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Album review: Nicki Minaj appeases hip-hop and pop fans alike with ‘The Pinkprint’

Nicki Minaj's 'The Pinkprint' was released Monday.

Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pinkprint’ was released Monday.

Nicki Minaj has been everywhere this year. From her role in “The Other Woman” to her surprise collaboration with Beyoncé on her remix of “Flawless,” the 32-year-old rapper has built up a lot of buzz and anticipation for “The Pinkprint.”

With an album title paying homage to Jay Z’s “The Blueprint,” Minaj hinted to her fans that her latest project would take her back to her hip-hop roots. Ditching the wigs and eccentric outfits, the music scene buzzed with anticipation as her image seemed to mature almost overnight.

Singles “Only,” “Anaconda,” “Pills and Potions” and “Bed of Lies” are a reflection of the versatility the album expresses. Minaj will fire off bars on one song, then serenade you with her vocals on the next.

The first three tracks of “The Pinkprint” offer a low-energy introduction into an album that is all about Nicki Minaj. Her alter egos Barbie and Roman are nowhere to be found, which makes it all the more emotional.

“All Things Go” opens the album, where Minaj reflects on her relationships and lost loved ones. It is one of her most emotional tracks and the honesty humanizes Minaj instantly.

“I Lied” and “The Crying Game” follow, both echoing Minaj’s actions and handling of her long-running relationship that recently ended this year. The former track has Minaj confessing to lying about her true feelings because she did not want her heart to be broken. On the latter, she evaluates the actions of both parties in the relationship, with Jessie Ware providing haunting vocals for the hook.

For “Get On Your Knees,” Minaj enlisted pop star Ariana Grande’s help in telling her man to “beg for it” and to get on all-fours. The song is light on the vulgarity, and although Grande’s voice seems too innocent for a track like this, it ended up becoming one of my favorites.

With what can only be described as the follow-up to the “Flawless” remix, Beyoncé joins Minaj as they gloat about their accomplishments on “Feeling Myself.” They both rose to the occasion and didn’t overpower one another. The track has a grimy feel to it that hip-hop fans will appreciate, and pop fans will fawn over Beyoncé.

A track I found particularly fun was “Trini Dem Girls,” in which Minaj does a shout out to her Trinidadian roots, boldly claiming that “’dem island girls is the baddest.” The track is a mix of reggaeton and hip-hop, with Lunchmoney Lewis singing the hip-winding chorus.

The penultimate track “Grand Piano” is a startlingly beautiful ballad in which Minaj stretches her vocals, aiming to prove that rapping is not her only talent. On the track, she ponders if she is a fool for being in love with a man who had “been playing my heart like a grand piano.” Although the vocals sound as if they went through a lot during post-production, her voice still shone through and the song immediately became one of my favorites.

The iTunes exclusive “Truffle Butter” closes out the album with another appearance from label-mates Drake and Lil Wayne. A clap-heavy track that will get heads nodding, Minaj boasts about how she is “still the highest-selling female rapper for the record.”

Even though Minaj claimed that she was returning to her hip-hop roots, fans of her pop-inspired hits will find a lot to like about “The Pinkprint.” As a versatile project spanning 17 tracks (20 with the deluxe edition), it might seem to lose its focus at times. It is not a flawless album, but it reminds the world why Minaj is still the leading female rapper in the game. The album may not be a defining turning point in her music career, but it is certainly a point of evolution.

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