Room for improvement...
Will Lavin

15:26 1st December 2010

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On the commercial front, Nicki Minaj pretty much became an overnight sensation, but little do people know she’s actually been playing the background for a few years now. Hailing from Queens, New York, Onika Tanya Maraj attended LaGuardia High School, a school that specializes in music and visual performing arts. Her humble beginnings in hip-hop, like so many now, started on the mixtape scene. Noticed by Lil’ Wayne, when putting together his Young Money team, which includes man of the moment Drake, Nicki was picked up and has since become the most recognisable female face in hip-hop.

While her pint-sized frame, curvaceous behind, and playful daily wig change is enough to get her noticed, her crazed lyrical delivery and baffling play on words is somewhat refreshing. Larger than life, some find her over-the-top antics to be a bit of a gimmick, but adjusting to today’s hip-hop boys club is hard. Plus her initial rise on the mixtape scene without the wigs, clothes and hype proved she could hold her own.

The product of an intensely busy few years for the self-certified Barbie, ‘Pink Friday’ is her highly anticipated debut album. With a few mundane pop slip-ups, her lyrical versatility and grimy flow do enough to turn this sporadic, feature filled project in to a solid first time effort.

Stand out moments include the psychotic ‘Roman’s Revenge’, where Nicki goes back and forth with the King of crazy, Eminem. The drum-ridden instrumental sounds perfect underneath Slim Shady’s rants about his twisted ass mind and puzzle for a brain. Nicki’s words scream subliminal diss, perhaps aimed at Lil’ Kim? Check the lines, “Is it my fault that all of you bitches gone?/You should’ve sent a thank you note you little hoe,” and, “Nicki she just mad cos she took your spot/Word that bitch mad cos I took the spot/Well bitch if you ain’t shittin’ then get off the pot.” Although a treat was missed by not hiring Busta Rhymes to spit the hook being that, “Like a dungeon dragon,” is one of his most famous lyrics.

The Drake assisted ‘Moment 4 Life’ is Minaj’s reminiscent heart to heart with her fans about where she comes from while wishing she could have her current hot spot for life. Drake’s input is well received, quick and clever his arrogant delivery sounds like someone who knows that they’re on top of their game. The other heart to heart, except this time with herself, ‘Dear Old Nicki’, misses the mark due to its simplistic production, which is unfortunate because the storyline is quite important in the making of Nicki Minaj as an artist.

Other misses, such as ‘Last Chance’, featuring none other than Natasha Bedingfield, are more to do with Nicki’s vocal arrangements than anything else. There’s no denying that she can sing, but the beat choice and timings when she does just don’t work. However, one that does is the drum n bass inspired ‘Save Me’. A tightly packaged piece of production combined with some touching vocals is the reason why Nicki Minaj is the Queen of versatility.

If ‘Pink Friday’ was a report card it would read: “Solid first time effort, works well with others but there’s room for improvement.”

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