Nicki Minaj returns with her sophomore release Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, aided by her pop ready strut of Starships, Minaj is about to shock you with this schizophrenic collection of R&B thump and pop stunners.
At the halfway point of 2011 punters around the globe finally caught onto the rap/pop enigma that is one Miss Nicki Minaj. Finding favour in the commercial sphere with the upbeat, carefree pop treat ‘Superbass’, its subsequent album ‘Pink Friday’ (check out our review ) began to open up pop fans to the Svengali of the female rap game. 2012 brings us the next phase in the Minaj trajectory, the oddly titled ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’. Not a deluxe edition, but a beefed up collection (19 tracks!) of radio ready R&B / Pop swagger.
Roman Reloaded is an album of two halves. Front-loaded by victory anthem laden rapid fire rap numbers, before settling into a far more pop orientated groove in the second, Minaj seems to embody the personas she promotes. Roping in a slew of male rap talent to add to the beat heavy numbers, Roman Reloaded requires a few spins to truly find its feet.
Kicking off proceedings with her Roman Zolanski persona, ‘Roman Holiday’ is a spitfire rush of phrasing amid tribal beats that is a sonic psychiatric session upon first listen, Minaj rarely lets her foot of the pedal, taking stock of her achievements (the bizarrely frantic ‘Come On A Cone’), hood jams (the grinding two punch of ‘I Am Your Leader’ & ‘Beez In The trap’) and ‘we made it’ glory jams (highlight ‘Champion’, delivered with swagger and ably assisted by rap heavyweights Drake, Nas & Young Jeezy). Nicki sounds far more at ease in the R&B genre and deserves the attention for mastering and helping to define a genre dominated by male counterparts.
Recent smash ‘Starships’ announces the surprisingly upbeat second half. Its anthemic pop hooks far outweigh its questionable lyrical content and is clear Minaj has her eyes set on the Rihanna / Gaga / J-Lo pop power numbers and success of her contemporaries. Elsewhere, we find ‘Pound The Alarm’ channeling Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ via David Guetta (its similarities to ‘Starships are obvious), the sugar pop shrill of ‘Whip It’ (J-Lo wishes she snared this hot little number) and the club sweat beats of ‘Beautiful Sinner’. With a half clearly geared towards the commercial sensibilities, Minaj has crafted a tight package of radio ready hits that help balance her passion for the different genres in which she currently reigns.
Stretching to 19 tracks, ‘Roman’ required a great deal of editing to avoid becoming laborious and unfortunately many numbers drag proceedings. Misfires occur in the trite balladry of fame-is-pain ‘Marilyn Monroe’, the Femme Fatale sounding outtake of ‘Automatic’ and the R&B porn of ‘Sex In the Lounge’ (Lil Wayne’s worst collaborative effort ever).
Nicki Minaj circa 2012 is still a conflicted and curious diva, fame has found the freedom to experiment with her sound (and access a plethora of male rap supertalent) and in the way she presents herself. Gone is the softer reflective side of ‘Pink Friday’ and is its place is one clearly energised Queen Bitch looking for her place on the throne. As a ten track album, this is truly a marvel, but at a bloated nineteen tracks, Minaj too often needs to learn less is more.