Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday 2


After about a full year of delays, confusing tweets, and doubts that there was any completed project at all, the sequel to Nicki Minaj’s groundbreaking debut has finally arrived. Minaj’s online presence has been a little tiresome as of late, seemingly afraid to be seen as anything but the undisputed #1 when it comes to her sales numbers or her status amongst the ever-growing contingent of female rappers, and her output has been suffering as a result – both in terms of what does and doesn’t come out when it’s supposed to. Of course, Minaj’s energy can still be second-to-none at times – it’s why she has so many loving imitators – but increasingly desperate attempts to hang onto her hypothetical crown have seen her playing it safer, relying on samples and aiming for TikTok-fuelled smashes. Pink Friday 2 ultimately lands as an overlong and uncharacteristically boring release for the former titan – truly, after the historic run of collaborations she’s given, no guest artist should ever be outshining Minaj on a track.

The project kicks off with the most truly distasteful sample of the bunch – and it’s one that basically just lifts the instrumental from “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” later on. It’s a TikTok-ified, pitched and sped up version of Billie Eilish’s delicate and touching “when the party’s over” that essentially sees it playing the entire original song underneath Minaj’s raps. “Are You Gone Already” is actually Minaj commenting on the passing of her father and how he never got to meet her son, which might have landed with more emotional heft without all of the gimmickry. “Barbie Dangerous” has some of Minaj’s most impressive raps from a technical standpoint, but the beat is highly generic and there’s still a part of her voice and personality that feels like it’s dulled from the days when we first fell in love with the version of her that still shows up on singles like “Super Freaky Girl.” “FTCU” has gone off on TikTok for a little soundbite where some of that energy does come back, but a club-ready Waka Flocka sample feels about as dated as the tired trap loop – it’s telling that the part that’s blown up is one where the beat simplifies and cuts out. Plus, a bar where she goes after Megan Thee Stallion paints her in a truly ugly light. A built-out “Beep Beep” remix with 50 Cent shows up on the deluxe, but in its standard unfinished state, there’s no reason for it to be on the album at all, while “Fallin 4 U” contains these odd bursts of noise – meant to function like synth chords – that legitimately just sound like a big, jumbled fart. It’s as if 10 discordant bass notes were played on top of each other and distorted, and it’s baffling that it’s on a mainstream release.

Outside of another sleepy melodic chorus, the barrage of hi-hat kicks and more uptempo sound on “Let Me Calm Down” plays into the strengths of Minaj’s raps and featured artist J. Cole as well, who delivers the album’s best feature. Honestly, Cole has taken the crown from Minaj as one of the most reliable features in recent years. You wouldn’t expect it from her, but it seems Minaj at least has the sense to not put Chris Brown on her album like some of her contemporaries. Instead, she finds his closest soundalike in the little-known Tate Kobang, guesting overtop of the watery synths of “RNB” alongside a checked-out Lil Wayne and a barely-present Minaj. With just a single brief verse to accompany yet another washed-out sung chorus, it seems that the brief “Pink Birthday” only exists because Minaj needed to fill out the tracklist and freestyled something on the whim of a realization that the album would drop on her own birthday. Drake unceremoniously appears on “Needle,” doing his nasal, mumbly warbles and flipping into a distasteful accent over a vaguely dancehall beat before Minaj drops some of her most robotic, static and boring verses of her life. Amidst all the sludge, “Cowgirl” is a pretty catchy track. Lourdiz’s breathy and angelic chorus burrows its way into your brain, while Minaj slides a little more decisively into the rhythmic pocket of a unique trap beat, bringing her engagingly cartoonish delivery and different voices to the table as well.

Unfortunately, the project then flips right back into “Everybody,” which must be the worst example yet of what TikTok is doing to music. It’s “instant gratification” the song, taking featured artist Lil Uzi Vert’s worst tendencies of being completely frenetic – like on “Just Wanna Rock” – and applying it to a tune with a prominent sample that jumps around to some new disjointed sensory overload every couple seconds. It truly doesn’t feel like you’re listening to music – more of a compilation of sounds. You start to understand just how rushed this project must have been to get released on time when you hear Minaj droning against the rhythms of “Big Difference,” sounding like it doesn’t belong with the beat – it was a surprise to many that she pivoted back to releasing it after delaying it again earlier that week. An echoey, washed-out sample of Lumidee’s “Never Leave You” really distracts from “Red Ruby Da Sleeze,” making it all the more confusing that this track actually landed a little bit with the general public. The chorus sounds like it comes from a different track, the na-na-na-na-na bridge is highly grating, and the verses offer nothing characteristically ear-grabbing. Tapping into her dancehall roots with artists a little more authentic than Drake in the Jamaican-born Skillibeng and Skeng, “Forward From Trini” kicks off the album’s most successful stretch. Shouting out a wide variety of Caribbean islands along the way, it’s nice to hear something a little different on the journey Pink Friday 2 takes us on. It’s easy – and justified – to roll your eyes at the Cyndi Lauper sample on “Pink Friday Girls,” but Minaj sounds like she’s actually having a lot of fun rhyming over this instrumental, and that’s what most of this project has been missing. In that regard, every track here wishes it was “Super Freaky Girl,” which appears here late in the tracklisting.

The energy continues onto “Bahm Bahm,” as Minaj taps back into that carefree confidence and queenly attitude that you’d expect a sequel to her iconic debut to have. Right after, another horrendous sample takes away from “My Life” a lot more than it adds, this time a pitched-up version of the already rhythmically clunky anthem “Heart of Glass.” Future appears on “Nicki Hendrix,” continuing his streak of never delivering on a feature. Nicki matches his energy by snoozing through this track, which somehow becomes the album’s second-longest despite a complete lack of substance. She gets religious on “Blessings,” which features gospel musician Tasha Cobbs Leonard, offering praise to the almighty for her son. Still, the sentiment feels a little out of sync with a beat from BNYX, who dials down his characteristically abrasive sound a little, but not enough. When it first dropped as a single, “Last Time I Saw You” sounded like a boring melodic track. Compared to most of the songs here, however, it sounds a lot more competent in context. Concluding with a bit of a state of the union address, Minaj looks back on the story of her career and asserts herself as the greatest in her lane on closer “Just the Memories.”

There have been quite a few ego-driven artists putting a dent in their legacy over the course of 2023 – and Kanye didn’t even drop when he was supposed to (are we surprised?). Minaj unfortunately adds to the list, especially when titling her latest after an iconic previous album. At this point, if we’re going to get anything good from Minaj again, she’s going to have to seriously adjust her mindset.

Favourite Tracks: Super Freaky Girl, Cowgirl, Bahm Bahm

Least Favourite Track: Everybody

Score: 3/10

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