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Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

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. Nicki’s climb to having the eleventh most followers on Twitter (Eminem, Kanye West, Drake, 50 Cent and Lil Wayne are the only other rappers in the top 50, and they’re all behind her) wasn’t achieved by bodying Kanye West and Jay-Z on wax. No, her crossover capabilities have stemmed from a stranglehold on Top 40. With her sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the Queens, New York native continues on the career path she has laid out for herself since the release of Pink Friday a year and a half ago, forsaking hip-hop for wider-ranging domains, as she sprinkles in hardcore rap records with dance-made pop songs.

The album begins with “Roman Holiday,” the same zaney song that she performed to a curious response at the Grammys in February. The immediate introduction of Roman Zolansky, Minaj’s alter ego, represents much of what makes the Young Money queen appealing as a rapper. The unique energy and distinct personality that she is able to bring to a track continues for much of the first portion of the album. Though many of the early songs lack real substance—instead, Nicki dishes boast-heavy verses about how she’s better than all these other bitches—the records remain generally exciting. “I Am Your Leader,” alongside Rick Ross and Cam’ron, “Beez In The Trap” with 2 Chainz, and the triumphant “Champion” featuring Nas, Drake and Young Jeezy are all memorable moments.

Soon, though, there’s an abrupt shift. Without attempting to mask the intentions, it seems Minaj uses the first half of the project to cater to her rap audience, and then jumps into music for her broader demographic on the second half. The hip-hop comes to a halt 25 minutes in, and a more mainstream sound takes over. The bubbly “Right By My Side,” her Chris Brown collaboration, was just released, but is already picking up on radio. The danceclub friendly “Starships” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The other tracks from this section are much the same in their composition. It seems Nicki has taken each of the sounds that dominate Top 40 and offered her own take. But in the end, “Pound The Alarm,” “Whip It,” “Automatic” and “Beautiful Sinner” simply come out sounding like something that Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, or any other pop idol would churn out, rather than records singular to the femcee’s often uncommon style.

Nicki Minaj has embraced her growing role as a pop icon. When she does rap on the album, many of the bars are even about this ascent (“Pink Friday, two milli; ‘Super Bass,’ triple plat/When you see me on Ellen, just admit that I’m winnin’/Do a show for Versace, they request me by name/And if they don’t get Nicki, it just won’t be the same/When I’m sitting with Anna, I’m really sitting with Anna,” she raps on “Come On A Cone”). Who can blame her? The quick crossover success is unparalleled for a rapper in recent memory. And it’s her pop-leaning songs like “Super Bass” and “Turn Me On” with David Guetta that have put her in this position for superstardom, not a verse on “Monster” or “Massive Attack.” She was destined to follow that formula here.

More than it’s lack of rap, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded suffers most from not fully being any one thing, as it’s unable to balance multiple approaches into one package. It’s a quasi-concept album revolving around Roman, without ever fully fleshing out the character; it’s also part rap album, part pop album without finding a way to seamlessly balance the two pursuits.

And while the release may not appease those who fell in love with the technical talents of the lyrically gifted scene-stealing Nicki Minaj, there’s no question that the hits from Roman Reloaded have just begun, and Nicki Minaj’s celebrity will only continue to snowball. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)

  • fuck waka

    Nicki sucks. This should be an S.

    • CaponeMOB

      LMAO @ XXL “wasn’t achieved by bodying Kanye West and Jay-Z on wax”

      ^^^^^^

      Dumb retarted soundin bitch wouldnt Body a damn thing if they threw a Body Bag with a corpse inside her trunk.

      to me this bitches Lyrics are on the same Level as Wocka flocka,this bitch is terrible. why she became so hot is Beyond my understanding. i rather listen to Trina’s whole catalogue then to put up with one of her songs where she suddenly starts rappin like a Retard. Example:Dungeon Dragon.
      this bitch took some Game from Lil wayne and Lady Gaga and became this Horrible mess. SMH at the industry and Rap audience that lets no talent fucks Become super stars.

      and go eat a dick in advanced to All the Nicky dick riders that are goin to Defend her. every thing i said is true,just go listen to Dungeon Dragon.

  • Lawrence

    I’m in shock. I’m surprised XL only have Nicki an ‘L’. I thought they would’ve gave any member of YM an automatic ‘XL.’

    • CaponeMOB

      @ Lawrance and Lawrance my friend, thats how you know this album is really a S and not a L. cause to give Lil wayne or nicky,Drake, anything less then a XL is unheard off. but the music is so terrible that people were goin to see right thru XXLMAG’s dick ridin. and now im off to get my dick sucked.Good night niggaz.

