I’m sure it’s probably obvious from my musical choices that while I keep an open mind about a lot of things, I don’t listen to rap albums generally. Nicki is such an odd character though, just as other blockbusting females like Missy and Left-Eye are/were. So I thought I’d give this album a shot and see where it got me.
It took a little while to get into, but I think I found my level with it. I’ve been having an angry week too, so the huge volume of swears did help defuse my tension. She’s a really intriguing performer, I wonder where she can go from the technicolour wig parade of this campaign. I’d be surprised if we don’t see some more tracks with (or at least trying to recapture) the same commercial appeal of Super Bass.
08 I’m the best – Well we might as well start as we mean to go on, with Nicki declaring herself the champion and bragging to her critics, something she does end up doing a LOT. It’s a spirited intro, light and fizzy upbeat production and an altogether more positive sound than she’ll come out with later. She does have some amazing turns of phrase though.
09 Roman’s Revenge – What a track … some really unsettling basslines and some maximum ferocity sparring with the world in general. WTF is that dungeon dragon business about? I’ve never been a big Eminem fan, but he’s pulling no punches here, this is NOT CHILD SUITABLE. God I hope I never put my iPod on shuffle at a family event. Swears aplenty, but this just totally works. I don’t know how this could ever see the light of day as a single though, without being totally filleted by the censors. What the hell is her English accent like? Amazing… Rooooman, Roman!
08 Did it on ’em – Mucky girl! Now this is the sort of thing I imagine rap albums being like all the time, but it has really grown on me. It’s totally obnoxious, that snarky synth-riff, her lazy vocals about shitting on people, but I like it. That hysterically shrieking guy in the background makes this too, my white-bread sensibilities are SHOCKED!
06 Right thru me – Back to a lighter sound now, but it doesn’t quite have the hook for me. It doesn’t really outstay its welcome but there’s not much grabbing me. It’s an acceptable bit of filler, and the chorus is pleasant enough, but it’s not a song I remember so well after the opening trio.
09 Fly – Rihanna lends her vocals to the undemanding chorus of a track that has really grown on me. After loving Super Bass I was a little disappointed to see the tempo slowing down, but those gentle synthy bits on the bridge and chorus really give a lovely feel to the song. Rihanna could easily be a show-stealer but Nicki’s rap bridges are my favourite parts, and the choice as a single makes sense now I’ve got used to it.
07 Save me – I wish that trip-hoppy bassline at the start was more present on here, but the replacement downtempo beats work just as well. It fits well immediately after Fly too, even though it doesn’t sit well in its shadow. Nice enough, and more memorable than Right Thru Me, but not much of a highlight.
07 Moment 4 Life – Drake joins the party now, I don’t really know much about him apart from his guest on Rihanna’s track. I think the bit that lets this track down is the flat-as-a-pancake chorus, just such a boring hook, the verses are much better. That twinkly riff throughout is a good base for the song, it just needs more of a chorus. Drake just ends up as a generic guest rapper, he’s decent enough but doesn’t really add anything.
08 Check it out – I think it was the video as much as anything that got my attention here, as well as the obvious Buggles sample. Will.i.am has done a lot of good but he’s a bit much of a muchness now with all his guest spots, just like Wyclef Jean was 10 years ago. Anyway, it’s a fun track, this album was getting a bit serious, and mental old Nicki needed another airing. OK the chorus really doesn’t have anything to it, but in contrast to Moment 4 Life, there is a lot more energy to it.
06 Blazin – Kanye’s turn on guest vocals, never been a big fan of his, overrated in my opinion from what I’ve heard. Opening 100mph rap is fun, but this doesn’t really do it for me either. I’m not sure what’s really deciding this for me, though her habit of just delivering a line and then a single word just feels lazy, she’s done it a few time already. Kanye’s guest spot sounds pretty much exactly how you’d imagine (i.e. same old), despite the bombastic production.
06 Here I am – A bit more of a rock feel to it, and dramatic piano samples follow through the verses. The chorus again doesn’t deliver much of a punch, I can barely make out her words. It just sort of relies on the production too much, I’m not getting this.
07 Dear old Nicki – Back to an upbeat track, no guest spots either. I guess this is about her old self, and trying to keep in touch with her roots or something. At least it makes a change from the grandstanding lyrics from earlier tracks. It’s nice enough, but just sort of glides along without much fuss. God, I’m never satisfied, am I?
08 Your love – The first single I think I saw from this, with that amazing (and unexpected) Annie Lennox sample. Again there’s a lot of dependency on the sample, but the rapping has a nice tone to it, gentle and tuneful (mostly). There’s even a discernible bridge and chorus, I didn’t think she had it in her! Well it didn’t really happen as a single, but I liked the video and this all comes together well.
07 Last Chance – Randomly even Natasha Bedingfield gets a look in with a random cameo on backing shouty vocals. Nice that she’s still in work though, even if it is on this really fillery track. Nice enough as a summery track, but there’s just something missing from it, not sure what. Natasha is just YELLING to get heard over the production here, isn’t she? It’s ALRIGHT.
10 Super Bass – I think I just tacked this onto the end of my copy of this album, it doesn’t seem to appear on the standard issue, madness! Anyway an amazing track, dripping with summer sunshine, the most commercial thing on here by a mile. Possibly even the most radio-friendly rap record for a good few years. That clinking icy bassline running throughout, the synthy undercurrents, it all comes together. Her rapping fits it all perfectly, it just all works beautifully. That chorus really is a stone cold classic, and should cement her emergence as a mainstream artist in places where there isn’t such a huge market for an artist like Nicki. Nothing like going out on a high is there?
Keepers for the iPod: Roman’s Revenge, Did it on ’em, Fly, Check it out, Your love, Super Bass