In the flurry of promotional activity that’s surrounded The Pinkprint Nicki Minaj has been decidedly candid. Skeptics could quite easily devalue these excursions of sincerity as crafty PR tropes custom-built for a generation on a diet of thumbnails and pull-quotes. The overarching narrative of all these tell-all interviews is Nicki’s breakup with her long-term boyfriend/ best friend Safaree Samuels. If that real-life event can be detached from the media torrent that now exists alongside it then The Pinkprint is a remarkable achievement. The Pinkprint is Minaj’s manifesto of exactly who she is. It’s a direct assault aimed at the naysayers who argued that being a number 1 popstar and a number 1 rapper could not coexist. Gooey, anthemic choruses intertwined with lyrical workouts that cherrypick flows from every corner of contemporary rap.
Its chronicles of lostness and readjustment range from the featherweight twigs-ready beat of I Lied to the widescreen balladry of Bed Of Lies. Then there’s the Biggie-throwback stylings of Four Door Aventador, a flossing exercise so effortless it sounds almost liberating in it’s materialistic egotism. Minaj has always highlighted the differences between the representation of men and women in the field of self-important lyricism. The tropes that would make Jay-Z a boss or a mogul would make Nicki a diva or a drama queen. It’s a tragedy in itself that Nicki had to release yet more music just to reiterate that her extraterrestrial flow deserves to be ranked among the upper echelons in rap history. However when you’re immersed in the Trinidadian dancehall beat-pattern and punchline-thick wordplay of Trini Dem Girls there’s an argument for wishing Nicki reaches the top just so her game will stay this frenetic.
If nothing else, The Pinkprint is the proof that Nicki Minaj needs to treated as a tour de force. An artist frank enough to graphically detail unravelling familial ties but sure enough of her own sexuality and power to collaborate with Beyonce for Feeling Myself and make an acapella reference to O.T. Genasis’ CoCo. It’s been a year where a cocktail of PC Music and Taylor Swift have blurred the lines between what’s viable commercially and critically. Should pop be this fierce? The more sugarcoated the better? Can hooks come with fangs? There’s no high-entry level meta qualities to The Pinkprint. There’s no in-jokes. It’s neither cool or uncool to enjoy Minaj’s arena-status pop-rap. You aren’t forced to question yourself when listening to this record. It’s aesthetically inclusive and executed to perfection. Granted, the record is long and it would be a lie to say that anyone comes off well on Only. But when The Pinkprint is stamped. It’s a victory for populist rap music that doesn’t compromise previous (excuse the pun) blueprints.
Words: Duncan Harrison