Although certain non-trend forecasting types might have sooner thought Lady Gaga would have outlasted Nicki Minaj's brand of freaky deaky, the release of the Queensian/Trinidadian's third album, The Pinkprint (yes, an overt nod to Jay-Z), unquestionably outshines her prior works, and ensures her place in the annals of hip hop innovation.
Opening with "All Things Go," this song sets a new and more recent precedent for Nicki Minaj: being freely emotional as she strays away from her MC-style voice. The subsequent "I Lied" continues to see Minaj on her personal tip, illuminating the way most women feel about opening their heart again after having it trampled upon as she sings, "I lied to keep you from breaking my heart." Protection through an air of impenetrability is the resonant theme throughout.
"The Crying Game" features a snake-charming sort of beat as Minaj alternates between her hard and soft personas, singing, "Welcome to the crying game where you lose your soul." Jessie Ware complements the song with her distinct brand of Britishness (possibly an influence suggested by Roman). Next up is "Get On Your Knees," which is just as empowering as you would expect it to be, with Ariana Grande backing Minaj on vocals as she sings, "Baby I'ma need you to beg for it/Get on your knees, get on your knees/Baby just get on your knees." Minaj chimes in with her usual sauciness, insisting, "I got a bow on my panties because my ass is a present."
"Feeling Myself," which already broke the internet a few days ago, combines the best of Minaj and Beyonce, a pairing you would think was too good to actually work. It's also bound to be the "getting ready" song of 2015. "Only" featuring the somewhat bizarre trifecta of Drake, Lil' Wayne and Chris Brown is the song that landed Minaj in anti-Semitic hot water earlier this year, prompting her to make an alternate video. Either one you watch, the song remains weirdly entrancing.
"Want Some More" addresses Minaj's tumultuous relationship with the limelight, acknowledging that the more she's talked about, the more she knows they "want some more." She announces, "I'm in this bitch I'm gettin' money/One minute they hate me, then they love me." Clearly, she doesn't care either way. Following is "Four Door Aventador," one of the best songs on The Pinkprint, with its mid-tempo beat that reels you in and keeps you on the hook as Minaj finds a way to create a rhyme string that includes "Machiavelli" and "spaghetti."
"Favorite" featuring Jeremih has a certain lo-fi quality to it, in spite of it being obviously heavily produced. But it harkens back to the roots Minaj was aiming to re-create with this album as Jeremih croons, "I just wanna be your favorite." Simple vocals and beats make it one of the most organic tracks on the album. "Buy A Heart" featuring Meek Mill has a somewhat misleading title that might make one assume it's going to be a maudlin message, but this is quickly negated by Meek's query, "Anybody wanna buy a heart? 'Cause I don't use this shit anyway." Minaj adds, "Anybody, anybody, anybody wanna buy love?" It's all a reference to the interchangeability money has with these sentiments in the current epoch.
Showing love for her native Trinidad, "Trini Dem Girls" featuring Lunchmoney Lewis offers an South American-inspired beat as Minaj reverts to her "island voice," singing, "Dem island girls is da baddest/I know that you want it/I see that you watchin'/You know that I'm sexy/I hope that you're ready to come here and get it." The subsequent song is probably one you're already familiar with. And if you're a stranger to "Anaconda" at this point you either 1) never heard Sir Mix-a-Lot's version or 2) are living in among a cult that only permits the acknowledgement of flat asses. Culling the best aspects of what made Sir Mix-a-Lot's original gave us, Minaj infuses her own distinct brand into it (signature backside included). And then there's that "he toss my salad like his name was Romaine" line that changed mainstream sexuality forever.
"The Night Is Still Young" takes the musical pace up a notch, serving as something of a nod to the Black Eyed Peas' terrible "I Gotta Feeling." Declaring, "the night is still young/so are we," Minaj conjures lyrical comparison to Kesha, though the rapper makes the vibe less pop, and more dance--a genre she tends to be underrated in. Giving us more of her introspective side, "Pills n Potions" laments how easy it is to dose oneself with meds in order to numb the pain, while still stressing the importance of forgiveness toward those who are fair-weather. Minaj asserts, "they could never make me hate you" and defiantly chants, "I still love, I still love, I still love, I still love."
"Bed of Lies" further enhances Minaj's feminine aura with vocal contributions from Skylar Grey, who sings the accusatory chorus, "Do you ever think of me when you lie/Lie down in your bed of lies?" Minaj raps about being done wrong, verging on the precipice of overdosing (there's that "Pills n Potions" element again). For all its seriousness, Minaj still throws in a worthwhile pop culture reference as she notes, "This ain't how to be a player/You ain't Bill Bellamy." "Grand Piano" is a grand way to close the album (though, of course, it's not ever really the end in these bonus track-laden times). Obviously fresh from sort of heartbreak, Minaj wails, "The people are talkin'/The people are sayin' you're playing my heart like a grand piano/So play on, play on, play on." Yeah, you know it's intense when there's a violin playing Paula Abdul's "Rush" in the background. So listen with caution.
The first in the series of bonus tracks that wind down the album is "Big Daddy" featuring Meek Mill. It finds Minaj back in her true MC form, as she allows Meek Mill to go way back to demanding to be called an old term of endearment as he raps, "Yo bitch call me big daddy." "Shanghai" brings out Minaj's ball-busting persona again as she screams, "ain't fuckin' witchu bitch niggas/I'm not a regular bitch/so when they see me they jump on my dick." The self-confidence doesn't stop there as "Win Again" elucidates all the ways in which Minaj keeps winning (not to evoke images of Charlie Sheen) and that she's the "Muhammed Ali" of the rap world. Cockily stating, "I don't got good vision, but I don't see no competition," Minaj still finds time to make an insulting pop culture reference with, "I'm Meryl Streep to all these bitches/They can't do what I do."
The final bonus track is "Truffle Butter," another song featuring Drake and Lil' Wayne (guess Chris Brown couldn't make the cut twice), which offers a vivrant (to use a Q-Tip non-word) beat to conclude the album with (you may also recognize it from Cassie's "Me & U"). Proving that fame hasn't made her go soft, lyrics like, "Truffle butter on your pussy, you ain't gotta tell yo friend that eat I it in the morning," pepper the song with Minaj-grade perversity.