01 December 2010

Profiles: The Exuberance and Swagger of Nicki Minaj

This has been coming for a bit but I feel like while this girl's exposure is peaking pretty well it was time we discuss the year Nicki Minaj-a-trois is having. In the past few months Nicki has established herself as possibly not only the greatest Female Rapper in history, but probably one of the Greatest Ever to Spit the Game. Well, that might be overstating things, but we certainly shouldn't hold back praise at this point due to gender, which in such a historically misogynistic art form could be a factor. She needs to continue her success to warrant such a title for sure, and she's notably been more often a featured artist than an Album artist so I might hold my tongue yet. But damn she's good. Let's check out some of her story:

2007 - 2009: Random Chick Years

Nicki's been kicking it around for a while, releasing mixtapes on tiny labels since 2007. In some of these early appearances she really doesn't appear special. Check out this track from 2008, "Warning." Yeah. Not good. The beat isn't innovative or interesting at all, her rapping seems laboured and the whole thing looks like it was shot in an afternoon with a camera full of tapes for AFV. There's not much here to lift her above other female rappers, in fact, there's little here to bring her to the level of established artists like Lil Kim or Missy Elliot (Damn female rappers are shitty. We need some "No Scrubs" back). Nicki's key would be to distinguish her talent above her contemporaries. You don't a Norwegian Morning Wood Profile by regurgitating the same shit.

Of course, this all about development, though. Her early mixtapes caught the attention of Lil Wayne and Young Money and as she kept pushing, her most popular mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty and "Itty Bitty Piggy" secured her a spot in more mainstream eyes. Now, "Itty Bitty Piggy" is still a pretty shitty song so she had some work cut out for her. It's still a good step up from "Warning" though. Once she teamed with the full resources of Young Money and started to develop a more definite personality and style she could start to claim her Rap Queen Inheritance.

2010: The Bad Bitch is Queen

There was a point last month that saw Nicki Minaj part of seven separate songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list simultaneously, the only artist in history to do so. Holy fuck is this bitch everywhere now. How was she able to do so?

It helps that after Young Money displayed all of its artists in a single track Nicki showed them all up by far as the best part. It's typical of her featured tracks that you listen to waiting for her few bars. "Bed Rock" features Lil Wayne putting on clothes (what's the deal with him doing that in videos? That song is shit by the way, but the vid is pretty cool. Getting back on topic then:) but then not much else, Drake sucks, the rest of the crew is pretty forgettable. Nicki stood out by not only being by far the bustiest and only chick, but also having attention-grabbing vocal capabilities including a soft coo to side with a tight flow. It's very listenable.

From there she's been in so many songs this year. Her discography is almost solely 2010, and this has really been her time to shine. In terms of her best singles she showed up with Ludacris ("My Chick Bad"), Usher ("Lil Freak"), Trey Songz ("Bottoms Up"), Sean Kingston ("Letting Go [Dutty Love]" - perfect adoption of her native Trinidadian accent), Lil Wayne ("Knockout"). Notice how she's mostly paired up with traditional singers, not rappers. It's a gender reversal, the chick is rapping to fill in gaps left between the smooth hooks rather than the other way around. This is spectacular. It's such a fresh sound, hardly a girl before Nicki could handle this.

I'll single out "Bottoms Up" and "Knockout" out of this lot as pretty special tracks that get the Minaj treatment. She kills "Bottoms Up" doing things with her vocal chords previously thought impossible. The fast-style rapping blends with the outrageous crescendos which match in turn outrageous subject material. "Knockout" actually has a bit of pretty good guitar, is pretty tight lyrically (on Weezy and Nicki's parts) and showcases Minaj's capabilites to both sing and rap. I love when she breaks down part way through, there is a great contrasting sweetness and intensity here that drives home the meaning of the song:
Awwww fuck it!
Give me that damn bucket
Wh-when I throw this pussy
You better not start duckin'!
She's also the best parts of remixes of "5 Star Chick" (Actually Trina gives her a run for her money here, both girls outshine the pitiful boys), "Hello Good Morning," and "All I Do is Win" (Busta probably beats her here actually). Get enough of her pedigree yet? These aren't lightweight tracks, folks. This Random Chick holds her own against the biggest names in rap with a distinctive style that hangs so precociously on her voice. It rises and falls, goes as crazy as her face, high, fast and chill at the same time. She's sick. There's hardly a better character rapper out there, possibly Eminem (yeah, a Girl and White Guy are the best rappers right now [though Kanye probably makes the best beats and lyrics]). Holla.

Now, I mentioned loving Nicki's one solo hit "Your Love" this year all summer when it peaked its head in the Summer Jam Weekly Winners List (by the way, notice how I predicted "Bottoms Up" would be huge on August 9th). I also poured out love for the video here. Needless to say, I still love this song, the video is incredible, mostly for being a pretty anti-typical Nicki affair. She's calm, reserved and collected while maintaining a quality sing and rap flow in a distinctive style. It's hard to believe this album (her only one lifetime), Pink Friday only dropped a few weeks ago.

Quickly let's go over some shit: I'm not fan of "Massive Attack," "Up Out My Face" "2012 (It Ain't the End) or "Woohoo." "Romans Revenge" is worth a listen though and so is "Check it Out." Phew. Right then. Look those up on your own. Let's talk "Monster":

My favourite song off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, "Monster" is an absolutely sick track. It's all about Nicki. She tells exactly what I could here - No Album out, underrated but she kills everyone. She's a motherfuckin monster. Kanye, Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Bon Iver don't perform poorly here but Nicki still manages to outshine the lot. She's just untouchable. She exhibits a vocal variation that adheres to the lyrical and attitude shifts that simultaneously incorporate the necessary string of swears, similes and hyperbole that is Rap.

Alright. 2010 has been an incredible year for this girl. She could have very easily been sidelined to a gimmick but instead she's established herself as one of the best of the year. Big boobs, funny grin and incredible flow. Here's to 2011.

Barbie, bitch.

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