When the young rap up-start Nicki Minaj first broke into the scene she seemed to be a package of quick flow, raunchy lyrics, and Lil Kim-inspired sex appeal, all backed by her mentor Lil Wayne’s Young Money record label. After a few mixtapes to flaunt her abilities, her talents impressed many, and after scoring some major features, Minaj was set to be the return of female rap to the Top 40.
She definitely made it to the Top 40, but not quite how many were expecting. With her debut album, Pink Friday on the way, many were expecting some hard rap verses and the self proclaimed “bad bitch” Minaj claimed to be to finally master her own territory. To the surprise and disappointment of the Minaj-followers, Pink Friday was very much a pop music affair with the rap being put in the backseat. With the chart topping “Super Bass” and “Fly” Pink Friday was indeed a success but not what the rap fans of Minaj wanted. The rap was there, particularly on “Roman’s Revenge,” easily the most standout track of Pink Friday, in which Minaj takes on her most famous alter ego.
Roman Zolanski is essentially the better twin brother of Minaj that was suffocated by too much pop on Pink Friday, he needed to be given more time to shine on some straight rap tracks rather than this pop-rap hybrid. With the announcement of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Minaj’s sophomore follow-up, it seemed Roman was on track for a comeback and the rap may finally be returning, correcting the mistake that made Pink Friday so painfully average.
Roman Reloaded so obviously surpasses Pink Friday in nearly every way it’s almost embarrassing. This is not to imply that Roman Reloaded is a magnificent album, it isn’t, but it accomplishes everything that Minaj could want to do and all of her fans, whether it be the rap fans or pop fans, get what they want.
The album is very lengthy, being nineteen tracks long and well over an hour, but for an artist like Minaj this is almost necessary, particularly for this mainstream genre meshing she attempts. Throughout the nineteen tracks, the whole thing is broken up into distinct segments with some really awkward transitioning. There is a bookend effect with the opening track, “Roman Holiday” and “Stupid Hoe” both the most thematically Roman-style songs, setting the scene. “Roman Holiday” is very well done opening showing Minaj put on her best angry face on some hard verses and the best “pop” chorus she’s ever done. From there the album transitions into it’s full on rap segment where Roman finally gets what he was deprived of on Pink Friday. In a six-track run, the rap is very consistent and doesn’t let up. Particular standouts include “I Am Your Leader,” echoing back to Minaj’s mixtape origins, “Champion,” a midtempo ode to the ghetto, and “Roman Reloaded,” a loud and clear *** you to those who called Minaj a pop wannabe.
The greatest part of Roman Reloaded and debatably the most consistent run of songs Minaj has ever had comes to an unfortunate and abrupt end though when the next segment of the album comes in. The thankfully short, two song run of slow, “sexy” Minaj is encompassed in “Right By My Side” and “Sex In The Lounge.” Both are quite poor songs and Roman is missed greatly already. The Chris Brown feature in particular is shamefully cheesy, and quite frankly these two songs have no business on this album.
After that two song run the next segment of the album, the pop segment, almost seems welcomed. The albums second single, “Starships,” is very obviously modeled after the Pink Friday hit, “Super Bass,” but done so much better. The song is not all that good by any means, it is actually quite generic, but in comparison there is no question which is superior. Continuing for four more tracks, Roman is nowhere to be found and Minaj pulls out some pure dance heavy pop tracks showing that she learned a thing or two from touring with Britney Spears and being featured twice on Madonna’s MDNA. Initially the idea of this sounds nauseating, but frankly songs like the hard “Pound The Alarm” and the thumping “Whip It” are better than practically everything on MDNA, and some credit must be given to Minaj if she is capable of surpassing the once Queen of Pop.
But unfortunately the album never picks up again after this and with the last thud of “Beautiful Sinner,” the album transitions into sentimental pop that dominated Pink Friday. And it hasn’t improved. “Marilyn Monroe,” “Young Forever,” and “Fire Burns” are all extraordinarily cheesy ballads that are easily skipped but honestly fairly expected to be present on a Minaj album. Then of course the album closes with “Stupid Hoe,” the one everyone has probably heard before, and the last resurfacing of Roman Zolanski. The song, while quite poor with the ear splitting off key wail midsong, it does provide a great tone for the closing of such an album.
If you can look past the horrendous album cover, the rough filler tracks (Right By My Side, Young Forever, and more) there is something to be enjoyed about Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. Roman finally gets his time in the light, and the rap segment of this album shows up nearly everything Minaj did on Pink Friday, and even the pop songs halfway through are decently listens. The album is not a work of art at all, but is very much a success. Reloaded is exactly what Pink Friday should have been, this should have been what her debut sounded like.