Ebony Magazine did a six page spread on woman of the week Nicki Minaj that includes Derek Blanks photos of the rapper as a 50-foot-woman, towering over her surroundings. It’s a fitting metaphor, but not all the critics have been so kind to Nick.
The New York Times ran a critical review today comparing Minaj to Ke$ha and we’re guessing some people are not going to be too happy about it. Check out a few excerpts below:
At this time last year Nicki Minaj had established herself as the most important new female voice in hip-hop since Missy Elliott and was on her way to becoming one of the most ubiquitous artists in pop, thanks to a series of scene-stealing collaborations, high on character, technique and energy. For more than a year now, she has been a rejoinder to an endless stream of lovermen, narcissists, tough guys and lyrical monsters, besting them all, from Trey Songz to Kanye West.
So it’s odd that upon the release of her proper debut album, “Pink Friday” (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal), she has been bested in some ways by Kesha, who at this time last year was just beginning to figure out how to rap. Kesha released “Cannibal” (Kemosabe/RCA) this week, an EP that continues her move away from pop singer headlong into the sort of bubblegum-snapping slick talk that she has all but cornered the market on. Compared to her debut, “Animal,” which was released in January, “Cannibal” is riskier, narrower and more successful.
NYTimes writer Jon Caramanica is pretty hard on Pink Friday, claiming the project falls short of our expectations of Nicki:
Gone is much of the attitude and exuberance of her guest appearances, replaced with what can only be described as a sense of purpose, something she has never before been burdened by.
Too often — “Fly,” “Save Me,” “Here I Am” — she turns maudlin, as if in search of an Oprah couch. Worse, these songs don’t take advantage of her natural gifts as a vocalist: there’s no element of surprise, no unusual vocal tics, no sense of theater, only melodrama.
He does heap some praise on “Roman’s Revenge,” noting:
These are the expectation-bending rhymes that have made Nicki Minaj the most dangerous rapper to share a song with, and here, even Eminem sounds hungry, wanting to keep up. But that attitude is too scarce on this album, as if now, no longer having to make an impression loudly, she’s unsure of what to say, and how to say it.
Then begins the comparisons between Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha… At first it seems that Nicki is at an advantage,
“Still, even at her dullest, Nicki Minaj is more technically gifted, more thoughtful and more radical than Kesha,”
But mid-sentence he twists the knife by continuing:
which makes it somewhat maddening that, with “Cannibal,” Kesha threatens to become the most influential female rapper of the day, or at least the most popular.
We’ve never been among the believers in Ke$ha as a “rapper” but Caramanica makes the argument she is one:
Pretending Kesha isn’t a rapper is no longer feasible. She’s primarily singing on only two songs here, “The Harold Song” and “C U Next Tuesday.” In the past she was accused of appropriating the style of the white-girl hipster-rap curio Uffie, but here, on songs like “Carnival” and “Crazy Beautiful Life,” she might be channeling Kid Sister, or more to the point, they’re both channeling L’Trimm, all sneering saucy talk.
Nevertheless, Kesha’s album has the sound of an artist loosening up to fully inhabit a new creative space, while Nicki Minaj’s reflects the pressure — self-imposed or otherwise — associated with the weight of expectation and moral authority. And while Nicki Minaj frets, Kesha feels more unbound then ever, free to do stupid things, smartly.
Both Nicki and Ke$ha worked with Atlanta producer Bangladesh (Nicki on “Did It On’em,” Ke$ha on “Sleazy”) so the next comparison focuses on those efforts, specifically in their different takes on gender roles. Nicki also seems to come out on top in this battle, with Caramanica conceding “Kesha has lower aims, and even less idea of how to achieve them,” and “For her, gender roles are fixed. Her transgressions aren’t subversive, just familiar frat humor coming from a woman’s mouth.”
Finally Caramanica concludes:
Nicki Minaj’s and Kesha’s audiences couldn’t be more different. Same goes for their styles. That there’s overlap between the two turns out to be the biggest surprise. There’s one outright Kesha-like song on Nicki Minaj’s album: “Check It Out,” produced by will.i.am, on which her vocals are run through a tinny Auto-Tune-like effect. “Competition/Why, yes/I would love some,” she says. Of course she has none in hip-hop — maybe she should be looking elsewhere anyhow.
The closing sentence actually does seem fitting. While the public has largely been focused on competition between Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim — Nicki’s audience and her willingness to sing and try a more mainstream/pop approach makes for a good argument for a Ke$ha rivalry.
What do you think? Is Ke$ha any competition for Nicki Minaj?