As many people describe her, Nicki Minaj is truly iconic in her field. Being a woman with aspirations to make it in the world of hip-hop, a consistently male-dominated genre, is a daunting task in and of itself. To be a successful female rapper is an accolade not many can attribute to their name. Minaj has achieved this and so much more.
Her bombastic flows, raw energy and diverse areas of expertise have forever changed the rap game since her early work in the late 2000s. Songs like “Super Bass” and “Starships” are a core part of Generation Z’s childhood, showing that she has incredible prowess in not only the genre of rap but pop as well. She has also had some phenomenal features over the years. One that comes to mind for most is her legendary breakout verse on “Monster” by Kanye West in which she outraps hip-hop legends Kanye West, JAY-Z and Rick Ross by an enormous margin.
She also has a fascinating story about her experience with the clashes between her femininity and the industry she works in. She has been an inspiration for so many artists and ordinary people alike. However, her most recent album, titled “Pink Friday 2,” is more indicative of her recent predisposition toward “sticking to what works” rather than her original mindset of trying to bring something new to the rap game. When listening to this project, fans desperately grab onto the moments where she tries something new, but these moments are exceedingly rare.
The first issue with this album is its runtime. This project clocks in at a whopping one hour and ten minutes with twenty-two songs included. It is incredibly hard to make a rap LP this long without it feeling bloated and inconsistent. It is not impossible, as Kendrick Lamar created what is widely regarded as the best rap album of all time with his one-hour and eighteen-minute project, “To Pimp A Butterfly.” The difference between “To Pimp A Butterfly” and “Pink Friday 2” lies in the respective purposes of these two projects. Lamar’s album feels significantly more precise than Minaj’s because he is telling a story and has something to say across the whole project, and he does so with fewer songs that are individually longer. Minaj’s album feels more like a mixtape in that she simply threw a bunch of tracks that sound vaguely similar in the hopes that one of them might be her next “Starships.” Despite many notable features like J. Cole, Lil Wayne, Drake, Lil Uzi Vert and Future, this album feels haphazard and too long for its own good.
Even though the opinions on this project are generally negative, there are some interesting moments throughout that are worth a listen. “Are You Gone Already” has some nice vocal harmonies and usage of vocoding software that makes for a unique vibe. The synthesizers on “Fallin 4 U” feel like a waterfall cascading over the listener’s head. “Let Me Calm Down,” while repetitive, has fascinating flow-of-consciousness verses delivered by both J.Cole and Minaj that the beat compliments well. “Pink Friday” features classic psychedelic production from Travis Scott that works surprisingly well with Minaj’s singing and rapping. “Pink Friday Girls” samples the 80s pop hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, and it sounds a little silly but honestly kind of works. Lastly, “Nicki Hendrix” with Future really leaned into the drowned and watery aesthetic that permeates a lot of the production behind Future’s work, and the both of them collaborating on this track make for a unique and refreshing sound. Altogether, there were some nice moments in this project, but they are few and far between. If Minaj were to lean into some of these more interesting ideas and base an entire project around them with a consistent soundscape, she could have a modern classic on her hands.