Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pinkprint’ Turns Five

Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pinkprint’ Turns Five

It’s been five years since Nicki Minaj delivered her multi-Platinum-certified third studio album, The Pinkprint, a blend of raw sexuality, theatricality and female empowerment that has since redefined the template for women in hip-hop.

On “Feeling Myself,” featuring pop-culture queen Beyoncé, Nicki brazenly tells the world she switched flows four times on the same track; it’s a moment wherein the superstar entrenches herself as an icon. A host of other brilliant women — including hitmaker Ester Dean, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Skylar Grey and Jessie Ware — join her as collaborators throughout The Pinkprint.

Nicki openly highlights her icon status on “Truffle Butter,” a bonus track that became an album single and features Drake and Lil Wayne. “Man, this a 65 million single sold,” she raps. “I ain’t gotta compete with a single soul/I’m good with the ballpoint game, finger roll.”

The Pinkprint is responsible for several of Nicki’s greatest hits, “Anaconda” and “Pills N Potions” among them, but the rapper born Onika Tanya Maraj has always been greater than the sum of her biggest records and most fruitful collaborations. Dig deeper and you’ll find brave reflections like “All Things Go,” a Pinkprint standout on which Nicki opens up about having an abortion as a teenager, along with other personal narratives.

In the wake of The Pinkprint, the music industry wholesale embraced a diverse cadre of women rappers and replicated Nicki’s success while underscoring these new artists’ individual greatness. Had Nicki not broken through, does Lizzo earn eight Grammy nominations? Does Megan Thee Stallion trademark #HotGirlSummer? The list goes on.

Both the caustic edge of Nicki’s approach and her softer side (“All Things Go,” “Buy a Heart,” “Grand Piano”) have been exhilarating and affecting for aspiring rappers. But it’s the duality at play in her persona that has become the most profound influence on younger women artists. She’s argued how it’s essential to be a multifaceted woman, able to rap about triumph and tragedy, lustful romance and self-doubt. The Pinkprint shifted the paradigm.

Social media might tell you otherwise, but Nicki is and always has been an inspiration and ally rather than a firebrand. To offer just two examples: Nicki has joined forces with Megan Thee Stallion (the Billboard Rhythmic chart No. 1 “Hot Girl Summer”), and she openly congratulated Lizzo when her Grammy-nominated single “Truth Hurts” hit the top of the charts. “You are so extremely multi-talented,” Nicki wrote on Twitter. Lizzo replied, “THANK U, QUEEN.” After Nicki Minaj reached the zenith of pop acclaim, women with superstar designs had the ability to eclipse the current standards of success established by any rapper — male or female — who preceded them.

On December 15, 2014, when Nicki released The Pinkprint, she ruled the world. Ever since, her stamp on the industry — to evoke the album’s cover — has been indelible. In violating rap’s most notorious conventions, Nicki advanced and evolved her style and the genre’s norms into the postmodern era. The Pinkprint is full of memorable tunes, but it also showcases an artist willing to buck trends to build a legacy.

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