Nicki Minaj touched down in Nottingham last Sunday for the first date of her first ever arena tour: the Pink Friday Reloaded Tour. The Trinidadian rapper opened her show by emerging from a spaceship (bubblegum pink of course) as though she had just arrived from another – far more dazzling – universe. “Out of this world” would be an accurate way to describe Minaj’s unique flow, outrageously girlish dress sense and ever-evolving weave.

The elaborate opening was long-awaited, with everything running rather late. Misha B and Tyga provided good opening sets but it was obvious that the crowd was restrained in anticipation for Nicki Minaj. When the countdown to her appearance eventually began, the throngs of hip-hop devotees surged forward and, when given a first glimpse of their Queen, became instantly animated and ecstatic. The irate atmosphere, after all the waiting, dissipated within seconds and the “Barbz” (Minaj’s devoted fanbase) religiously rapped along to every word of the rapper’s old and new hits.

For a first show of a tour, it ran smoothly, with few glitches. The only real error was perhaps Nicki’s own in not giving her costumes a vigorous testing. The crowd caught an eyeful at a rather obvious wardrobe malfunction, when Nicki struggled to coerce her jewel encrusted top into protecting her modesty. Seeing her error, Minaj joked: “Everyone’s seen a boob before – what happens in Nottingham…” “…stays in Nottingham” the arena screamed into the microphone that she thrust towards them, beaming.

The startling thing about Nicki Minaj is that she successfully manages to straddle the pop and hip-hop genres. Though she is often accused of “selling out” and giving in to mainstream, this is clearly not accurate. A brilliant rendition of the lyrical genius that is ‘Did It On ‘Em’ was contrasted with the animated ‘Automatic’, a new dance-pop number that had everyone jumping maniacally for Nicki’s entrance on an inflatable pink car. Her ability to merge two very separate genres and groups of fans into one spectacular show was impressive. Nicki Minaj remains loyal to her hip-hop roots – despite her commercial success – while expanding her popularity by way of more pop orientated tracks.

After another change, Nicki Minaj reappeared in a silver bathtub for a mellow section, filled with her popular ballads. The emotional ‘Fire Burns’, during which enormous flames erupted around her, was included here. Emotion and sheer stage presence made up for weak vocals during these tracks, but her loyal disciples helped her along, toning down the thrashing and dancing in order to sway and sing with a gusto that would put football stadiums to shame.

Despite this, Nicki Minaj is first and foremost a rapper and rap she did. Stripped back to her hip-hop roots in a simple jacket and snapback, Minaj showed everyone exactly why she deserves her success: performing some of her best-loved mixtape verses that earned her a recording contract. This left many of her newer fans visibly bemused, but it was a thoughtful reward to those who loved her before the wigs and spaceships. She would spit one line and hold out her microphone for the response, giving the effect of a dialogue between her and her most hardcore followers. Her furiously slick and lyrically clever verse from Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ was preposterously well delivered.

Exuberant and inventively choreographed performances of the chart successes ‘Pound the Alarm’ and ‘Superbass’, with an encore of ‘Starships’ rounded off a fantastic exhibition of the star’s hits and brought the night to an electrifying crescendo. Visibly and audibly choked up, Minaj announced her love for her fans, thanked them for coming and left them in awe.

Those words in mind, thousands of fans in Barbie necklaces, pink wigs, snapbacks and high-tops filtered onto the streets of Nottingham, signifying the end of the opening night of the hip-hop star’s new tour. A tour that will undoubtedly amount to one of the greatest achievements of her career so far and cement her firmly as one of the best live rap acts of all time.

Becca Scott

…Becca has been listening to Lana Del Rey – Ride…

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