To reference a track from the artist in question, Nicki Minaj indeed “Did It On Them” over the last two years. Emerging as the first lady of the Young Money Cash Money clique, Minaj’s transformation from fierce rapper to global star to fashion icon has shown the extent to which “White America” would embrace a fiery black female rapper. Not without controversy however, risque lyrics, music videos and an inkling that she may depart from making rap have distracted many from the empirical performances she has proven to be capable of. Whilst her debut album showed glimpses of that raw talent, is Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded the sequel which topples all the chinese whispers and finger-pointing?
If there was any track which would provide further evidence of her musical diversion, the opening “Roman Holiday” (which caused controversy when performed at this year’s Grammys) is the petrol pump which adds further fuel to the fire. A bizarre Rocky Horror Show-esque musical, Minaj dons her infamous “Roman” alter ego with quirky voices, operatic performances and overtly camp tones. Not a song to inspire much confidence in the rest of the album, the worry “Roman Holiday” caused was whether the rest of Roman Reloaded would follow in the same suit.
When she does rap, for the most part Nicki’s words flow somewhat solidly, leaving little room for questioning. The collaboration with Lil Wayne on “Roman Reloaded” provides a bass-battering production where Nicki’s nasty flow and Weezy’s alien ramblings are thankfully unleashed. Although “Come On A Cone” features a bizarre, mind numbing score, questionable metaphors [“put my dick in your face”] and a crazed repetitive chorus, Barbie still conjures up some verses to again ensure listeners of her rap allegiance.
The biggest declaration of such comes in the heavyweight lineup brought on board for the collosal T-Minus produced “Champion.” Made up of a roster of Drake, Young Jeezy and legend Nas, each emcee drops a verse worthy of celebration as their composed, emphatic lyrical offerings highlight each of their own unique qualities. Although the other feature heavy track “I Am Your Leader,” with Cam’ron and Rick Ross, doesn’t quite match up, this track holds more significance as the album diverts into a new direction.
Almost as if the album moves on to CD2 without being a double disc, from track ten onwards Roman Reloaded is littered with a consistent stream of overcooked, unsatisfactory pop records which hold no similarity to the first half of material on the album. The first – and main culprit – to explore with this paint-by-numbers formula is the single “Starships” produced by international hitmaker RedOne. A loud, noisy arrangement of pop melodies, dance breaks and an unoriginal performance, “Starships” is the archetypal song which can be heard on radio today a la David Guetta, Ke$ha or Lady Gaga.
The final half of the album “treats” its listeners to a barrage of diet club songs and watery dance anthems, which by no means reach the standards of the better efforts from this genre. “Pound The Alarm” is a malfunctioned Europop experiment and “Automatic” finds another RedOne production go to waste, whereas “Beautiful Sinner” shares similarities with the likes of Kaskade and more but again sounds like a pale attempt at the form. Nicki Minaj reverts to singing on said tracks instead of rhyming – and although she has proven to be a capable vocalist, on the aforementioned tracks she sounds uninspired.
The issue with a majority of these tracks isn’t that Nicki Minaj opts to create more radio friendly records, the problem is that the batch on Roman Reloaded lacks any kind of distinguishing feature which separates her stuff from anything else out there. It’s only when she links up with Chris Brown on “Right By My Side” where a familiar side to Nicki returns – churning out the sugary R&B-tinged single which will inevitably dominate 106 and Park charts and more.
In short, it’s a musical mess for Nicki Minaj’s second studio album. Clearly caught up in the conflict between making commercial records and Hip Hop bangers, Roman Reloaded malfunctions mainly due to her trying to appease to both markets; a vice that has trapped many before her.
Nicki Minaj has proven to possess enough talent to produce either a ferocious lyrical album or an off-the-wall creative project which would allow her to unleash a wild, eclectic side. But the tracks on which she emcees still prove to be the better material on offer. On Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Minaj settles for already exhausted formulas which leave little to the imagination and do anything but provide a new listening experience. A daring effort nevertheless, Minaj’s mad scientist-like experimentation results in a near catastrophic result, but still manages to conjure up a little bit of hope for a future Roman adventure.