20. Did it on em rules! The rest sucks

  21. AnonymousJuly 04, 2012

    Discovered your blog a few days back and CANNOT STOP READING. Great stuff. I will now discredit myself entirely by saying I'm really enjoying her first mix tape 'Playtime is Over'. It's nothing like this shit she's doing now for the $$$. I first saw her on youtube freestyling with Buckshot and thought she was pretty good....few months later I see her on some chart show and I was like "OOOH....oh......oh NO...". Still...I can't deny it: first mixtape is a lot of fun.