Critics Need to Lay Off Nicki Minaj
[Editor's Note: Fuck Guilty Pleasures celebrates the over-produced, commercial, artless, lowbrow music that we believe is genuinely worthwhile. Like, among the best music ever.]
Nicki Minaj is a polarizing figure; one could say folks love her or hate her, but many in the hip-hop world love to hate her. With the recent release of her new album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Minaj-bashing is once again in season.
PopMatters gave the album a 1 out of 10, calling even the superior half of the disc "very poorly thought out rap music masquerading as pop." There have been plenty of other negative reviews; you don't have to look far, and many of them focus on single "Stupid Hoe," which has been called everything from vulgar (which is true) to a-rhythmic (which isn't).
Many folks can't wrap their heads around the idea of such an aggressive sonic onslaught, especially as a single from a major label artist. In fact, while Reloaded isn't a perfect, there are some seriously great moments on it.
There's a reason "Stupid Hoe" has so many more "dislikes" than "likes" on YouTube and it's not the song itself, it's the video. Because while the track is an explosive tour de force of varying rhyme styles (with nods to different regional club musics) and kinetic unpredictability, Hype Williams' video features long stretches of slow editing and unimaginative effects. It slows the normally hyperactive Minaj character to a crawl.
Remember, Minaj was called contrived when she first came onto our radars. It took Minaj spitting one of the best verses of 2010 to overcome the stigma, and now most critics recognize she's a top-tier MC. After that, she was chastised because her debut album Pink Friday allegedly lacked sufficient rapping. So now that Reloaded is half rap tracks, she's giving us some of what we want, right? Apparently, though, the critics still aren't satisfied.
Personally, I sympathize with Minaj. She wants to be both a rap superstar and a pop princess. On Reloaded, she gives us the best of both worlds, with 30 minutes of non-compromised, great rapping sharing space on the disc with the more pop stuff. A half an hour, on a major label release? That's actually more rapping than we're accustomed to these days.
What's refreshing about Minaj is that she's doing exactly what she wants to do on her own terms. With the traditional hip-hop world initially not wanting anything to do with her, she feels no obligation to please the boom-bap purists and rightfully so.
While I'd love an album that featured her rapping the whole way through, there are many folks who surely want an entirely-pop record. With rap albums being too long these days anyway, I'd say Reloaded hits the target.
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