Since her breakout in 2007, Nicki Minaj has integrated contradictory elements in both her personality and musical style—the 5-foot-2 girly-girl of “Super Bass” also raps frequently about having a dick. Minaj takes this creative clash to the extreme in Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, relying on her alter-egos to sing out her brash lyrics. Although Minaj has released songs in which she sings through her alter-egos in the past, Roman Reloaded features much more of Roman Zolanski, her gay “brother” borne out of Minaj’s rage; Martha, his austere mother; and Barbie, the all-around girly-girl.
The record opens with “Roman Holiday,” which features a call and response between Martha and Roman that focuses on Roman’s mental illness. In the refrain, the personality of Martha sings “Take your medication, Roman / Take a short vacation, Roman / You’ll be okay.” Minaj’s stuttering response in Roman’s internal monologue establishes a dark, disturbing tone for the track. Near the end of the song, she adds a haunting rendering of “Come all ye faithful,” evoking a religious intolerance of Roman’s homosexuality.
Beyond “Roman Holiday,” the first nine tracks constitute the rap core of the album. The 2 Chainz-featuring “Beez in the Trap” is the traditional rap star boast-fest: “Bitches ain’t shit and they ain’t saying nothin’ / A hundred motherfuckers can’t tell me nothin’.” The rest of Roman chiefly consists of clubby pop music, which is likely to rise to the top of the charts. Buzzing synths blare in the background of “Come on a Cone,” creating a jumpy, disturbing sound reminiscent of a swarm of hornets. This loud, electric backdrop sets the scene for most of her pop tracks, and certain songs, like “Stupid Hoe,” cross the line from catchy to annoying.
Minaj manages to combine her talent as a rapper and a pop artist to create an interesting album. At the same time, Roman largely does not deviate from the formula that she established in Pink Friday. Nicki Minaj’s idiosyncrasy sets Roman apart from other rappers, but her style hasn’t largely developed since her last release—the second track is called “Come on a Cone,” after all.
Voice’s Choices: “Champion,” “Beautiful Sinner”