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Nicki Minaj

Pink Friday

Rating: 1.0/5.0

Label: Young Money

As tempting as it is to want to give Nicki Minaj a break on Pink Friday, what with overblown expectations, there’s one very important fact to keep in mind: Nicki Minaj has become a hip-hop sensation because of how unique and adventurous she is behind the mic, not because we were in need of another bland pop star. In little more than a year, Minaj has gone from nobody to a spotlight thief of the first degree – her verse on Kanye West’s “Monster” alone offered more life than the entire careers of lesser emcees. So why is it that Pink Friday offers nearly none of the attitude, weirdness and ferocity that made Minaj a hot commodity?

Maybe the answers can be found on “Fly,” Minaj’s collaboration with Rihanna. “Fly” isn’t the first time on Pink Friday that Minaj goes second fiddle, nor is it the last, but it does operate as a pretty tidy explanation of what may be happening to Minaj on her own debut. Minaj has, to this point, been most known for her guest appearances and it would appear that she has some fear of stepping completely into the spotlight. Or at the least, someone with some power over her career is afraid of her doing that. So what Pink Friday gives its audience is just that – Minaj as a guest on her own album. In the case of “Fly,” it’s especially disappointing because the track has nearly no identity whatsoever, instead sounding like an incredibly bland take on Rihanna’s stock in trade – its cheery, stupid melody aims for epic though its beat is so utterly forgettable.

Continuing the trend, Minaj follows it with something that can only be described as the should-have-been-trashed early incarnation of “Fly,” the cringe-inducing “Save Me.” Maybe it was wrong to assume that Minaj was actually adventurous; maybe the truth was that Minaj never wanted to go out and make her own Arular but instead had her mind set on usurping Rihanna from the get-go. Some of the old, weird Nicki is here- the weird British piss-take she does at the end of Eminem collaboration “Roman’s Revenge,” perhaps, and the aggressive front she puts up during the Kanye West track “Blazin'” itself crippled by an anonymous Simple Minds-sampling beat. But even the few moments of true excitement, like the difficult to classify scatological swagger of “Did It On’em,” don’t live up to the heights Minaj so ably ascended on her mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty.

Here’s the thing- reverse the order, have Pink Friday drop before “Monster,” and suddenly you’ve got a different story. That story would have Minaj as the major label slave who breaks free from her shackles and spits glorious venom instead of peddling pap to the masses. Maybe Beam Me Up Scotty would follow “Monster” and we’d get an abrupt about-face from Minaj in the opposite direction of what we’ve got with Pink Friday. Instead we’re stuck here in some should-be alternate reality where Minaj has gone the Busta Rhymes route without even having a peak and that’s a hell of a loss.

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