In the arena of rap, there isn’t much of a natural gender advantage – you could argue a natural baritone is an advantage, but when you add it up, Nicki Minaj can play with the big boys. Nicki has come a long way. Gone are the Lil Kim comparisons and flash in the pan claims. The Pinkprint further solidifies her position in the rap pantheon.

It’s easy to say this is Nicki’s strongest release. It’s not that it’s exceptionally better than The Pink Fridays; it just feels like Nicki understands her niche better. The confessional vibe of “All Things Go”, the simplistic, but infectious groove of “I Lied”, or the natural cinematic feel of “The Crying Game” – all these tracks sound like formulaic Minaj, but are so well executed you can’t help, but sing along. These moments are when Nicki is strongest.

She gets hard on “Shaghai”, emotional on “Pills and Potions” and cocky on the awesome “Feeling Myself”. It’s a great portrait of an artist, which at one point, seemed like she had to be something else to maintain interest in her music.

Then there are the moments that feel stereotypical. For example “Only” featuring Drake, Wayne and Breezy. It’s probably one of the corniest songs of the year. On it, Minaj had the nerve to spit “I don’t duck nobody but tape,” which she followed up by saying, “That was a setup for a punch line on duct tape.” Fun? Sure. Lazy? Absolutely. Much of the features on the album seem included for inclusion sake. “Get On Your Knees” featuring Ariana Grande is cookie cutter and so is “Bed of Lies”, but like usual, Skylar Grey can be blamed for its mediocrity.

That aside, Jeremih on “Favorite” works perfectly. Nicki loosens up the flow just enough to keep the brass blaring beat bouncy. Same with “Trini Dem Girls”, which blends all of Nicki’s influences into an interesting mash up of reggae, rap and pop. She gets hard on “Shaghai”, emotional on “Pills and Potions” and cocky on the awesome “Feeling Myself”. It’s a great portrait of an artist, which at one point, seemed like she had to be something else to maintain interest in her music.

When Nicki first ditched the pink locks for good old Maraj black it was a sign that something was up. While it looked like a return to Sucka Free Nicki, The Pinkprint is an evolution. It is a blending of the ultra pop stylings of something like “Starships” and the signature swag of something like “Set it Off” – another solid long player for one of the best in the game.

@MaajinnBluu