  • BeantownReppin

    So basically what you’re saying is, this is not hip-hop…not a surprise. I give Nicki props for what she does…just don’t call it hip-hop music. She is a pop artist who can sometimes deliver a cool verse, that’s it.

  • the1987kid

    This should have gotten a “S” cause this album is pure trash, a collection of half baked songs that are “in the moment” type songs as i can see like i been saying she is a go along to get along artist, she isn’t breaking new ground as she proclaim to be. Stick a forlk in her she is a done deal!

    • LeQ

      Ya but this is still a hip hop-pop album, and this album includes everything that a pop album should include (not that i respect it at all) and they cant just hate an album because of the content its genre naturally includes

  • http://www.lqent.blogspot.com L.Q.

    They should have rated Ace Hood “Starvation” instead. This was a total waste of time. Should have received and “M”. THe only thing saving it from an S is the fact that Lil B is still worse.

  • mike4282

    For those who expected this album to be an actually Hip-hop album overall and were pissed because it wasn’t should go straight to the corner of the wall and shut up for 5 minutes lol.

    Nicki is a business woman first of all. She knows what will sell and make her to that next level and what will just keep in the same hole as Foxy,Kim, etc. I’m not a fan of her Pop shit, but damn I do respect her hustle in laying down the path to outright stardom. She and her label KNOWS an all-out hardcore rap album DOES NOT MOVE SERIOUS UNITS. Maybe just maybe where she feels comfortable enough where she is she may just release an all-out hardcore rap album, after all c she does have the skills. Props.

    • grillz

      its not about business or money cuz scarface is rich as fuck and you’ve never seen him wear pink at any point and time you never heard of him doing something out of character i don’t like artist that abandon they’re original fanbase for what people call business thats like a slap in the face nicki minaj is strictly female music which leans more toward a pop oriented style P.S.A. Cash Money Records stopped mannie fresh from signing a deal with def jam and a song mannie made with lil wayne to solidify that deal was shelved bcuz lil wayne can’t make music wit someone unless baby and/or cash money approves it

  • jhwg624

    im proud of XXL i didnt think they had the balls to write a real review

  • Sha

    Man…. Every now and then XXL gives a glimpse of what they’re supposed to be doing. Nicki’s “L” rating should be for “Loss”. This album isn’t even hip-hop. I guess seeing Drake do his Pop thing made Nicki want to follow suit. But in the end Nicki and Drake will be lucky enough to have 3 successful major releases. Because everyone knows that by Album #4 that shows if you are truly a legend or a fluke. Guess which one Nicki is leaning towards?

  • http://n/a jondoe

    Yeah she crossed over blah blah but that shit hurts in the long run when it comes to black artists especially rappers. Only rappers with longevity is the ones who remain themselves. Kanye, Jeezy, T.I., eminem been the same from the start that’s why their still relevant today also jay-z is only a older version of himself he hasn’t changed he just got older

  • http://www.uhgvsuyf.com dsafsagf

    Emmas Duck is gay and my duck is fully sick.

  • folkbud

    The true test of music is time, I have a feeling a year form now, we will all look back at this and say it’s one of the biggest pieces of garbage of the year. Music while progressive shouldn’t try to overachieve on a sound that’s already been achieved by so many. This feels like a ‘me to’ album rather than ‘I got here first’ album.

    Expect Nicki to continue into the pop genre as she feels pressure from her endorsements to be more appealing to the masses.

    This wreaks of sell-out, and where there is smoke, there is fire.

  • Will

    I feel like this site never gives any popular album a rating below “L”. If half the album doesn’t warrant a second listen, the highest it should earn is “M”, but Nicki’s album wasn’t even THAT average.

  • wzrd

    great rating man. I thought you’d give this horrible excuse for a female rap albulm an XL. Even though, this honestly deserves an S or an M. I havent heard one song off of this albulm that really stands out and has good verses. Not a big fan but this makes Take Care look like a rap albulm lol YMCMB is jus lucky dat their “hip-pop” label is around at a time when no other label will challenge their credibility. If they were producing this type of music in the 90′s or early 00′s, they would’ve got destroyed. Cnt wait for the next real rap label to help restore hip-hop to real rap music and not this pop/bubblegum rap.

