Nicki Minaj – ‘The Pinkprint’

After 64 minutes of the same, it all starts to feel like a bit of a grind.

What to make of Nicki Minaj. The 32-year-old banged on the door of hip-hop’s boys club with explosive second mixtape ‘Sucka Free’ in 2008. In 2010, she kicked it clean off its hinges with the raging, electric ‘Pink Friday’, a debut album which sold nearly four million copies and turned Minaj – the only female rapper ever to be included on Forbes Hip Hop Cash Kings List – into one of hip-hop’s biggest stars.

Disappointingly however, ’The Pinkprint’ lacks that old bite. Minaj’s third album comes off as a bog-standard chart-ready hip-hop/pop crossover, full of autotuned choruses, guest spots, scatterings of dance music, big singles and ample padding – at 19 tracks it feels twice as long as it should be. The best songs (‘Only’, ‘Anaconda’, ‘Pill N Potions’) have been available online for a while. ‘Four Door Aventador’, ‘Trini Dem Girls’ and ‘Feeling Myself’ – which even Beyonce’s appearance can’t rescue – follow the same formula, namely booming Roland 808 drum machines, a minimal melodic hook and sex raps, but with diminishing returns.

‘The Pinkprint’ is Minaj’s most sex-centric record yet. It’s telling that ‘Anaconda’, a song that feels like five minutes spent in the ‘big bottom’ section of a porn site (“He don’t like ’em boney / He want something he can grab”), is one of the tamest tracks here. Elsewhere, things are less metaphorical and more graphic. On ‘Get On Your Knees’, which features chart-topping American pop star Ariana Grande, Minaj rhymes “assume the position”, “good for your nutrition” and “finish your mission”, over a sparse beat and synth-drenched pop chorus combo. After 64 minutes of the same, it all starts to feel like a bit of a grind.

It’s unfair to expect Nicki Minaj to buck tired hip-hop clichés merely because she’s a woman. It’s her absolute right to make an album that’s as bloated and vulgar as, say, Rick Ross’ recent ‘Hood Billionaire’. She’s certainly done that with ‘The Pink Print’. Every woman is a “bitch”, every man is a “nigga”, someone’s always “getting paid”. Minaj, though, actually raps better, faster and stronger than many of her peers. Look back to 2010 and her furious flow on ‘Monster’ – from Kanye West’s ‘My Brautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ – where she blew Kanye off his own track and trumped Jay-Z. Witty, surprising and fresh, it was everything this record isn’t. Nicki Minaj is so much better than this.

Chris Cottingham