Tuesday, February 22, 2011

7. Album Review: Nicki Minaj-"Pink Friday"

This was a bad idea. 

     So, Nicki Minaj. One of the more standout personas in rap today, she's been floating around for the past few years acting wacky, teaming up with the Young Money crew and wearing wigs. From what I've heard on the radio, and through guest verses on other albums, Minaj has a tendency to pop in and completely overwhelm anyone else on the track with her aggressive, if sometimes mundane, bars. Although I'm not overly fond of her image or lyrical content, it's always good to see a new female artist in the game, especially one so versatile. She has a distinctive voice, natural or manipulated, and style, like a cross between Lil Kim, Missy Elliot, Foxy Brown and Bahamadia
Aw yeah.
     And despite whatever the final verdict on this album may show, let it be known that Minaj can goddamn flow. The inflection, the speed, the gimmicky accents, she does it all, and does it well. Also, she's got a cool name. Looks good on paper. Let's do this.

1. I'm the Best
     Solid track with a feministic undercurrent. I assume that Minaj has had some trials and tribulations in order to get to where she's at, but she doesn't elaborate or give any examples. To me, it seem like she just crawled out the woodwork and landed a contract. Decent introduction, though. No ridiculous accents or vocal effects yet. Forgettable beat. 
Memorable lines:
Nothing sticks out, but it's a nice enough track. 
2. Roman's Revenge 
     Here we go. Minaj's voice starts to quake and rumble. She doesn't use full sentences. She calls herself a cunt. I'm sold. '98 Eminem comes in with a solid two verses. This is a strange track to follow the "you go, girl" theme of I'm the Best, as it's mostly Nicki and Eminem vehemently cursing the various bitches in their lives. 

     Also, I have to address a trend that's been gaining popularity amongst current rappers, usually of the Young Money persuasion. It goes like this (examples below in the memorable lines section). I'll start a line, and set up the circumstances, but then, instead of completing the sentence with words and shit, I trail off for a moment, and then deliver the punchline with no transitional phrases whatsoever. A lot of people do it, so be on the look out, but it's lazy, fragmental songwriting, and shows that you didn't even have the motivation to throw some filler words in there, like "motherfuckin'", or "uh, yeah". Anything would be better than silence. There's a difference between strategically quiet moments and simply omitting words to make things fit. It's preposterous that people are getting away with this. Also, the beat from a usually competent Swizz Beatz is plodding, basic and boring. I can almost hear him sighing whilst poking the snare button on his drum machine 200 times. 
Memorable lines:
"You at a standstill, mannequin"
"I'm the fuckin' boss, overwrite"
"When I pull up, vroom, motorbike"
"Now all my niggas gettin' buck, overbite"
3. Did It On 'em 
     Nicki Minaj has penis envy. A whopping case, at that. Maybe it's the company she keeps, but in this song, the usual lyricism I've come to expect from chauvinistic, re-hashed rappers sounds awkward coming out of Minaj's mouth. 
She just wants you for your teeth, Weezy. 
     It worked with Lil Kim, as I got a serious don't-give-a-fuck vibe from her, but Minaj seems reluctant to go all the way and be truly shocking. Oftentimes during this song, I'll begin to feel a strong connection to Minaj, seeing as how neither of us know what she's talking about. It's pretty short though, so you'll probably just be coming out of the trance induced by Roman's Revenge as the track begins to fades out. Good call, Nicki. 
Memorable lines: 
"I'm the terminator, bitch talk slick, I'ma have to terminate her
These little nappy headed hoes need a perminator
You my seed, I spray you with germinator 
Move back bugs, matter fact, you know the queen could use a back rub"
4. Right Thru Me
     Minaj's ode to love. A nice instrumental by nobody, Drew Money (a nobody, probably because his name is Drew Money). Minaj speaks on how puzzled she is by her significant other's ability to "see through her", and sounds appropriately susceptible, but then there's the chorus. The best image I can produce that properly articulates the way I feel about this hook (more like a fishhook) is the following. 


     Or the music video. That's pretty bad too. "Stop disrespekin' me, stop disrespekin' me!"
Memorable lines:
"Always get the reaction you wanted
I'm actually frontin', I'm askin' you something"
5. Fly
     Now we're entering the meat-and-potatoes of this album. Minaj teams up with Rihanna on this jam, and the chorus is a definite upgrade over Right Thru Me. Well, static would have been superior to that. Anyway, a nice beat from J.R. Rotem ("Beautiful Girls", by Sean Kingston and Jason Derülo's shit), which is a serious departure from previous songs. It wouldn't be out of place on the soundtrack to a modern Karate Kid with a female protagonist. I'm getting really mixed messages from Minaj, though. Is she angry? Is she spiritual? She's vacillating between a diva, a troublemaker and bad copy of Lil Kim right now. 
Memorable lines:
"A sea full of sharks, and they all smell blood
They start coming, and I start rising
Must be surprising, I'm just surmising" 
6. Save Me
     More of the same from Fly, but that's welcome. Minaj sings here, and it's pretty smooth. Short song. Doesn't dick around. 
Memorable lines:
"It's not your fault, I'm a bitch, I'm a monster
Yes, I'm a beast, and I feast when I conquer
But I'm alone, on my throne, all these witches"
7. Moment 4 Life
     Oh, easily the best track thus far. Minaj drops a solid first verse, needlessly over-accentuating her rhymes to make sure we catch them. Sweeping, lullaby-like beat from T-Minus. Drake comes in with the most cohesive verse to yet appear on the album. Solid stuff. I'll put it on my Big Girls Don't Cry playlist. 
Memorable lines:
"Forty got a bunch of weed he ain't even rolled
These niggas be droppin' songs, they ain't even cold
Weezy on top, and that nigga ain't even home, yet"
8. Check It Out
     The meat-and-potatoes portion of this album has ended, and for dessert is a drill to the inner ear. First complaint, the presence of will.i.am. 

