All hail the Harajuku Barbie, cuz Onika Tanya Maraj a.k.a Nicki Minaj is here to stay! Just when the Rap scene, as well as the music scene in general was left wondering if there would ever be another female MC who would take over the crown after former queens Lauryn Hill, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Eve, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot etc. have been busy doing everything else apart from creating music, like popping out babies, throwing random stuff at people, getting arrested and generally bitch-feuding, Nicki Minaj’s debut album Pink Friday blasts in at #1 on the Billboard 200 Album charts, and into the top 10 of the charts of a handful of other countries worldwide. A feat which is nothing short of phenomenal considering the fact that this is Nicki’s debut album, and she joins Eve as the only female rapper in history to have her debut album reach # 1 on the Billboard Charts.
Her musical style has influences from all the aforementioned Rap Queens, but Nicki clearly creates her own style by cleverly fusing elements of Pop/Hip-Hop/Electronica as well as dance with Rap,along with keeping the ghetto influences intact. The success of the album is also owed to her clever marketing strategies, considering the fact that everybody and their mamma was made aware of who Nicki Minaj was throughout 2009-10, firstly as a part of the successful hip-hop group Young Money with Drake and Lil Wayne, and then as a collaborator/featured artist on probably every artist charting on the Billboard Hot 100 like Usher, Mariah Carey, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Trey Songs, Christina Aguilera, Jay Sean, Kanye West, Keyshia Cole etc. By the end of 2010 Nicki Minaj had 14 appearances on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, hence it was no surprise when on its debut, Pink Friday sold a whooping 375,000 copies in its first week to debute at #2 on the Albums Chart, eventually peaking at # 1 in its 11th week on the chart, and till date the album has gone on to sell almost 2 million units worldwide.
It would be wrong to credit the success of the album to just the strategic marketing, cuz the music and the singles are definitely way more instrumental in pushing the album to the top. The album has already spawned 6 massive hits, with the 6th and latest single ‘Superbass‘ being the biggest hit off the album so far (Billboard # 3 certified Double Platinum, UK # 8 till date) and still climbing. With this song Nicki Minaj becomes the highest charting female rapper in a decade since Missy Elliot took her Grammy winning ‘Work It‘ to # 2 back in 2002.
Cleverly crafted and incredibly infectious with elements of rap/pop/dance woven flawlessly along with a video that resembles a ghetto version of Katy Perry’s California Girls, the single is easily one of the stand-out tracks off the album and a certified summer jam.
The first single ‘Your Love‘ (Billboard # 14, Rap # 1) is probably the best song from the album and Nicki became the first solo female rapper since Lil’ Kim about a decade ago to reach # 1 on the Billboard Rap charts. It’s yet another clever production that samples Annie Lennox’s ‘No More I Love You’s ‘ while Nicki subtly raps throughout the track. Don’t miss out on the video for this one.
The second single ‘Right Through Me‘ is a personal favorite. Powerful vocals with a strong R’n’B/Soul touch and an equally powerful video, one gets to see the soulful and vulnerable side of Nicki.
The 3rd single ‘Check It Out‘, a duet with Will-i-Am is a pretty catchy Hip-Pop production, although it tends to get a little monotonous especially cuz of Will-i-Am’s rapping.
‘Moment For Life‘, the Platinium certified 4th single (Billboard # 13, R’n’B # 1, Rap # 1), features Drake, and Nicki and him get along like a house on fire, while Nicki soulfully sings about how she wished she had this moment for life. Considering that she’s ruling the game now, I’m sure she’ll have moments like these for quite a while now. Yet again a video worth watching with its Cinderella theme.
Some of the best songs off the album have not been released as singles. The explosive opening number ‘I’m The Best‘, ‘Fly‘ (featuring Rihanna and probably the 7th single), ‘Last Chance‘ (featuring Natasha Bedingfield) and ‘Dear Old Nicki‘ are ALL single-worthy.
A special mention needs to be made here about the song ‘Roman’s Revenge‘ featuring Eminem, which stands out of the entire lot for many a reason. Nicki’s alter ego Roman Zolanski appears on this one along side Em’s Slim Shady, and damn this track’s funk-hilarious! Morbidly explicit would be an understatement describing this orgy of expletives and sarcastic hoots. Nicki’s angry rants seem to be directed against the original Queen Bee Lil’ Kim herself, as a part of the ongoing feud between the two (‘Shoulda sent a thank you note you lil’ ho, now i’mma wrap your coffin with a bow‘) while Eminem’s, well, Eminem. It’s no small feat though that Nicki’s Roman holds her ground and outshines the gigantic Slim Shady, who is merely reduced to his regular venom spewing self which seems almost juvenile compared to a fire-spitting Minaj!
Overall, ‘Pink Friday’ brings a much-needed respite to the current state of music, especially Rap music which has become incredibly generic and auto-tuned of late. It’s refreshing to hear melodies, pop and dance infused with hip-hop to make this album one funky joyride! Reminds me of good times back in the day when Hip-Hop was fun! And from the way the album’s selling, I don’t see it moving out of the charts anytime soon. A job well done Nicki…quite a masterpiece you’ve created!