Nicki Minaj is a bit…extra – but so are most of the Trinidadians that I know, so I am not usually surprised by her over-the-top costumes and persona. I had long dismissed Nicki as more of a ‘public figure’ than an actual artist with talent, so I was completely floored by her latest album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. I almost got jumped on a subway car load of angry passengers on the #2 Train to Flatbush last week when I told a friend that I saw some Lauryn Hill elements in Nicki Minaj on her new album. However, after listening to Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, that same friend who was ready to lead an armed rebellion against me, called to tell me that maybe-perhaps-possibly I had a point.
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is about as far away from The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill as Earth is to Mars, but Nicki Minaj like Lauryn is a dope MC – not in a “she’s pretty good for a female rapper” kind of way, but in a ‘she’s a dope rapper’ way. Her masculine braggadocio on “Roman Reloaded” (she got “more knots than Eric on Basketball Wives – ya dig?”) and her rhymes on “Come on A Cone,” “I Am Your Leader,” and “HOV Lane” can hold their own against any and all of the contemporary crop of ‘leading’ male rappers. I am especially impressed with “Champion” when she held her ground alongside Nas, who nears the top of the top 5 illest MCs to ever hold a microphone.
Roman Reloaded also shows an incredible range as Nicki, much like Ms. Hill, flows seamlessly between Hip Hop, Pop, Dancehall, R&B, and Dance/Techno music. While she is no Aretha Franklin, her auto-tuned pop singing voice isn’t half bad. I found her “Right By My Side” duet with Chris Brown pretty enjoyable, as I did “Starships.” The blend of singing, rapping, Dancehall-styled chatting, and southern call and response gives Roman Reloaded a multi-layered music mélange that most of her counterparts probably couldn’t manage as neatly and effortlessly. The only thing I wish she would do is add some of her native Soca music into the mix.
Some of the production could’ve been a bit more creative. Roman Reloaded was bogged down with similar sounding dance beats, and the last 7 or 8 singles sound like one never-ending song. Had they skimmed the album down to about 14 – 15 tracks, she would’ve been a tighter body of work.
Young Money label mates Lil Wayne, and Drake peppered a few her tracks, as did Young Jeezy, Chris Breezy, Nas, and Beenie Man, but none of them outshined her or really ‘owned’ any of the songs the way she did. As a fan of 20th Century hip hop, Nicki Minaj and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded aren’t quite my cup of tea. However, stepping into the 21st Century, if I was to rate Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded on scale of 1 – 10, I’d give it a solid 8.
- Ms. Raine