Since bursting onto the hip-hop scene in 2010 with her debut album Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj has quickly established herself as the leading female rap artist in the industry. In 2012 Minaj released her second album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which established her as a bona fide global superstar in part thanks to the huge success of Starships. Following a series of delays, Minaj finally unleashed her third album The Pinkprint just before Christmas off the back of lead single Anaconda.
Fans of Minaj often don’t know what to expect when it comes to the rapper’s albums. 2010 debut Pink Friday was commercial hip-hop and 2012’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded was a mix of chart-friendly EDM and harder hip-hop beats. The Pinkprint’s first single was the surprisingly mellow Pills & Potions and showed off a softer side of Minaj’s talents. The track didn’t really set the charts alight so the rapper followed it up with the commercial Anaconda, the music video to which caused plenty of controversy and made sure Minaj hit all of the headlines. The track couldn’t have been more different than Pills & Potions, incorporating a sample of Baby Got Back and praising the virtues of having junk in your trunk.
Based on The Pinkprint’s first two singles you’d be forgiven for not having a clue what direction Minaj is taking you in. If you’re more a fan of Anaconda than Pills & Potions you’ll be disappointed as The Pinkprint mostly stays away from radio-friendly, chart-assured smashes and instead is a surprisingly emotional record that shows Minaj’s vulnerability as well as showcases her strengths. The record opens with All Things Go, one of the album’s harder hip-hop moments as Minaj reflects on her life and the increasingly speedy passing of time. The pace doesn’t pick up much further than that for the next few tracks with standout I Lied featuring falsetto-inflected emotive vocals from Minaj.
Some of the album’s finest moments come when Minaj chooses collaborators that bring out the best in her rather than try to shine more than she does. Ariana Grande’s powerful vocals provide a solid chorus for the sexual Get On Your Knees and Beyonce packs plenty of attitude in for her parts on Feeling Myself complementing Minaj’s tight raps.
Elsewhere on the album The Crying Game, featuring uncredited vocals from Jessie Ware is a beat-laden gem that could easily be a future single, Only sees Minaj trading expletive-ridden rhymes with Lil’ Wayne and soulful vocals from Chris Brown, and album closer Grand Piano finds Minaj reverting back to singing and it’s a beautiful ending to the record.
At 16 tracks The Pinkprint is a little longer than it needs to be and there are a few tracks we’d happily have left on the cutting room floor. Trini Dem Girls featuring Lunchmoney Lewis falls on the wrong side of annoying and The Night Is Still Young, whilst a decent enough song, doesn’t really fit with the overall sound of the record.
The Pinkprint is a stronger and more cohesive album than Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The overall sound flows better and it’s actually the moments that Minaj steps away from the bravado that shine the brightest. There’s an emotion and honesty in this record that we haven’t heard from Minaj before and we’re hoping she continues to explore this direction. The Pinkprint takes her away from the cartoon version of herself that her previous album created and re-establishes herself as a serious and important part of modern hip-hop music.