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From Queens to Queen: Nicki Minaj, 'Pink Friday'

Hailing from Queens, where she attended the famous LaGuardia High School, Minaj has been on the rise for a few years now, self-releasing outrageous mixtapes and recording a few stunning cameos for West, Usher and Trey Songz. Hers has been a slow yet ambitious strategy, one that’s backfired for other female emcees (remember Kid Sister?), but has so far paid big dividends for Minaj.

After her first single, “Massive Attack,” flopped, she rebounded with “Your Love,” making her the first female to top the rap singles chart in seven long years. Her debut full-length, “Pink Friday,” has emerged as one of the most anticipated releases of the fall, dwarfing new albums by Cee Lo and Rihanna. Only Kanye himself has a higher profile.

“Pink Friday” proves to be a highly autobiographical album, recounting Minaj’s rise from Red Lobster waitress to bad-girl queen of hip-hop. The deliriously scatological “Did It On ‘Em” reveals a natural talent for hyperbole, wordplay and humor, and she and Eminem have a blast trying to one-up each other on “Roman’s Revenge.” But, lest you think this all came easy, she spits a few too many platitudes on “Moment 4 Life” and “Fly” about hard work, girl power and self-motivation, making sure you know how diligently she’s toiled to reach this point in her career.

“Pink Friday” is obviously the result of years of hard work, but that’s the quintessential hip-hop storyline, one that Minaj — or at least one of her alter egos — was supposed to rewrite. What’s most unusual (and gently disappointing) about “Pink Friday” is that it’s never as subversive or as inspiring as you might expect, as if Minaj studiously rounded off her edges for a larger audience. It’s by no means a bad album, just not up to the standards of her mixtapes and cameos.

Written by Express contributor Stephen M. Deusner
Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images