Words by: Ernest Baker
“Real hip-hop” is so fucking boring. It’s the musical equivalent of people who don’t eat the crust of pizza or only put ketchup and mustard on burgers. Nicki Minaj’s new song, “Pills N Potions,” the first single from her upcoming third album, The Pink Print, has been out for less than a day and you can already feel the mounting frustration from rap purists who’ve been caught off-guard by her choice to take an overtly pop approach to her music, yet again. The feigned shock is amplified by the fact that Nicki has been talking of a return to more traditional hip-hop in recent interviews, and has been almost exclusively rapping on all of the remixes and teaser tracks that she’s released in the build-up to this moment.
Last year, I wrote about why Nicki Minaj should never apologize for going pop, and I’m glad that she just trolled the fuck out of everyone who expected some boom bap bullshit from her on this album. That’s never who Nicki has been as an artist and I’m not sure why people get shit mixed up like that’s the case. I mean, Beam Me Up Scotty, Nicki’s breakout mixtape that critics always revert to as a citation for the argument that Nicki Minaj used to be such a RAPPER has her singing and harmonizing all over it. The best song on her debut, Pink Friday, is “Save Me” and that doesn’t have ANY rapping on it. And we all know the direction she took with her sophomore record, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which was Katy Perry-level in its pop pandering.
Old, male, rap critics who want to corner Nicki and box her into some tired ass, trite hip-hop category disgust me. “Starships” is one of the greatest songs she’s ever done and when she does rap, it puts most motherfuckers spitting to shame. But Nicki does more than spit. She will always be hip-hop but it’s useless for her to hold onto this contrived notion of that means in order to appease such a minor, unimportant sect of listeners. This woman went to performing arts school. She just had a role in what was the number one movie in America. Why in the fuck would she make some 1994-sounding ass rap music? She’s never been that type of artist and she never will be. Thank God. There’s more to life than that.
And if Nicki rapping is the only type of shit you want to hear from her, there are options. There’s “Boss Ass Bitch.” There’s “Lookin’ Ass Nigga.” There’s “Chiraq.” There’s her verses on “Danny Glover,” and “Senile,” and “Dope Dealer,” and “I B On Dat,” and “Freaks,” and “I’m Out,” and “Love More,” and “Clappers,” and “Get Like Me,” and “Tapout,” and “My Nigga.” She’s been rapping a fuck ton over the past year. She’ll rap plenty on The Pink Print and she raps on “Pills N Potions.” The discussion should be about whether you like the song or not, not about whether or not she’s fitting into a predetermined niche that you feel like she has to adhere to as a rapper.
I like “Pills N Potions” a lot. It’s not groundbreaking. It’s not lifechanging. I wish that it was, but I’m certain that she will have records that are on the album, and I’m cool with her doing whatever the fuck she wants to do. It’s in line with the type of music she’s been making for her entire career and most of that shit has been pretty good. It’s also real and vulnerable and honest. Like she said, it sounds like “betrayal.” It’s something that people can relate to.And it’s probably cathartic for her. If you don’t like the song, don’t listen to it. But Nicki can express herself however she chooses, and as long as it’s not utter trash, I’m here for it.