Kanye West’s The College Dropout vs. Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are two of the biggest, most versatile Hip-Hop stars of the 2000s. Where their careers began, in terms of albums, is very telling. Kanye West’s The College Dropout injected musicality into message-driven Rap. Kanye bridged together the friends and influences he’d made maneuvering the underground, as well as during his fixture post at Jay Z’s Baseline Studios. In making Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj embraced a sound intended to orbit the Pop charts, but packed her lyrical bag of tricks. As a #1 charting act, Nicki Minaj was a cultural tour de force who still rapped like a “monster,” with a delivery that seamlessly never stopped moving. Both platinum albums, these debut works set the table for lasting, top tier careers. Which LP is better? (Click one then click “vote”).
The College Dropout by Kanye West
Kanye West hit the 2000s running at a breakneck speed. The Chicago, Illinois producer made hits for Jay Z, Beanie Sigel, and Talib Kweli. However, he wanted the world to know he could rap too. Reportedly passed over by both Rawkus and Cash Money Records, the Roc-A-Fella Records founders Jay Z and Damon Dash put earned faith in the hot hand. The College Dropout was the debut vehicle for an artist who would ultimately become the label’s biggest star. The debut album captured the confluence of Kanye. It was a sonic amusement park of true-school (or “backpack”) inspiration, as well as the champagne sounds of the Rap elite. With these two worlds colliding, Kanye West’s multi-platinum debut would inform the next dozen years that good music is really just about getting out one’s musical dreams.
More than just an idea, Kanye West represented a hunger story. Single “Through The Wire” told the story of West’s undying dream to make his mother proud. Even confronted with a near-death accident and a forever changed mandible, Mr. West could not be barred. The producer let the Chaka Khan vinyl croon, while he convincingly stated his higher plan. “Never Let Me Down” did the same, as Kanye owned the moment with his mentor, Jay. Not just his own rags-to-riches trajectory, Kanye emphatically used the moment to trace his lineage through facing racism to embracing leadership. Although he saw himself as an underdog, ‘Ye also identified with the top of the class. On one hand, he could joke about using his relationships to gain female companionship on “Get ‘Em High.” Meanwhile, on the menacing “Two Words,” West rhymed as though he’d always been an influencer, who shortsighted gatekeepers simply missed. That dichotomy of “I’ve told you so” and “Never give up” colored an album that unfolded with album cuts treated as singles. The artist was not a contradiction as much as a complexity. The same artist who could preach from the pulpit on “Jesus Walks” could set the mood in “Slow Jamz.” “Spaceship” was the inward struggle to make it, while “Family Business” was a touching tracking shot through the cookout reunion. College Dropout forecast the rest of the 2000s, in showing artists they could be many things at once. Most importantly, the album increased the musicality to mainstream Hip-Hop. From the samples, to the arrangements, to the dynamic subject matters, the temperamental kid from the Windy City breathed freshness all over the art form.
Album Number: 1
Released: February 10, 2004
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, April 2004; certified platinum, April 2004; certified 3x platinum, April 2015)
Song Guests: Jay Z, Mos Def, Freeway, Talib Kweli, Common, GLC, Twista, Jamie Foxx, Ludacris, J. Ivy, The Harlem Boys Choir, Consequence, Syleena Johnson, Thomassina Atkins, Miri Ben-Ari, Candis Brown, Terrence Hardy, Diamond Alabi Isama, Eric Johnson, Brandi Kuykenvall, James Knight, John Legend, Ken Lewis, Beverly A. McCargo, Lavel Meana, Kevin Shannon, Tiera Singleton, Keith Slattery, Tracie Spencer, Eugene Toale, Tarrey Torae, Aisha Tyler, Tony Williams, Josh Zandman, DeRay Davis, Riccarda Watkins, Sumeke Rainey
Song Producers: (self), Evidence, Brian Miller, Miri Ben-Ari, Ken Lewis
Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj
By 2010, Nicki Minaj had become the biggest breakthrough female MC in more than a decade—before she even released an LP. A product of Lil Wayne’s Young Money squad, the Queens, New Yorker had used a series of features and street tracks to go over the top. Although Onika Maraj was almost immediately pinned as a sex symbol, she was simultaneously certified as a purebred lyricist. Minaj could flip words together breathlessly with wit, cutting edge vernacular, and a highly adaptable cadence. Like her mentor Lil Wayne, the B-girl “Barbie” proved that the YMCMB family had some big time MCs. Eminem, Kanye West, and Fabolous not only cosigned, they risked (if not welcomed) Nicki outdoing them on tracks with her. Pink Friday was the long-building debut. After three white-hot mixtapes, Nicki Minaj would be beamed-up through a star-studded platinum debut, and her most spit-savvy LP to date.
“Super Bass” represented just what a void Nicki Minaj was filling. Eventually Pink Friday‘s fifth (and biggest) single, the song was didactic poetry, with Nicki aiming to take her stylish message to a “Monie In The Middle” place (and pace). Like label-mate Drake, Minaj was unafraid to shift from brute rapping to singing, and back. “Roman’s Revenge” set Nick’ in a drag-race alongside Eminem. In theme, Nicki Minaj was not taking a backseat. Opener “I’m The Best” boiled over in B-girl confidence. Unlike her street tapes of the late 2000s, Nicki served a greater audience. Although Pink Friday featured flamboyant raps, the album showcased Minaj’s more than competent singing abilities. “Right Thru Me” and “Moment 4 Life” were dramatic time capsules of reshaping the standards of self-made, persevering women in Hip-Hop. In the early 2010s, purism and pop were blurred lines. Nicki Minaj made an album for her “barbz,” that would also win over some of her biggest critics.
Album Number: 1
Released: November 19, 2010
Label: Young Money Entertainment/Cash Money/Universal Motown Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #1 (certified gold, December 2010; certified platinum, December 2010)
Song Guests: Drake, Kanye West, Eminem, will.i.am, Rihanna, Natasha Bedingfield, DJ Ammo, Kevin Hissink, John B., Safaree Samuels, Shaz Sparks
Song Producers: Swizz Beatz, will.i.am, Bangladesh, J.R. Rotem, Kane Beatz, T-Minus, Drew Money, Dexter “Pop” Wansell, Oak, Kevin Hissink, John B.
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.