Recording information: 54 Sound Studios, Detroit, MI; Chalice Recording Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Glenwood Place Studios, Burbank, CA.
Photographer: G.L. Wood.
By the time 2010 rolled around, debuts like Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday could still fall into the "highly anticipated" category, but the reasoning was different. Two years of strong mixtapes and guest appearances meant the hip-hop faithful already knew this sometimes dirty debutante could take that gutsy Lil' Kim style to another level, and that both the single and the full-length format were at her command. The only question left is how this versatile artist would present herself to the general public, and the answer is a Gwen Stefani-meets-Baz Luhrman-meets-Young Money-type affair that both dazzles and disappoints. Feed off the production, the great musical ideas, and Minaj's keen sense of her surroundings, and Pink Friday is an outstanding success. It's chock-full of new wave textures and diva attitude, creating the kind of atmosphere where will.i.am stops over while you tell the haters to kill themselves over a "Video Killed the Radio Star" sample ("Check It Out"). More grand moments come when Kanye West and Minaj mack together on the great, Simple Minds-sampling "Blazin," or when "Your Love" waltzes out of the speakers with a unique brand of hood majesty, but when "Dear Old Nicki" comes round with "In hindsight, I loved your rawness and I loved your edge," Minaj suggests that her growth as an artist requires the sacrificing of all Trina-like qualities. Confusingly, the key track, "Romans Revenge," finds her winning while acting as savage as ever, standing up to Eminem -- who is in gross-mode -- and literally roaring like a tiger to get the job done. This is the Nicki the mixtape crowd fell in love with, and you only need check out 2009's mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty for examples of how the Barbie (read: pop and R&B) and the bitch (read: hip-hop) sides of Minaj can be sensibly presented together. In the end, Pink Friday is an ambitious, glossy stunner if fashion week is your favorite time of year, but Minaj didn't earn her diva status this way. Longtime fans familiar with her underground work won't even consider this her debut, just an extravagant coming out party, the kind where the invite mentions "no sneakers or athletic apparel." ~ David Jeffries
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Minaj aims for a Rihanna-style crossover approach, singing R&B choruses over electro floss..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.83) - "'Moment 4 Life' and 'Save Me' turn out to be the real strengths here." -- Grade: B
Mojo (Publisher) (p.105) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's been the relentless dynamism and intensity of her vocal delivery that have really marked out this rap Barbarella."
Paste (magazine) - "There's no denying the staying power of jams like 'Moment 4 Life,' the girl-power ditty featuring Young Money star, Drake."
Uncut (magazine) (p.84) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Nicki Minaj is the pop find of 2010: a flamboyant, potty-mouthed female rapper from Lil Wayne's Young Money stable..."