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Archive for the ‘Nicki Minaj’ Category

Spin: “Nicki Minaj’s Lived-In Love Songs.”


Inspired by “Super Bass,” I wrote a ton about Nicki Minaj’s love raps. Once more guys,Pink Friday, really good! Other things about “Super Bass” worth discussing: The one maybe two transvestites dancing with her in the video, and the “he might sell coke” line from verse one.

Listen to “Super Bass”, the Pink Friday bonus track turned victory-lap single, and for a few minutes, try not to think about about Nicki Minaj’s breathless rapping ability, weirdo vocal tics, funny faces, and visionary fashion sense (yes to long-sleeve spandex dresses, yes yes yes to late-’90s Aaliyah swag). Simply focus on her singular ability to make genuinely joy-filled pop music.

The production on “Super Bass” is the same as everything on the radio (shiny, loud-quiet-loud dance), but Nicki has surrounded that signature style with palpable emotions and, of course, a shit ton of attitude. And that goes a long way. This is an experience-based song about a rote topic: Really being into a guy and feeling like he could change your world. “Super Bass” easily could devolve into subservient cheese, but Nicki’s up to the challenge of expressing it maturely…

Written by Brandon

May 21st, 2011 at 7:22 am

Pink Friday Is Good!


Like B.O.B’s The Adventures Of Bobby Ray, Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday is a straight pop album with really great rapping jammed between soaring hooks and sitting on top of the shiny, four-on-the-floor, occasionally emo beats. And it’s that production aspect that explains why Pink Friday is becoming something the internet wants to pretend never happened.

What’s the problem, again? Nicki Minaj doesn’t ignore the rapping side of her talents for that pop sound, she mixes them together, and so, there’s still plenty to appreciate here. When she does employ this very specific type of pop production, it’s towards something a bit more moving and real. Both singles “Your Love,” and “Right Thru Me” are light, electronic dance songs without a whole lot of rapping, but they’re emotional and open–like a smarter, more lived-in version of B.O.B’s livejournal malaise. “Your Love” in particular, is an aggressive and kinder take on the “ride or die” chick rap song and “Right Thru Me” is a lose-all-control breakup song that maintains its composure. These aren’t girly love songs and people suggesting that to be the case are being straight sexist.

Other songs sound like the radio but remain casually subversive via unnecessarily great, really fun rapping: “Check It Out” and “Massive Attack” are highlights of this tenuous approach. Nicki really handles these pop songs well and uses their ridiculous, sensuous immediacy towards something more. Then there are the few rap-pop songs full of specific, touching feelings that occasionally go off-the-rails and find Nicki dropping a C-bomb (“Roman’s Revenge”), tearing apart a beat based around the song from The Breakfast Club (“Blazin”), or composing a rap letter to her old, less fortunate a bit more unstable hard-headedly underground self (“Dear Old Nicki”).

The issue seems to be what Pink Friday merges its rapping with (Billboard pop) and not the simple fact that it isn’t some kind of pedal-to-the-metal rap album. So, Lil B and Tyler can reference Ariel Pink and Kanye can get all baroque and prog-rock-like, but Nicki Minaj can’t pillow her excellent raps with an almost Miley Cyrus sheen and get away with it? This isn’t a question of purity, it’s a lunkheaded bias against the type of impurity she’s enacted and well, you’re just not allowed to mitigate fusion like that.

Written by Brandon

November 18th, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Nicki Minaj

“Monster” vs. “Runaway Love”


Whether it was putting Jay-Z and Talib Kweli on the same song (back when that was as weird as Raekwon and Justin Bieber), celebrating his contradictions (“first nigga with a Benz and a backpack”), calling out the president on live television, or idiotically racing up to the stage to explain why Beyonce’s better than Taylor Swift, Kanye West’s pop provocateur tendencies have always been as important as the music itself. He’s just become more of a dick about it.

Or rather, he was more of a dick about it. West’s recent works—as in really recent–have been music events first and pop cultural moments second, and that’s a good thing. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t conceptual edges to what he’s doing, he just isn’t footnoting the shit out of it to make sure audiences know it’s a big, thumping statement. So, he drops the video for “Power,” an attempt at art with a capital “A” and one that wrestles with age-old themes of vulnerability and hubris, right after an episode of Jersey Shore but doesn’t harp on that part of it at all really.

And now, he constructs a funhouse mirror version of a DJ Khaled posse cut called “Monster” wherein every aspect of the song is funneled into making Nicki Minaj sound as exhilarating as possible. Then, a few days later, he pairs Raekwon with Justin Bieber on a remix of Bieber’s “Runaway Love.” Both songs are very good and full of musical and lyrical details to obsess over, but they also don’t topple over from the conceptual context West stuck on top them–and at this point in West’s career, that’s pretty novel.

“Monster” works, first and foremost, as a posse cut–at least as its understood in 2010—but one that slowly unravels itself until it exists strictly as a platform for the oft-debated (is she great or is she terrible?) Nicki Minaj to really rap her ass off. Kanye’s a genius at this juggling of disparate guests, and it isn’t just that he put Minaj next to Rick Ross and Jay-Z, but that Minaj gets the final third of the song to do her thing, so that she simply can’t be ignored or laughed off.

Then there’s this “Runaway Love” remix, which sounds like a joke song uploaded to the blogs on April Fool’s day (Justin Bieber – “Runaway Love Remix” featuring Kanye West and Raekwon) but is indeed, very, very real. Part of the joy of this song is indeed, that it exists, but that fun would wear off in only a few moments. Kanye’s brilliance here is that he made a song out of joke he made on Twitter, remixing Bieber’s “Runaway Love” the way a rap producer in the 90s would’ve remixed it–by turning it into a new song–and then finding some strange balance between a hard-edged hip-hop track and um, a hard-edged hip-hop track that has a good and proper place for Justin Bieber’s teenage yelp.

It helps that Bieber’s actually a talent. He’s got a really interesting, specific voice that genuinely sounds great, and it’s just fit for remixing (ask Baltimore’s ). On “Runaway Love” Kanye employs the kid’s plaintive chirp the way on one of those numerous classic house remixes: as a strangely isolated thing of perfection in an otherwise jagged soundscape. Also, by surrounding the shards of the original with edgy, straight-rapping, it feels like Biggie on the “Real Love” remix or something: a jarring, odd but effortless fusion of sounds that shouldn’t have much to do with one another but hey, kinda work!

The best thing about “Monster” and “Runaway Love Remix” though, has to do with the fact that neither of these songs have an intended audience. They’re both the “little bit of everything for everybody,” market-researched singles as of late, reduced to absurdity. Every element of “Monster” moves towards Minaj, which will excite a certain fanbase, but utterly baffle a far more significant group of listeners. And really, who is the Bieber remix “for”? Kanye and Raekwon share some fans sure, and West and Bieber wander around on the same increasingly desiccated pop landscape, but the song seems designed to confound listeners from both the Raekwon and Bieber camp and perhaps ideally, expose fans of one to the other, and move every listener out of their comfort zone.

*you can also read this post on Tumblr now, golly!

Written by Brandon

September 6th, 2010 at 7:00 pm