Release Date: Apr 3, 2012
Record label: Universal Republic
Genre(s): Pop, Rap, Pop/Rock, Contemporary R&B, Pop-Rap
Nicki Minaj is a purist's nightmare. She doesn't just straddle pop categories, she dumps them in a Cuisinart, whips them to a frothy purée, then trains a guided missile at the whole mess. She is a rapper's rapper, a master of flow and punch lines, with skills to please the most exacting gatekeepers of hip-hop street cred. But she's a bubblegum starlet as well, delivering confections to the nation's mall rats.
"It's Barbie, bitch!" was a Nicki Minaj warcry from her mixtape days, and it fit. The Trinidad-born, New York-bred rapper with a thing for pink wigs took the ultimate American girl's toy brand and strapped it to the centre of her wild carousel of characters and voices. Last year, Barbie owner Mattel decided to play along, creating a one-off Nicki Barbie and selling it for charity.
Roman Zolanski, the alter-ego of Nicki Minaj, is the id unleashed, a merry troublemaker—the female counterpart to Eminem’s Slim Shady. Under her own name, Minaj makes affirmational anthems like “Moment 4 Life” and sweet-hearted bangers like “Super Bass,” but the Roman guise allows her to morph into a horror-movie mutation of a rapper, all hyperbolic bravado and delirious vulgarity. Especially after her star-making verse on Kanye West’s “Monster”—surely one of the greatest moments in recent hip-hop history—most listeners expected Roman to rear her (his? its?) ugly head on her solo debut, 2010’s Pink Friday.
The job of queen bee of the rap world had been vacant for years. But Nicki Minaj would have grabbed that moniker even if the commercial success and wiggy eclecticism of her 2010 debut, Pink Friday, breezily cartwheeling between candy-colored horrorcore and futuristic robo-pop, hadn’t rightfully earned it for her. At times Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (which is not a sequel, despite the title) excellently mines those extremes, like when she shuttles between a guttural bark and a faux-operatic croon during ”Come on a Cone” — as in, her flow is so cold it should be delivered by Mister Softee.
During the making of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Nicki Minaj had some sort of epiphany. The moment occurred while she was recording an evil moonwalk of a rap song called "Come on a Cone"-- after verbally shitting on any and all competition for two minutes, she peaks with, "If you weren't so ugly, I'd put my dick in your face." And then something special happens. She pauses the track and starts to sing "dick in your face" all melismatic, like she's vying to stay alive on "American Idol".
Those not au fait with the world of US pop can often confuse the work of pint-size, outré, hypervisual rapper Nicki Minaj with the work of pint-size, outré, hypervisual pop star Lady Gaga. In a crowded market you might have thought that defining your niche was all-important. But Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the second mainstream album from the rapper, does very little to allay this confusion.
At 19 tracks, Nicki Minaj's latest is essentially a double album divided almost evenly between gleefully rude hip-hop and big, shiny club numbers produced by pop-dance hit makers RedOne and Dr. Luke. Along the way, the cartoonish Queens MC flips an old-school electro beat into the Christmas carol Oh Come All Ye Faithful, tells her haters to "suck a big dick" on the record's best chorus, goes hard over a minimal trap-rap beat and teams with Lil Wayne for a brilliantly nasty serenade in which Oprah's name becomes a sex act.
Nicki Minaj's sophomore effort was pre-release promoted as the "mixtape Nicki" gone legit, as her unpredictable, provocative, and artistically free alter ego "Roman Zolanski" bubbled to the top. That's sensible as this bold, layered artist is just as comfortable alongside Madonna during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show as she is hanging with the Cash Money crew during the after party, so a two-album roll out might be necessary, but this is the wrong part two. The first Pink Friday presented a street queen gone elegant (which is what you do when you go from mixtapes sold at quickie marts to Dr.
Nicki Minaj often refers to herself as a “Barbie,” and in addition to the glamorous outfits and inhuman physical proportions, she lives up to the nickname well with her ever-changing roster of personalities. Everyone has their favorite version of The Nicki Doll—the round-the-way girl from the mixtapes, the psychotic monster from the Kanye track, the Technicolor pop diva—but unfortunately, the accessories for each model don’t seem to be interchangeable. The new audience that came with Pink Friday doesn’t want the same thing that the old audience does, and while she seems to be trying a little harder to split the difference on Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the clawed gloves just don’t fit in Nicki’s Dream House.
Nicki Minaj :: Pink Friday: Roman ReloadedCash Money RecordsAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaDrake has ruined it a bit for Young Money. Before "Take Care" we were blissfully content with mindless fun, lots of puns about shit, being an alien and Birdman parachuting in. But after his second album, we want more from all of them - none of that "Tha Carter IV" shit, no.
