Review Summary: It's a bird, it's a plane, HOLY CRAP IT'S A FEMALE RAPPER THAT ISN'T TERRIBLE!
The rap game has always been a black man’s game, with the ‘n-word’ being repeated over and over throughout many songs. Despite this, there are a few exceptions to this rule. One being Eminem, a highly successful white rapper who is even seen as a hip-hop icon. And while rap is widely accepted amongst the urban African-American community, women are (more than often) not accepted in the genre of hip-hop. Quasi-successful female artists like Trina, Missy Elliot, and Lil Kim propagate the widely believed stereotype that female rappers talk about
: how great they are, how they’re a ‘boss’, do drugs, have money, and are willing to have sex all the while having little-to-no skills as musicians, let alone rappers. But with the coming of 2009, a new female rapper shatters the assumption that previously resounded true. Nicki Minaj, signed to Young Money, is turning heads with not only her good looks, but her skills as a RAPPER.
Nicki Minaj’s style can best be described as pre-Tha Carter III Lil Wayne, she is consistently solid lyrically, occasionally flashing greatness – “Tell ‘em this is church, tell ‘em that I am the deacon/Tell em I am black Chinese and butter pecan” – while still exhibiting great, at times rapid, flow. Not to mention she is plagued by an annoying voice that can best be described as whiny, scratchy, and (of course) female. And while Lil Wayne may have influenced Nicki the most, she collaborates with trap rapper Gucci Mane more, which is fitting because this album is representative of those two influences. There are parts of the album which represent the autotune, pop style of rap Lil Wayne cultures in the studio and other parts that are indicative of a Gucci Mane influence as they are the trap raps with good punchlines. She collaborates with each two times and three times, respectively, on this mixtape and the collaborations with Wayne fail while the Gucci Mane collaborations succeed. The two sides of Nicki embody the album as a whole. The Lil Wayne influenced side of the album is just poor female rap, and the Gucci Mane influenced side of the album is really good.
Nicki doesn’t necessarily differentiate from what most female rappers rhyme about, as evidenced in songs like Shopaholic, but at least she does it in an entertaining fashion. Rather than simply telling us that she’s bossy and that her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, she actually makes a funny rhyme in saying things like that. Yea she does drugs, “I stay around white, like a Nazi,” yea she has lots of money “You know I pop, pop, pop like a pistol/And you know I keep my wrist lookin’ like a disco,” and yea she has lots of sex “Yea I’m a big deal/And I give more head than a pig tail.” But she manages to relay this information to us in a way is pleasing to the ear, and leaves the listener happy, rather than mumbling “okay…” And while the majority of time she is discussing the normal topics of a female hip-hop artist, sometimes she switches it up and raps about meaningful things. The soulful and meaningful approach on the R&B/Soul tracks Envy, Can Anybody Hear Me, and Still I Rise are a cooling compliment to her usually energetic, rapid fire raps. Nicki Minaj has eliminated the flaw that most female rappers possess and added a refreshing new aspect to womens’ rap.
In addition to being skilled as a musician, the beats to accompany Nicki more often than not fit her flow and personality. The up-tempo, tropical instrumental fits on Kill Da DJ well with her half singing/half rapping and the fast paced, freestyle beat Itty Bitty Piggy showcased her flowing abilities nicely. The push-the-pace, clap beats are the ones she handles best, displaying a sick, free-as-a-bird flow while delivering some slick lyrics. Nicki has the ability to slow it down or speed it up, depending on the instrumentals. But, she starts to become detrimented when guests appear on her songs. She usually adapts well, as she is pretty versatile, and manages to stay on her feet and do well amongst guests – (Easy, Slumber Party, Five O) – but some guests hold her back and manage to cover up the fact that she’s a good artist. She hands down shames Drake on the Best I Ever Had Remix, and Lil Wayne on Go Hard and I Get Crazy. But she is dragged down by terrible performances from some less-than-stellar co-stars.
And while Nicki Minaj is pretty gifted as a rapper, this mixtape most definitely has its flaws. Along with the flaws that usually accompany mixtapes she has a few other mistakes that prevent this album from reaching a higher level; her attempts at pop succeed, and thus fail; and her voice is at best, slightly annoying and at worst, extremely unbearable. So, I will not tout Beam Me Up, Scotty as a perfect effort, or even a great one, it’s a groundbreaking alternative to the usually barren and boring garbage passed off as rap that most female artists so rudely present to the masses. Nicki Minaj manages to produce quite a few good songs throughout the mixtape, but seems confused as to which road she should take. She has quite a lot of potential and has a bright future as a rapper, and let’s hope she does not sully it by taking the path of her boss, Lil Wayne.