By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Zach: Now now, lets give her some credit for her pneumatic asexualityshe is not a very convincing gay dude, sure, but she aint exactly heteronormative, either, Barbie doll on the cover notwithstanding. (You get the sense that Drake is going to have to wait an awful long while to get that marriage proposal accepted.) Shes clearly gotten some bad advice here, though: Rather than do whats gotten her to this pointrapping on tracks with her betters, then besting them; rattling off the names of reindeer on Usher singlesshes singing bad hooks on bad drum n bass records. (By my count, she handles a full half the sung choruses on this albuman awful ratio clearly inspired by her frequently crooning Young Money compatriots Drake and Lil Wayne, though even Wayne is a more versatile hookman than she is.)
Not for nothing, I think, does Minaj sound most comfortable on the rap songs hereRomans Revenge, Did It on Em, and especially Blazin, featuring Kanye West, a man who not coincidentally recently told Funkmaster Flex that he forbid Minaj the use metaphors while working with him. This album, we not even doing similes, West bragged, and she seems to have heeded this advice: Your game over, bitchGatorade, wet towel. Do you agree with West that hashtag rap is the future of hip-hop, Rich Juzwiak?
Rich: I dont know, Ive heard her be plenty sexual (Get more head than a ponytail, Maybe its time to put this pussy on your sideburns, How bout I come all on your dick and I lick it off)more so than, say Queen Latifah, Yo Yo, Monie Love, Lyte, and Missy were by this point in their careers. Im not giving Minaj a cookie because shes not as sexual as she could be. For one thing, I like sluts. And while this may make her unique, I still dont think its weird per sethere have been a relatively small amount of girls playing pianos in pop music, but there is only one Kate Bush (no matter how hard others try to be her). You know, Rah Digga released an album this year devoid of sung choruses, which may be the first of its kind from a female rapper. That is weird. Why arent we rhapsodizing her? Because her weirdness is acting like actual weirdnessits repellant, not a marketing scheme.
I agree that the non-soft (would be inaccurate to call them hard) Nicki songs are so much better than anything else here. And comfortable is a great way to describe her on them, if only because it speaks to the warble on her voice in the several soft tracks. It may be intentional, but its so appropriate that Auto-Tune finds her shaky. She sounds like shes uncertain she can pull this off, as well she should be. Shes not very good at faking it till she makes it (worst of all is Save Me, on which shes not supposed to sound Auto-Tuned, but does anyway).
If the album followed through with the setup of its first three songs (all of varying roughness, all investing in MCing, all boasting production that doesnt sound too-dimestore-even-for-M.I.A.), it could have been a nice surprise. I even like Here I Am, Nicki-sung chorus and all. It reminds me of mid-90s New York hip-hop. I cant help but be nostalgic regarding female rappers because they were a big part of my childhood. And thats another reason why Pink Friday sounds wrong to meits the r&b crossover as the first album of her career. It makes me long for the days when selling out was something you resisted, not something you jumped to do. This is like Act Like You Know coming before Lyte as a Rock, like Nature of a Sista before All Hail the Queen, and Black Pearl before Make Way for the Motherlode. So to answer your question: I cant worry so much about the future of rap when history isnt being served. I know that hashtag rap already sounds stale, like everyones just copying each other. Smells like a fad to me. Hashtag rap is the future of hip-hop in that it is the new Auto-Tune.
That brings up the point of how underwhelming this album is lyrically. I cant really wrap my head around Go against me now/I dare youBambi, provided that Im hearing it right. A Bambi reference really shouldnt be that ambiguous. I am not fly, I am levitation? Like just floating there is more impressive? Rihanna bleats a reality-show cliché (I came to win); Nicki lies (Shout out to my haters, sorry you couldnt faze me) and explains needlessly (Exclamation just for emphasis). Its just really, really lame.Zach: Ah, but quoting her Bambi line without noting the inflection (Go against me now-OW...) is to deprive Minaj of her main asset, which is her outlandish voice. Is there a better pure enunciator in rap? One who has more variable and interlocking speeds? The sound alone of some of these Did It on Em coupletsMore talent in my motherfucking left thumb/She aint a Nicki fan that bitch deaf dumb, or the delightful bit of microsurgery that is All these bitches is my sons and Imma go and get some bibs for em/A couple formulas, little pretty lids on 'embelies the underwhelming lyricist slander.