It is not enough to just like Nicki Minaj, you have to pick sides as well. Minaj’s fanbase has its own spectrum of pop ideologies: at one extreme are the hip-hop fanatics that speak of the glorious mixtape heydays; at the other pop conservatives staunchly defending her club hits; and cowering somewhere in between are those that like her R&B jams. That’s not really true of course, there are no summits where fractions of her supporters meet to try and work things out.
There’s a line in ‘Come On The Cone’, that sums up Nicki Minaj too well: “[i]You want a look? Get me on your song/But you know it’ll cost you/About six figures long[/i]”. Not only does it exemplify the dead-eyed mercenary nature of a lot of Nicki’s spitting and sparring, but it also reminds you of what makes her so frustrating. Namely, that in guest verses on others’ songs, she’s so flabbergastingly fantastic you wonder why anyone would want to invite a comparison – but when she’s given a full album of her own, she splurges all her multicoloured potential into a bit of a Jackson Pollock dog’s breakfast.
It’s taken a little less than two years for Nicki Minaj to go from being a hotly-tipped MC championed by Lil Wayne to becoming a genre-straddling global megastar. However, Minaj’s debut studio album and breakthrough record, Pink Friday, asked more questions than it provided answers. Does she want to be the fierce, dextrous rapper who’s fit to go toe-to-toe with Eminem or the lightweight, homogeneous pop star who duets with Natasha Bedingfield? Does she represent a shift in power in the male-dominated world of hip-hop or has she played the female rap objectified archetype in an attempt to get to the top? And just why does she sometimes rap in an English accent? You’d hope that Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded finally dropping would provide a little clarity around these issues.
One of Nicki Minaj’s many gimmicks is that she has multiple personalities, and if it wasn’t true before she made the jump from mixtape scene-stealer to unlikely Top 40 staple, then it probably became true around the time she showed up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to reenact a YouTube performance of “Super Bass” with two fans, aged five and eight. Personally, I like the idea of an America where it’s considered boring when adorable British girls are flown in to hang out with lesbian talk show hosts and multiracial female rappers, but for Minaj that was indeed the moment where she seemed closest to the PG standards of mega-star innocuousness. That must’ve been confusing for a woman whose rap-radio single at the time was “Did It on ‘Em,” where she rides a nasty beat and talks about shitting on her competitors, who would perform at the Grammy Awards a few months later and piss off the Catholic League by staging an exorcism, proving, as though the mutually plagiaristic Madonna-Gaga organism hadn’t, that humping any arbitrarily chosen piece of Catholic iconography is still the safest bet for scandal on demand, and then on American Idol shortly afterward, ready to make like Katy Perry for a crowd mostly comprised of tweens and their parents.
Pink Friday was a weird experience because, on the one hand, Nicki Minaj was undoubtedly talented. A female version of outsized Busta Rhymsian magnificence had never been presented to us before, nor had anyone so charismatically gifted been so willing to distort Lauryn Hill into a vision of Madonna. Pink Friday was an easy album to dislike, but it was also one that was hard to ignore.
As Young Money’s resident Barbie, Nicki Minaj endeared herself with her 2010 debut LP, Pink Friday. Over the course of 13 tracks, Minaj revealed her wacko, borderline schizophrenic beauty, dropping a mass of revolting-yet-alluring flows. Yet she balanced those traits with pure thuggish tendencies, out-streeting even the most gangster of male compatriots.
This second studio album cements Minaj’s reputation as a truly unique entity. Al Fox 2012 All eyes are on Nicki Minaj, and not just on a superficial level. The runaway commercial success of debut album Pink Friday, combined with the New York Times recently labelling her "the most influential female rapper of all time", means her second studio set Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded has some serious scrutiny to face.
It has been almost three years since Nicki Minaj released her breakout mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, and quite a bit has changed for the rapstress over that span. As quickly as she morphed from an unheralded role player on Young Money’s extensive roster to a star-in-the-making, with attention-grabbing guest spots on songs like “Monster,” “My Chick Bad” and “Bedrock,” she has launched into a stratosphere all her own with an equal number of crossover smashes. But the swelling popularity has come at a price—for her rap pursuits, at least.
Who needs stylistic, conceptual unity, when you have seven producers and Lil Wayne for a financier? In years to come, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded might be considered a key album, but only in the estimations of music historians using the sublimely multifarious Speakerboxx/The Love Below as a point of diversion for the full length LP, and the part that it unwittingly played in the demise of black 'human' pop music. Because, ever since Outkast re-imagined 'ghetto-fabulous' as a post-human conceit, the bionically shape-shifting, Janus-jamboree that resulted gave carte blanche to lesser producers. Mistaking virtouso diversity - in the name of Afrofuturist superhumanity - for unfocussed album construction, producers began to dispense with masterminding a cogent sonic manifesto for their artists, killing in pop both the album aesthetic and the auteurist statement.