  • Nquestion

    Ima keep it real what pisses me off about Nicky go harrd is i know she’s got major bars and can go harrd but refuses too so until she comes off the b.s. that’s putting bread on the table for which i cant blame her i will pass on anything with her name on it keep gettin paid selllout !!!!

  • jayson

    next review is katy perry’s.

    to give this an L is crazy, since half off the songs are dance tunes. anyway: nicky’s verses are wack, she only spits like 10 verses on the whole album, she got a ton off features on 7 ”hiphop” songs, she can stand on her ow,n, but that’s on the dance tunes.

  • ms_spittuh

    Most of her reviews are terrible for this album. Good! Coonery needs to die now!

  • ADRIAN SMITH ERDINGTON BIMRINGHAM

    COME ON THIS ALBUM IS NOT HIP HOP ITS HIP POP A COUPLE OF HIP HOP TRACKS SOUNDS LIKE THE FIRST ALBUM AND SHE BE ON TOUR IN ENGLAND SOON TIM WESTWOOD SUCKIN UP TO HER AND FAKE BARBIE DOLL FANS WORDWIDE DONT GET IT SHE NO MC LYLE OR ROXANNE SHANTE OR SALT N PEPA BRING BAC RAW UNCUT HIP HOP BAC NOT THIS PLAYED OUT SHIT 4 FUCKSAKE

  • kenny

    its getting an L because its not hiphop . not becuase its wack . xxl are lost . this album is really an M .

  • http://twitter.com/limousine_lex Lex!

    this should of been a “M” at best no growth what so ever or range still corny as ever a million sold tho…

  • Brittany

    Her album was okay. I’d give it a 6.5/10 because she seems more “pop” than hip-hop. You can’t just cross-over like that when you’ve been labled as a hip-hop bitch for so long. Sorry Nicki but this could of been waaaaay better. It also doesn’t help that she yells weird shit that doesn’t even make sense 2/3 of the time. People were saying that her album was garbage but I had to hear it to believe it. However, it is better than 2010′s Pink Friday (in my opinion). BRING BACK THE OLD NICKI!

  • Pingback: Ghost Rider Radio™ Hot Music Video – Beez In The Trap – Nicki Minaj ft 2 Chainz + Nicki Deletes Twitter Account Over Song Leak |

  • http://www.gmail.com DEUCE

    XXL mag is crazy dis mixtape is bullshit,nt evrythng frm ymcmb is good ‘dis is straight kak’

  • One

    I thought it was a dope album but people are too stuck on genre’s and cramming things into categories shoulda been an XL. This is some of the only popular music I actually like.

  • CBoomer

    so they gave nicki a “L”…….XXL come on now, none of her lyrics to the majority of her songs on the album even match the title of the song and they dont make any since! i think that just as fake as her body is should be just enough clarification of her music. nicki….im not hatin on her by far im just stating true facts……she is better off freestyling on a mixtape or being featured on somebody else’s song. she came on the scene and straight up robbery jacked lil kim’s style ( u know the whole colorful wigs, wacky costumes wearin lil kim ) lyrically she has nothin on the old lil kim, foxy b, lauryn hill (even though she r&b the sista can spit fire),eve, charlie b more, and Shawna <—–from ludacris crew!…..Shawna spit hot fire on the "look at me now"-chris brown mix..look it up! i can name more but thats just a few. nicki minaj is a good artist, lets be real people she went to a performing arts school to be a actress and she is doin a damn good job at "acting" like a female rapper. these hip hop critics givin her WAAAYYY too much credit saying that she is the best thing that happened to female hip hop but she aint a to the bone core hip hop artist she more of a mixture……now nicki if u start back rappin like u did when u was tryna get the deal i dont think that u would have as many haters as u do cause on the mixtapes u came hard……XXL her album should not have even been ranked as a hip hop album thats yall fault! as for nicki, u can do better, i as well as anybody else can put together metaphors and call it rap but that dont make it rap…do better sista!

  • http://www.xxlmag.com/reviews/2012/04/nicki-minaj-pink-friday-roman-reloaded/#respond Gansta Chava

    FUck u Hatters
    YMCMB For Life
    And If You Hate Than Fuck U
    Fucken Faggots Im a real fan that buys
    albums not like other bithces only like one song and thats bullshit to me. and if u say fuck nicki than u r a bitch and i say that you only heard one song and said nicki is shit . no no no u muthafuckas are the fucken gay ass faggots that only like one song bitch buy the whole fuken album and if u like it u would understand it… gansta chava out

    • BlackenChineseMan

      It’s your bedtime Chava, go to sleep.