Credit: Howard Huang

The Pinkprint

Give Nicki Minaj credit for having the ladyballs to call her third full-length The Pinkprint, a clear reference to Jay Z’s career-defining 2001 masterpiece The Blueprint. Every star needs a healthy amount of brazen self-confidence, but few rappers have dared to charge Jigga head-on like this. The thing about Blueprint, though, is that it was a laser-guided declaration of purpose. Pinkprint, however, largely fails to answer the question ”Who is Nicki Minaj?”

She began her career as a scene-stealing mixtape guest, then rose to a razor-tongued heiress of Lil’ Kim’s filthy throne before morphing into a neon dance-floor queen. (That’s the Nicki who blasted up the charts with ”Starships.”) This time around, she’s gunning for the sort of Big Statement torch currently wielded not by Jay but by his Mrs., and it’s no surprise that one of the album’s strongest tracks is the Beyoncé tag team ”Feeling Myself.” It’s a telling juxtaposition: In one corner, Bey effortlessly big-ups the impact of her kamikaze album release (”Changed the game with that digital drop/Know where you was when that digital popped”) and brags about being able to ”stop the world.” Opposite her, Minaj sounds like she’s struggling just to keep up. That would be an unfair comparison if Nicki didn’t invite it herself, filling her album with bargain-bin versions of Bey’s chest-thumping bids at personal empowerment.

Minaj is at her best when she’s a little bit unhinged; that’s the zone where the magic happens. But Pinkprint slogs through too many ponderous piano ballads, and it’s a shame, because there are moments here that give flashes of that mad brilliance. Her fluidity allows her to dip excellently into both island riddims (”Trini Dem Girls”) and icy trip-hop revivalism (”Four Door Aventador”) while still maintaining her hardcore bona fides (”Only”). Minaj clearly wants to be thought of as a singularity, but she’s less an iconoclast than a fractured simulacrum — Frankenstein’s monster haphazardly stitching herself together without a blueprint. C

Best Tracks:
”Feeling Myself”
”Trini Dem Girls”

The Pinkprint
  • Music