Nicki Minaj Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

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.

Early chatter suggested it was a concept album performed entirely in the guise of Minaj’s gay male alter-ego, Roman Zolanski. And while there’s a definite thread furthering Roman’s narrative, it’s by no means at the forefront – evidently, it’s hard to camouflage a personality as immense and as deafening as Minaj’s.

There’s a sense of flagrant abandon in almost every note of PF: RR. Major-key, tap-along pop sensibilities; disquieting lyrical content; wide-eyed, over-pronounced Valley Girl patter; a reworking of O Come All Ye Faithful; shuddering, skeletal beats. And that’s just the opening track. The album unfolds an immeasurable amalgam of genres and inspirations, all fused together in a diamond-encrusted bubble of futuristic, day-glo hip hop. The energy is palpable, the pace rarely lets up, and personality pervades throughout.

At a heady 19 tracks (all complete efforts, without a clichéd hip hop interlude in sight), a handful of songs do get mislaid along the way – Right by My Side would have drowned amongst its noisier neighbours were it not for the attachment of Chris Brown, while the sluggish Sex in the Lounge barely registers at all.

It’s not a question of volume, though, as many of the other serene numbers stand tall: Young Forever and Marilyn Monroe display the same tender vulnerabilities of breakthrough anthem Your Love, a necessary and successful respite in an album so boastful. But it’s a knowing, tongue-in-cheek boastfulness – one that it’s impossible to begrudge Minaj in light of her accomplishments. And in spite of the overt use of humour – often crude, often puerile, but continually effective – you’re always left with the impression Minaj takes what she does very seriously.

Few artists in Minaj’s position would dare to take risks as bold as this, and yet, it doesn’t feel as though she even sees it as risky – she’s breezily doing her thing, and the weight of whichever labels are bestowed upon her is irrelevant. Whatever the supposed role of Nicki Minaj within the hip hop hierarchy, whatever box she’s pushed into, she’ll have a hard time fitting in. Because, above all else, PF: RR cements her as a truly unique entity.

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