“I had to reinvent” is the first line on Nicki Minaj’s third album The Pinkprint. It’s a line that stands as all too true for a rapper facing opposition from both sides of her music spectrum. Her rap fans were souring on the decision to devote half of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded to pure pop, while her pop fans have likely already moved on – just because.
Nicki has somewhat been in damage control since Roman Reloaded, having later re-released it with additional tracks as The Re-Up to show her loyalty to hip-hop. Over the next year, she put out several non-album tracks to emphasize her devotion to rap, while returning to her role as the go-to guest rapper in urban music.
On The Pinkprint, she completes the transition. Like every Nicki record before, it’s all about her but unlike those Pink Fridays, The Pinkprint isn’t an ego project. Nicki tones down her persona on tracks that are less about emphasizing her characters and more about herself.
The opening track All Things Go is a breath-stopper as Nicki opens up and shows a vulnerable, emotional side on autobiographical verses about family members, past relationships and where she’d like to be in the future. Along with I Lied and The Crying Game, it’s an unexpectedly strong start.
Nicki doesn’t drop all of her old characteristics though. Get On Your Knees brings sex back into the equation with Ariana Grande singing on the hook “you gotta beg for it/beg for it.” It’s seductive and isn’t just raunchy to be raunchy – as it was co-written by Katy Perry, though it mostly serves as an introduction to the superior Feeling Myself, with Beyoncé, in which Nicki brings back her signature flow in the third verse.
Unlike the ups and downs of Pink Friday, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up, The Pinkprint stays pretty consistent throughout, with enough diversity to satisfy Nicki’s many sides. Four Door Aventador and the dancehall giant Trini Dem Girls, featuring Lunchmoney Lewis, are both hot, the latter should already be crowned song of the summer 2015.
Even the more generic songs aren’t unpleasant. The Night Is Still Young is the closest relative of Roman Reloaded‘s pop half and Bed Of Lies plays like an Eminem/Rihanna pair-up, with the hook provided by Em’s frequent collaborator Skylar Grey.
To further show her versatility, Nicki does a piano ballad in the vain of Rihanna’s Stay on Grand Piano, a song she cites as being one of the album’s most personal tracks. And yes, the violin solo at the end does come from Paula Abdul‘s Rush Rush.
The Pinkprint is the most natural and comfortable Nicki Minaj has sounded. Even though she’s singing and rapping about her own tribulations and challenges, she’s doing so as herself, toned down, without trying to appeal to any specific audience or meet anyone’s expectations. She’s always demonstrated her abilities as guest rapper on other’s hits, and to a degree her own albums, but it’s only now that Nicki has truly come into her own with an all-around solid record.
1. All Things Go
2. I Lied
3. The Crying Game [featuring Jessie Ware]
4. Get On Your Knees [featuring Ariana Grande]
5. Feeling Myself [featuring Beyoncé]
6. Only [featuring Drake, Lil Wayne & Chris Brown]
7. Want Some More
8. Four Door Aventador
9. Favorite [featuring Jeremih]
10. Buy A Heart [featuring Meek Mill]
11. Trini Dem Girls [featuring Lunchmoney Lewis]
13. The Night Is Still Young
14. Pills And Potions
15. Bed Of Lies [featuring Skylar Grey]
16. Grand Piano
17. Big Daddy [featuring Meek Mill]
19. Win Again
20. Mona Lisa
21. Put You In A Room