On "The Pinkprint" (Young Money/Republic), Nicki Minaj is through playing around.
Stung by criticism that she had become too pop with her dance single "Starships" and her time as an "American Idol" judge, Minaj is straight hip-hop on her third album. And while she may be kidding around a bit on the first single, "Anaconda," the rest of "The Pinkprint" is serious stuff, focused on overcoming adversity and female empowerment.
Much of that power is in the bedroom. She gets Ariana Grande to help her make her point on "Get on Your Knees," as Grande sweetly sings, "I don't need a pretty poet getting all emotional. You gotta beg for it, beg for it." Minaj bids for equality on "Favorite" with Jeremih, saying, "I don't wanna hype ya, but you're a lucky like you." On "Feeling Myself," Beyoncé declares, "Male or female, it make no difference. I stopped the world!"
Minaj is out for equality in her business, as well, ever an uphill battle for a female rapper. However, she makes a pretty good argument in "Want Some More," as she asks rhetorically, "Who had Eminem on the first album? Who had Kanye say, 'She's a problem'?" And in "Win Again," she boasts about her resumé while also adding to it with her sleek rhymes.
"The Pinkprint" is impressive stuff, though Minaj's sly sense of humor is mostly kept under wraps. She proves she can keep up with the guys, but she would be stronger if she were more herself.
THE GRADE B+