Last night I had a very deep, intoxicated discussion about rapper cartoon character Nicki Minaj and her potential as a mainstream artist. She surfaced on late night TV and confirmed my suspicions; in fact, there is a chance that the discussion was sparked from a hazy watching of this performance (but I digress). It seems that Minaj is more spectacle than substance, but some people like that. What does it mean?
I first noticed Minaj when her verse on Kanye's "Monster" was a pretty solid "meh" towards the end. The screamy, unruly grace notes on Minaj's delivery are better labeled as gimmicks than prodigious choices. While rappers like Wayne use an odd timbre to their advantage, i.e. branding and reconigition, Minaj seems like a more gimmicky Janelle Monae, with less pipes and more fluff. She's got that thematic "comic book" thing going on (similar to Monae's Android concept), and she's got Young Money behind her (like Monae has Big Boi). Unlike Monae (who is mostly a singer), Minaj is working with a pretty ominous glass ceiling in the famous rapper department. You don't need many hands to count the successful female rappers on the market today. I've got to hand it to her, in a notoriously difficult field, she is holding her own.
Regardless, observe her performance with Will.i.am from last night.
"Check It Out":
Ugh, Will.i.am not a fan. To each their own, but those side-steps when Will comes in make me want to burn down a playground. Do the kids really like this? Because if so, go to your room.
We'll see if she's got the true chops or not when her debut drops. Pink Friday is out 11/23 via Young Money, Cash Money Records and Universal Motown. -joe puglisi