Likes: Hov Lane, Champion, Fire Burns, Marilyn Monroe, Beautiful Sinner
Dislikes: Beez in the Trap, Starships, Stupid Hoe
Overall: Instead of an innovative, well-written, hard-hitting rap album, it’s a meaningless dance party
Did the ‘sophomore jinx’ get Nicki Minaj? It’s somewhat hard to say. Whether you love or hate “Roman Reloaded” depends on what you’re listening for. There was a lot of curiosity about what direction Minaj would take with this release as her fans have seen a rather quick progression from her rougher, explicit mixtape material to the pop of her latest single “Starships.” With the album’s concept being centered on her unfiltered and angry male alter-ego Roman, some assumed it would be edgy core-rap with songs like the previous “Roman’s Revenge.” Not the case at all. “Reloaded” is arguably more of a dance album than it is rap. Roman is heard clearly on the first 6 tracks and afterward gets lost in the shuffle as Nicki puts on her best techno-dance suit, making you wonder if you’re listening to Britney Spears’ “Femme Fatale” instead of an album from rap’s latest star.
The rap-dominated tracks begin with the dramatic “Roman’s Holiday,” which lacks a strong enough lyrical narrative that introduces the alter-ego and the album concept. The subsequent 5 are moderately catchy and have some lyrical gems, but they’re topically the same (mainly boasting) and have some annoying repetition. “Champion” is this album’s “Moment for Life,” with a smooth, airy track, a Drake verse and a ‘yeah, we made it’ theme. The cross into radio-friendly dance and pop comes with “Right by My Side” featuring Chris Brown. It was hard to keep attention after “Side.” Several of the songs were too similar musically and the lyrics were thin. Additionally, the production was painfully mechanical, with the most simplistic and standard of techno patterns. Should the tracks become singles or get played in the clubs, they’ll perform well because it’s befitting of current trends, but it won’t satisfy those desiring a little more depth. The lack of such depth is especially agitating when the record is 19 TRACKS LONG. I didn’t have a problem with Minaj singing (even though her singing ability is minimal); I just wish it was more balanced between the singing and rapping. I did enjoy the reflective “Marilyn Monroe” and “Fire Burns.” I appreciated how she unapologetically spits ill-will towards her ex on “Fire,” as many breakup songs shy away from that to keep the karma clean.
“Roman Reloaded’s” biggest offense is distracting from its own main character and theme. I wouldn’t be surprised if the album was more Roman-focused in its early development and due to the commercial success of songs like “Super Bass,” Nicki and/or record label execs decided to take a different route (yes, Minaj is with Young Money Entertainment, which has its origins in hip-hop, but Young Money is a subsidiary of a label under Universal Republic. Universal Republic has say in YME’s activity). I’m not against an artist trying on another genre, but there’s a way to do these things. Going for basic AND super mainstream isn’t the answer. It tampers with your chances for longevity and only offers short-term hype. If she wanted to do more pop, they should have scrapped the album title, strengthened the content and have more sophisticated and creative production.
“…so I laugh at hopefuls, ‘Nicki pop’, only thing that's pop is my endorsement op.”- (Roman Reloaded)
Did Nicki listen to her own album?