The Pinkprint was the album that saw Nicki Minaj get serious. After making a name for herself with a series of explosive mixtapes that showcased her incredible rapping skills, her 2010 debut album, Pink Friday, and its 2012 follow-up, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, saw her inhabit a series of wildly entertaining personas. Their Technicolor melding of pop and rap sold millions of copies as they turned Minaj into a household name.
If the entertainingly outlandish, booty-worshipping “Anaconda,” released four months in advance of The Pinkprint (which was unleashed on December 15, 2014), suggested that a novelty-heavy album would follow, then The Pinkprints’s confessional opener, “All Things Go,” immediately put that idea to bed. Minaj had never sounded more sober or serious as she recalled losing her cousin to a murder in 2011 (an event she partially blamed herself for) and referenced an abortion she’d had at the age of 16. The somber pair that followed, “I Lied” and “The Crying Game” (the latter featuring Jessie Ware), addressed failed relationships and feelings of exposure at the thought of possible new ones.
While these deeply personal songs revealed a new, more vulnerable side to Nicki Minaj, elsewhere the album focused sharply on female strength. “Get On Your Knees,” a sassy Dr. Luke-produced R&B collaboration with Ariana Grande, finds the pair preaching bedroom dominance: “You gotta beg for it, beg for it… Get on your knees, get on your knees.” Beyoncé then joins a now-fully re-energized Minaj for the street-tough hip-hop bragging of “Feeling Myself.”
More hard-as-nails hip-hop is mined on “Only,” with Minaj asserting her superiority alongside some sterling guest performances from Lil Wayne, Drake, and Chris Brown, while “Four Door Aventador” finds the versatile rapper paying stylistic homage to The Notorious BIG over a steely Parker Ighile production.
Alongside the aforementioned “Anaconda,” pop perfection lies in “Trini Dem Girls,” a LunchMoney Lewis-assisted dancefloor banger which celebrates Minaj’s Trinidadian heritage. Skylar Grey assists on the anthemic “Bed Of Lies” while lead single, “Pills N Potions,” is a triumphantly positivist ballad.
Don’t skimp on the deluxe editions of the album, which houses some of The Pinkprint’s strongest, most vital cuts. “Shanghai” is one of the hardest-hitting songs of Minaj’s career, a steely trap production providing the base for a succession of fiercely brilliant bars. “Truffle Butter” finds the inspired rapper once again trading memorable verses with Drake and Lil Wayne over a sublime Nineteen85 beat, while “Mona Lisa” is Auto-Tuned head-nodding hip-hop at its best.
The breakaway success of “Anaconda” (her biggest hit to that point, its video breaking 24-hour streaming records) ensured The Pinkprint was another mammoth success for Minaj, debuting at No. 2 in the Billboard 200. It was a hit with critics, too, who were impressed with Minaj’s more personal lyrical direction, ensuring that The Pinkprint truly made its mark.