Album Review: Nicki Minaj, ‘Pink Friday’ (Island)

Hip-hop's A-list guest but rap's new filthy-mouthed First Lady outshines them all.

“First things first, I’ll eat your brains”, deadpanned [a]Nicki Minaj[/a] earlier this year on [a]Kanye West[/a]’s ‘Monster’. She continues with that same cannibalistic orderliness on her debut, ‘Pink Friday’. Within the first two minutes she’s summarised her entire life so far in a robust, reasoned account of why she’s the greatest in history, concluding, “I’m the bestest”.

On the next track, she proves it, setting her alter-ego Roman Zolanski against [a]Eminem[/a]’s Slim Shady. Both Minaj and Marshall are on their worst behaviour, violently barking quick-witted and brutal attacks at one another before the song climaxes with Nicki screaming in a cockney accent.

It’s at that moment you realise that you’re listening to one of the most startling rap records in years. Minaj’s volatility and quirks are reminiscent of heyday [a]Lil Wayne[/a], but while Weezy was never more than a bottle of Calpol away from his next blackout, Nicki’s addiction is her pop sensibility, teetering constantly on the brink of the mainstream while being far too insane to ever get there.

Following Minaj’s appearances on some of the biggest tracks of the year, [a]Eminem[/a], [a]Drake[/a] and [a]Kanye[/a] bring their A game to the Minaj album, making the record a crucial cross-section of hip-hop’s new decade. Her happy-clappy ballad with [a]Rihanna[/a] seems misplaced, and the grating, [a]Buggles[/a]-sampling single ‘Check It Out’ dances too close to the same MTV mannequins that elsewhere she’s made to look cheap. For every dud, though, there are two skull smashers. ‘Did It On ’Em’ – a post-dubstep cry to defecate on her haters in which Nicki assures “If I had a dick I would pull it out and piss on them” – should keep her on the Teen Choice Awards blacklist.

Her style, with its demented ticks and knowing re-appropriation of “bitch”, is already verging on the iconic. One hopes that with the confidence this record brings, she’ll take a more permanent seat at hip-hop’s high table. Because when she’s at her best, she’s the bestest there is.

Sam Wolfson

Click here to get your copy of Nicki Minaj’s ‘Pink Friday’ from the Rough Trade shop.

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