Album Review: Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

Nicki Minaj

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (to be released April 3, 2012)

Sunday, February 12, 2012.

That was the night the curtain was pulled back on Nicki Minaj, hip hop’s most prominent female emcee for the current generation of fans. It was her night to shine, the night she could show critics that she was not a flash-in-the-pan gimmick, she was rap’s next big star – perhaps the biggest female rap star ever.

Instead, her performance of “Roman Holiday” at the Grammy Awards was a massive debacle – sacrilegious, confusing and downright boring. Worst of all, it seemed to be a blatant ripoff of her pop contemporary Lady Gaga. It’s odd, because a year and a half ago, around the release of her debut Pink Friday, Nicki was accused of mimicking rap star Lil Kim.

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And so goes the story of Icki Garbaj – a woman in constant search of her identity. Unless this is your first day at Georgia Mae, you probably know I’m not too fond of Icki Nicki. But I am fond of good music and in the past, she has proven that she is capable of making good songs. My problem with her is an increasing reliance on goofy gimmicks – outlandish clothes, stupid accents, petty rap beefs – instead of honing her craft. And after listening to her latest album, I am convinced the woman is no longer capable of making good songs.

Exhibit A: Nicki starts off the album with “Roman Holiday.” Why on Earth would you start your album off with the most universally panned song of your career? Is she really that arrogant or just that stupid? Granted the song isn’t as bad without dudes in choir robes crumping across your TV screen, but it’s still awful. You’ll just want to tear off your ears instead of clawing out your eyes this time.

It doesn’t take long to realize that lyricism is no longer a factor for Raggedy Roman. “Come On A Cone” is all nonsense – lazy raps, annoying enunciation (pronouncing ‘cone’ like ‘cowwwwwwwwwwwwwwn’) while she sings about putting her “d*** in yo face.” “I Am Your Leader” is more simplistic Mother Goose rapping, so of course Rick Rawssssse shows up to add a heaping helping of nothing. Poor Cam’Ron tries to salvage the final verse, but it doesn’t work. On “HOV Lane” Minaj brags that she’s” the HOV lane and you’re the Soul Train.” I’d rather be slow and soulful than a passenger while you drive drunk.

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“Champion” features a great, haunting beat that is criminally wasted. Icki tries to get introspective, claiming to do it for “the hood and the kids” but sounds like a runner-up at a high school talent show (no offense to high school rappers, y’all probably spit harder than she does). Drake and Young Jeezy aren’t much better (poor Jeezy sounds horrible these days after that throat surgery) but Nas steals the show, as expected. “Not rated PG, rated PJs, cuz that’s where I’m from” – he’s so far ahead of the curve it’s embarrassing.

The only song that succeeds in spite of itself is “Beez in the Trap,” where Nicki suddenly morphs into a drug dealer with 2 Chainz (pronounced TWO CHAYYYYYYNZ, if you didn’t know.) It’s totally absurd but at least it’s listenable.

Nicki quickly destroys all good will on the title track, where she defiantly claims not to be a pop singer, then two songs later follows up with ELEVEN POP SONGS. Oh, I kid you not. And if you thought things were bad before, prepare for The Last Days. Her current single “Starships” sounds like a blatant ripoff of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.” Nicki ripping people off? You don’t say! And it goes on and on AND ON. “Beautiful Sinner?” Bootleg Madonna. “Pound The Alarm?” Wannabe Ke$ha. “Gun Shot?” Budget Rihanna. On that one, she drags poor Beenie Man along to dance on the grave of reggae.

Anyone who is strong enough to make it to the 19th (!) and closing track will find nothing but misery – that wretched “Stupid Hoe” song. It’s like eating a cereal box of razor blades and the prize at the bottom is a time bomb.

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When I heard Lil Wayne compare his girlfriend’s vagina to purple weed on the title track I thought things couldn’t get worse on this album (what kind of filthy women is Wayne sleeping with anyway?) But they did. The rap is so watered down hip hop fans will be appalled. The pop is so generic that Top 40 fans won’t even pay attention. I seriously don’t know how this project got green-lighted.

Before you Garbaj lemmings dismiss my criticism as “hating,” understand this: Nicki Minaj is suffering from a huge identity crisis. This album goes from Lil Wayne to Lil Kim to Pink to Gaga to Rihanna. Artists like Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill and even (God help me) Drake juggle different rap styles and sing but maintain their own identity. Nicki is so busy trying to mimic others that she has NO identity, and her material has suffered. If she doesn’t know who she wants to be, why should we listen to bad music while she tries to figure it out?

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is Icki Garbaj performing bad karaoke. We need to do better.

Best tracks:

1.5 stars out of 5

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