     He stylizes his name like that because he realizes he's not worthy of capitalization, and breaks it up with periods due to the fact that his title must be spoken as if you were muttering the name of some mortal enemy, with significant pauses in between syllables. This "man" is responsible for bringing the worst music of the past 3 years to the mainstream, resisting its natural state of anonymity, and reducing the overall value of the human species. He could probably care less.
    Secondly, the sampling of "Video Killed the Radio Star" sucks. It used to be that samples, when used, were revered by all and were usually obscure little numbers that you'd have get savvy on. Now, popular songs are being ripped from, even tracks as little as 10 years old. I can understand mash-up and the like, but this is different. Especially seeing as how will.i.am. is constantly doing this shit, imitating older choruses and hooks. He should be investigated by P.E.T.A. on account of his flagrant disregard for sleeping dogs. 

 I'd rather listen to the death rattle of my only child, ad nauseum, than hear this again. 

     The song is mildy funky, but the effects on Minaj and will.i.am's voices result in a sensation similar to that of the wax in your ears being set aflame. Minaj spits a decent verse in the second half, but then again, I could barely her over the sounds of my own vomit splashing on my desk. 

Fuck this guy and all of his ancestors. 

Memorable lines: 
The aforementioned verse from Minaj. I think. And will.i.am. says "niggerific" at one point. Yeah, I know. 
9. Blazin'
    Don't you. Forget about me. Really? Nicki has a good verse. Kanye has a long (for him), and solid 24-something lines. It sounds like Minaj is dying from a hot oil spill in the background. Whatever. Alright track, but I'm still spitting up the aftertaste of Check It Out.
Memorable lines:
"Only higher is Messiah, or notes from Mariah
Ferrari six hundred horses, that's my chariot of fire?" 
10. Here I Am
    This is a pretty fantastic beat from Swizz, and Minaj does it some small amount of justice. Like giving a convicted rapist 3 months on probation. 
Memorable lines:
"You got me thinkin' twice to just breathe
Then you say I won't survive if I leave
Btt I got a couple of tricks up my sleeve
I no longer need your attention, at ease"

11. Dear Old Nicki
     Is this Alicia, tickling some ivories and drawing in a deep breath with which to deliver a smoking, sultry jam to me?

Ah! A trick!

     Minaj takes her whole "split personalities" gimmick to the next level, as she addresses herself, pleading for the "raw" Nicki to come back. Shit, I should get in on this. Breaking out the prayer stool tonight. On the upside, this is a nice chorus. Minaj has her formula backwards on this album. Hip-Hop (and I apply this honorific to her in the loosest possible manner) usually features sub-par choruses, if there's one present at all, and makes up for it with a strong message and wicked verses. She has it just the opposite. 
Memorable lines:
Yeesh. I'm stumped. Um, she rhymes "bamboo" and "BMW". 
12. Your Love
     Alright, a major single. Let's check it out. The bass could break open cracks in the sidewalk. Nicki plays the coquette/sexy personality and I like that. At one point, she states "Somehow I could understand him when he spoke Thai", because she needed something to rhyme with "samurai" in the previous line. 
Memorable lines: 
The comic genius of...
"Shawty, I'ma only tell you this once, you're the illest
And for your lovin', I'ma Die Hard like Bruce Willis" 
13. Last Chance
     A tragically apt title, as this is the final track, and is in the enviable position of being able to offer something in the way of redemption. J.R. Totem returns with a jamming instrumental, and Nicki has a fun time with it. She's quick, gets low with it and stays energetic. This is a relatively above average closer to a hit-and-miss album. 
Memorable lines:
"Uh, gun cock, pause
And I'm well aware of the gun laws" 
Worth the time?
     The above memorable line is indicative of one of Minaj's primary problems. That line comes out of nowhere, and is only present to set up the next two lines about how she's going to get things done. Same stuff, barely different beat. Her songs often have a shaky core, and she mostly stays relevant to the topic at hand, but her bars rarely have any bearing on each other beyond a 4 line bracket. It feels like pieced together snippets that she'd been compiling for the months precipitating this album's production, hastily thrown together when it came time to make a song.
     Furthermore, this isn't what I was expecting from Nicki. Where is the militaristic freak of the jungle from Monster (Which wasn't a great verse, but at least it was peppy)? I want to hear more of the come-hither seductress from "Bottles Up". I understand what she's trying to do with all of her characters, but in the end, it lacks consistency and quality. This album at its heights, was not that impressive, and at its low points, not too horrific. Except for will.i.am. I wouldn't recommend the whole album under any circumstances, but the tracks Last Chance, Here I Am, Moment 4 Life, and Fly are listenable. I'm going to check out Beam Me Up, Scotty and see if that's any improvement. 

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