"When I first came to America [from the Caribbean island of Trinidad], I would go in my room and kneel down at the foot of my bed and pray that God would make me rich so I could take care of my mother," Nicki Minaj recently told Rolling Stone. "Because I always felt like if I took care of my mother, my mother wouldn't have to stay with my [abusive] father, and he was the one, at that time, that was bringing us pain."
Now, at age 26, with Rolling Stone having dubbed her the new "Queen of Hip-Hop," Nicki Minaj can say her prayers have been answered—but not necessarily in any sort of a godly way.
Throughout much of her life, people saw Nicki as "just another tough, street-wise, potty mouthed chick" from Queens, N.Y., as Billboard put it. But along the way the singer was also cultivating an appreciation for the dramatic—and taking solace in characters she created for her performance-oriented high school. Eventually she was spotted by Lil Wayne, offered a record contract and made show-stealing appearances on songs by Kanye West and Gucci Mane.
Nicki's debut scored one of the best sales weeks of 2010, with 375,000 fans snatching up Pink Friday its first week. And much of her skyrocketing appeal, it seems, has to do with the distinctive characters she's still fond of creating … not to mention the provocative persona she parades in public.
Nicki realizes how isolated fame has made her on "Save Me." "Here I Am" challenges someone to commit to her ("So do you take me to be who I am/To have and to hold till death do us part?/'Cause if not, it's just best we both part"). Nicki recalls another side of herself that wasn't all about "glitz and glamour, money, fame and power" on "Dear Old Nicki." She coos over the joys of romance on "Your Love." And "Right Thru Me" mentions how a loved one gave her wise guidance ("The good advice I always hated/But looking back it made me greater").
"I'm the Best" proclaims Nicki's position at the top and unleashes a profane blast at critics: "As long as you m‑‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑ers know/I'm the best." On "Roman's Revenge," the disc's roughest, rawest track, Nicki roars, "I'm a c‑‑t" and lashes out at detractors and competitors, especially rival Lil' Kim (according to published speculation): "Well, b‑‑ch, if you ain't s‑‑‑ing, then get off the pot." Guest Eminem joins that rancid rant by rapping, "Every last woman on Earth, I'll kill off/And I still wouldn't f‑‑‑ you, slut." His threats get significantly nastier as he talks about tying up the woman and urinating on her … while filming it.
Continuing her string of profane slapdowns, "Did It on 'Em" brags that Nicki "s‑‑‑ed on" rivals. Urinating on foes and harsh anatomical slang show up on that track as well. Bravado, nonstop partying and an ongoing fondness for f-words saturate other tracks, including those featuring guest contributions from Drake ("Moment 4 Life") and The Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am ("Check It Out").
"Last Chance" wraps things up with Nicki warning listeners that nobody better "f‑‑‑" with her because she's a "Natural Bad A‑‑, NBA/That's my initials."
"On the surface, Nicki Minaj is a cartoon," Billboard magazine opined, "a vivacious, va-va-va-voom 26-year-old girly girl with a fondness for silly voices, hip-hugging Barbie-doll costumes, anime facial expressions and Day-Glo accessories." That description perfectly matches the singer's long-legged, pink fluff, bulging-cleavage, plasticized image she flaunts in every skin-revealing photo in the album's liner notes.
Perhaps ironically—or maybe perplexingly—Nicki expressed some reluctance to Rolling Stone regarding how her career might drag young fans into the dreck of the hip-hop concert scene. "Once I got into the arenas, I felt uncomfortable saying, 'Where my b‑‑ches at?' because people were bringing their 8-year-old daughter. Is the 8-year-old going to say, 'Yeah, Nicki Minaj, I'm a bad b‑‑ch?' So now when I go up there I say, 'Where's my Barbies at?'"
It's too bad such sensitivity didn't spill over into the rest of Nicki Minaj's musically varied but predictably nasty hip-hop debut. And one also has to wonder how, exactly, she thinks she's going to censor all the other vile words and sexually explicit images that permeate Pink Friday when it comes time to perform this unceasingly degrading material.