It’s sad but it’s edifying: whilst one rap pretender, who shalt remain nameless, postpones an entire tour due to “production delays”, Nicki Minaj presses on with her Pinkprint arena shows in the wake of her tour manager’s murder just a month before the premiere date.
She’s said it before, but it bears repeating: Nicki Minaj is the best. And all these bitches is her sons. It’s not egomaniacal delusion. It’s cold, hard proven fact. The Pinkprint Tour is further conclusive evidence.
Support comes from Minaj’s ‘Touchin’ Love’ collaborator, Trey Songz.
Trigga Trey gets the warm kind of reception that most opening acts would donate an organ for. He’s made in the R&B heartthrob mould – all glistening tattooed muscles, a solid voice, and, yes, his vest top comes off whilst trilling on about “swimming in your body” (‘Dive In’). He’s a definite contender for those looking for a new infatuation more relevant than Usher and without the endless moral implications of Chris Brown.
It was a bold move to open The Pinkprint album with three intensely personal slowies, and it’s even bolder for Nicki Minaj to begin tonight’s set with that same trio. ‘All Things Go’ and ‘I Lied’ show off that rap rarity of vulnerability, and add a whole new shade to Minaj’s already established lyric and performance mastery. These emotionally intimate tracks are clearly important to the rapper, as a person and an artist, not a sales-baiting star.
Jessie Ware turns out for a guest appearance to provide the rousing chorus for Nicki’s most effective rap ballad to date,’The Crying Game’. So sublime is the show’s opening that it makes a later set of ballads seem slightly laboured in comparison. ‘Pills N Potions’, ‘Save Me’ and ‘Grand Piano’ are all excellent fare but the hammy ‘Marilyn Monroe’ is overkill.
The flipside to all this is the fiery as fuck, “abusive by nature not, cause I hate ya” Nicki that everyone is more accustomed to. And she holds nothing back. ‘Moment 4 Life’ is the first true “moment” of the night and typifies the life-positive attitude Nicki effuses.
For the easily distracted the girl-power-on-steroids strength Minaj preaches, embodies and encourages can get lost in translation, what with the cartoonish silhouette and unapologetic delivery. But if womankind could muster up the balls Nicki has when spitting the lyrics of a single line from ‘Lookin’ Ass’, ‘Did It On ‘Em’ or ‘Beez In The Trap’, feminism would be an open and shut case. The way that the crowd hollers en masse the opening lines from ‘Only’ (“I never fucked Wayne, I never fucked Drake/On my life, man, fuck’s sake”) implies that progress is already in motion.
Whilst it’s worth noting that Nicki Minaj doesn’t patronise her audience to do anything as vacant as scream or clap or whatever, and instead tells us all to come back with new accomplishments the next time she plays London, there is plenty of playfulness during the 27 song set too.
Her choreography, for example, is better than ever; slick and assertive, she’s playing (and beating) pop’s biggest stars at their own game. Now the face of Cavalli and being styled by Rushka Bergman, Minaj’s personal style is chicer than ever, but she still keeps her look ultra risqué on stage with various bejewelled undergarments layered with mesh and lace body stockings. Huge hits like ‘Anaconda’, ‘Super Bass’ and ‘Starships’ are tireless crowd-pleasers. And whilst the RedOne-moulded likes of ‘Whip It’ and ‘Pound The Alarm’ are banger fodder, Minaj’s latest party anthem, ‘The Night Is Still Young’, shows her stepping up her pop credentials once again.
The Pinkprint Tour is a concentrated distillation of everything that makes Nicki Minaj the all-conquering queen of all she sees. She’s a multi-faceted force for good. Any girl idolising a female music star other than Minaj is doing both herself and Nicki a grave disservice.
Word: Kate Allen