Nicki Minaj has always balked at your idea of what “real hip-hop” is, and her third studio album is another successful fuck you to her detractors.
It opens with a trio of unexpectedly sombre songs, the strongest of which, All Things Go, painfully reflects on the death of her cousin and an abortion. Track four, a so-so collab with Ariana Grande, bridges the mood until Feeling Myself, featuring Beyoncé, kicks off an inspiring eight-song stretch: Only, featuring Drake and Lil Wayne, with its kick-ass opening statement au courant trap gold Want Some More a Biggie Smalls impression on Four Door Aventador dancehall tribute Trini Dem Girls, one of several songs produced by master pop scribes Dr. Luke and Cirkut and more dance floor bait on a collab with her maybe-boyfriend Meek Mill (not as strong as their snarling bonus duet, which boasts the album’s most sinister production).
Had The Pinkprint included 12 songs rather than the extended version’s 22, it could have been a classic. It’s not that overtly campy tunes like Anaconda don’t work – the Sir Mix-a-Lot remake fits Minaj’s outsized personality. It’s that personality-less radio bait singles Pills And Potions and Bed Of Lies and single-in-the-wings The Night Is Still Young could have been written for any pop star.
But even on the obvious misses, it’s clear that no other MC can match Minaj’s dramatic vocal versatility. Listening to her rail, rant and comically over-articulate – not to mention frequently break into effortless double-time – is a joy. And you could write a hundred think pieces about her sexually empowered definition of feminism.