This week is one of the biggest for new album releases in recent memory, with high-profile albums from Kanye West, My Chemical Romance, Ke$ha, Jay-Z and Justin Bieber all hitting the streets. Those albums are all coming from artists who have established followings and track records, but there is one debut coming out this week that has hip-hop fans turning their heads and raising their eyebrows. Through a series of well-received mixtapes and guest spots, Nicki Minaj has very quickly made a name for herself as a killer lyricist and a dynamic rhymer with as unique a style as we’ve seen in the rap world. Her hotly-anticipated debut album Pink Friday is out now, and it appears to be one of the most polarizing albums to hit the mainstream in a while.
Some of the critical reactions have been extremely enthusiastic. Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B+ rating, and writer Brad Wete said that though Nicki has made a name for herself with wacky voices and strange characters, it’s her focus on fundamentals that really puts Pink Friday over. “Oddly enough, the accented voices and self-assured rhymes that propelled Nicki to stardom are hardly what make this a solid album,” he wrote. “It’s those moments when the eccentric wigs are off and aliases put away that the best songs are revealed. Like when she steps off of her throne, vulnerable and helpless on ‘Save Me,’ uncovering a talent she kept hidden throughout her sidekick days: She sings. Well, if I might add.”
Allison Stewart of The Washington Post agreed, noting that Minaj manages to show a surprising number of different colors on her album. She specifically calls out the quieter tunes, noting “to anyone who heard [Pink Friday’s] early, hardcore-heavy leaks, these softer, usually romantic tracks may feel like compromises, meant to reassure mainstream listeners that Minaj is a semi-proper girl with, you know, feelings, not just a piranha with a gymnastic flow.”
The Los Angeles Times found Pink Friday a little uneven but inspiring for its boldness. “Pink Friday shows Minaj is on the cusp — considering her facility with accents, she could be the perfect person to find a new patois, one that’s built of separate musical languages but without breaking any of them down,” writer Margaret Wappler observed. “Or she could get caught in the net, punished by the relentless category police or her own doubt of how far she can roam. But one thing is for certain: she’s got the fight and the imagination on her side — and a good neon wig never hurt a girl either.”
In fact, even the negative reviews gave Minaj props for experimenting. Associated Press writer Mesfin Fekadu got a little tired of all of Minaj’s boasting but was inspired whenever she switched it up. “When Minaj is not caught up with being No. 1, she shines,” Fekadu wrote. “On ‘Save Me,’ she strips down and presents a more humble side of herself. The Drake-assisted ‘Moment 4 Life’ has Minaj excited about her accomplishments — and cherishing her winning moment. As she should be.” And Marc Hogan from Spin is a little disappointed by Pink Friday but is still glad Nicki Minaj exists. “As an MC showcase, the album falls short, with no verses as memorable as those she dropped for Robin Thicke, Usher, Trey Songz, Ludacris or Mariah Carey,” he wrote in his review. “But this self-styled Harajuku Barbie certainly can compete with the big boys, and she doesn’t let anyone forget it.”
What do you think of Nicki Minaj’s new album? Let us know in the comments!
Don’t miss the documentary “Nicki Minaj: My Time Now,” premiering Sunday, November 28, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV!