BAR Kanye West, Nicki Minaj is the most divisive figure in hip-hop right now, even if she’s not at Glasto headline status just yet. Minaj is another rapper who annoys and thrills the rap scene in equal measure – and like Kanye she can just as easily splash all over the Daily Mail as the pages of The source or XXL. Nicki flusters the kind the people who complain to watchdogs about soaps being too raunchy, with her latest caper of mutual gropage with a female fan on stage in Germany this week a new one for the ‘controversies’ panel in her next magazine profile.
But beyond her F-bombs at the MTV awards, her video for Only getting flak for its alleged Nazi-inspired imagery, and the squillion-viewed jungle twerking video for Anaconda, Minaj is a seriously gifted rapper who often lets her pink wigs and troupe of alter-egos get in the way of the real story.
From 2007-2009 her three mixtapes Playtime is Over, Sucka Free and Beam Me Up Scotty showcased a fully-formed MC who could go toe-to-toe with Gucci Mane and Lil’ Wayne. She would flit between characters often mid-verse, veering between Jamaican patois, British aristocracy, council estate and NYC back alley. This ventriloquism act landed her a spot on Kanye West’s album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, pulling the rug from under Rick Ross, Yeezy and Jay Z with her feral verse on Monster.
The biggest emerging voice in hip-hop then threw a curveball with her 2010 debut album Pink Friday – doing away with rapping after a few tracks, leaving an album of shiny pop and R&B that had the rap hardcore baffled, while securing a new top 40 teen fanbase with singles like Check It Out and See Thru Me.
Nicki’s 2012 follow-up Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is the source of her biggest rap beef – not with any fellow artist but hip-hop broadcaster Peter Rosenberg of station Hot 97. Rosenberg’s onstage diss of the cheesy EDM hit Starships at the Hot 97 Summer Jam led to Nicki pulling out of the show and igniting a slagging match that went on for a few seasons. Starships, along with a few other pop and EDM fillers stole most of the press for Roman Reloaded, but the album scores plenty of futurist hip-hop home runs like Come on a Cone, Beez in the Trap and I Am Your Leader.
And after alter-egos like Nicki Lewinsky, Roman Zolanski, the Female Weezy and the Harajuku Barbie, her latest album the Pinkprint is billed as the first from the heart of Onika Maraj, the kid from Jamaica who moved to Queens aged five and made a career out of u-turns and pop masquerade. The Pinkprint is a self-portrait that gets back on point to mixtape Nicki, in take no prisoners hip-hop delivery at least, while fleshing out the surreal wordplay and smut with introspective takes on failed relationships, guilt, bereavement and her place within the culture.
So which Nicki will turn up at Dublin and Belfast? No matter if it’s novelty vamp, street warrior, militant rapper or cheesy chart raver, there’s no doubt we’ll be reading about it everywhere the next day, as Ms Minaj is still a bright spark in a pop scene that feeds on talking points.
ENCORE!!! presents MADE OF STONE, Sugar Club, Dublin, Tonight
Promoters Encore!!! Are really onto a winner here – their previous two screenings of Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and Prince’s Purple Rain were sellouts, and this showing of Shane Meadows’ Stone Roses documentary should be a full house.
Don’t expect a triumphant joyous Talking Heads affair or the high camp pop faftbess of Prince – Made of Stone Is an affectionate portrait of the Roses’s comeback, but doesn’t whitewash over the inevitable problems.
Anyone who was at the Phoenix Park gig will vouch for the patchiness – moments of transcendence mixed with a dead horse air that all the nostalgia in the world couldn’t mask. Still, you’ll be able to get your baggy, acid house and madchester kicks as DJs Johnny Moy, Scope, DJ Mek Aiden Kelly and Pete Dancer take the after-party till late.
NO SPILL BLOOD, Workmans Club, Dublin, tomorrow
Dublin-based act No Spill Blood have just released the most visceral and heavy Irish album of the year so far – and they’re launching the thing in Dublin tomorrow. Featuring members of Adebisi Shank, Elk and Magic Pockets, the guitarless trio channel the ferocity of full-throttle ministry and Death From Above 1979, with Swans-like eruptions and cosmic sci-fi synths.
Released on Sargeant House, the title Heavy Electricity could double up as a two-word definition of the album’s sound, and tracks like Sweet Beans and the Mastodon-meets-Doctor Who steamroll of Back to the Earth will stop you in your tracks.
We caught No Spill Blood in Whelan’s a few months ago and they were the equal of black metal shoegazers Deafheaven, so expect no less tomorrow.
THE HANDSOME FAMILY, Whelan’s, Dublin, tonight
The Handsome Family’s obsession with murder ballads began on their first album in 1995, the same year Nick Cave claimed the phrase for himself for his Murder Ballads LP.
But where Cave indulged his preacher man persona with high drama and Fire & brimstone, husband and wife Brett and Rennie Sparks drew on America’s underbelly of murder, the occult and urban myth, shoving their tales into the darkest corners of Americana, country and twisted blues.
Over the course of their 10 albums you’re never too far away from spilled blood, flies, double-crosses or dank motels, so they were the obvious choice to soundtrack the first series of True Detective.
It’s not all camp fireside horror tales though. Like Cave, there’s a wry with underpinning it all, and this Whelan’s show
DERRICK MAY, Twisted Pepper, Dublin, tonight
DERRICK May is credited with the most famous description of Detroit techno music, as being “a complete mistake, like George Clinton and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator with only a sequencer to keep them company”.
Along with Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins, May completes the hallowed ‘Belleville Three’, three innovators who sequenced the DNA of modern techno in the 80s.
Whereas Atkins explored the man-machine interface in Kraftwerk’s wake with his electro project Model 500, and Saunderson scored chart hits as Inner City, May took ‘hi-tech soul’ to the clubs, with an austere and cerebral edge over the hedonism of acid house.
With his role as techno originator, spokesman and Innovator undimmed, his DJ sets are still a revelation, mixing soulful techno, house and the inevitable drop of his own Strings of Life – still up there as maybe the most revered techno record of them all.
Original version in Irish Daily Star