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Nicki Minaj Holds Onto Love (and Pop) on ‘Pills N Potions’

Nicki Minaj, "Pills N Potions," stream

One way for Nicki Minaj to end the debate over whether she’s better as a flat-out rapper or as a pop star might be to split the difference. “Pills N Potions,” the latest from the “Super Bass” stunner, doesn’t necessarily epitomize this idea, but it pulls off the pretty neat trick of being a romantic piano ballad that’s also framed in the druggy imagery of mixtape rap, and while Minaj’s rise-above-the-haters rapping here won’t turn the heads of anyone who has heard her in full “rappity rap” mode, she still raps. The concept is a bit tangled — we’re overdosing, she’s angry but she still loves you, she’s getting high on your memory … wait, how does this all fit together, exactly? — bu when we hear that Rihanna-like “I still lo-uh-uh-ve” hook blasting out of car windows this summer? We’ll probably still lo-uh-uh-ve it.

“Pills N Potions” veers off from the style of Minaj’s other recent tracks, which have been more of the rapper-eating, “Old Nicki” variety, but it could be a sing of what’s to come from the rapper-singer-former American Idol judge. Lately she has turned up on the ferocious, minimalist “Chi Raq,” the controversy-sparking “Lookin Ass Nigga,” and with verses on Soulja Boy’s “Yass Bish” and Young Money’s “Senile.”  But she told Rap-Up TV (via Rolling Stone) that this “soulful” and “uplifting” song is an “a great indicator of what [forthcoming album] The Pink Print will feel like in terms of the storyline of that song.” She said of the record, which has no official release date yet, “The Pink Print will remind people why they fell in love with Nicki Minaj, and I think that needs to be done.”