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New York bubblegum rap queen Nicki Minaj released on Tuesday her highly anticipated sophomore offering, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The 19-track album leaked on March 28, to spite an April 3 scheduled release, after being postponed from its original drop date of Feb. 14.
The rapper has been under a discerning public eye after stunts including her Grammy’s exorcism and a number of outlandish fashion statements, though her debut album Pink Friday was received to critical acclaim in 2010.
Minaj’s Pink Friday follow-up features special guests including Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Nas and Drake, who rival (and encourage) Minaj’s guttural lyrics and witty flow. However, there is a clear distinction between the rap portion and the pop infiltration of the album — according to critics — who are left wondering how many personas Minaj will bring forward.
An identity crisis between hip hop and pop are clearly divided on Roman Reloaded and reviewers are leaning, decidedly, to the first half of the album with heavy hitting rap songs like “Come on a Cone.” With Minaj’s quick crossover from rap to top 40 hits, her attempt to balance the two comes off unsuccessful to most critics.
Read what the critics are saying about Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded below:
The LA Times: “A supremely confident Minaj trades verses with otherwise cocky male rappers such as Lil Wayne, Drake, Nas and 2 Chainz and not only proves herself their equal but also pushes them to step up with their own ace verses. On the effervescent, minimally invasive bounce track “Beez in the Trap,” Minaj plays the queen of a hive, with Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz buzzing around her.
But then, after the ridiculousness that is “Sex in the Lounge” (which sounds like a Lonely Island parody of an R. Kelly song, and, unsuprisingly, features Lil Wayne), the album drives off a cliff. In a spectacularly unfortunate crash-and-burn, Minaj abruptly hits the accelerator and stops rapping, leaving behind the minimal, bouncy hip-hop tracks that highlight her charm and achievement in favor of 128-beat-per-minute dance pop songs as simple as they are generic.”
Billboard: “Indeed, the first half of Roman Reloaded is the sound of Minaj doing a victory lap – already established enough in hip-hop to compete with her male counterparts, she leaves plenty of room for guests like Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Drake, and Chris Brown to take the mic. This time around, however, she seems to have her sights set on competing with Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga and Madonna, based on the album’s pop-heavy second half. If you thought her David Guetta single “Turn Me On” was a major departure last summer, get ready for five more songs that sound pretty much exactly like that.
In short, Minaj spends more time exploring her musical identity on Roman Reloaded than she does perfecting one, which makes the album sound bloated and rushed.”
Slant Magazine: “The three tracks following “Roman Holiday” are “Roman” songs—i.e., hard, confrontational rap songs with guests like Cam’ron and Rick Ross. And they’re brilliant. “Come on a Cone” has her rhyming over a snarling knot of synths that sounds like a swarm of bees, and includes breaks for Minaj to do her best approximation of a pop-diva vocal while she coos about putting her dick in your face. It’s one of the most hilarious and genuinely unexpected moments I’ve heard from a rapper not named Missy Elliott.
The album is partitioned almost exactly between a rap half and a pop half; the former is unquestionably stronger, but after “Beez in the Trap,” it limps off to its own disheartening conclusion.”
The Washington Post: “Roman Reloaded splits the difference, dividing its 19 songs into “rap” and “pop” sides, which means that Minaj isn’t so much subverting expectations as giving in to them. Twice. Your enjoyment of Roman Reloaded, pop’s most tuneful hollow victory, will probably be inversely proportional to your level of attachment to the original, “authentic” Minaj. The hip-hop songs — some so dirty they should come with their own hazmat teams — are feature-heavy, unerringly sharp and almost entirely great. But they can’t help but seem less fierce against the pink fluff of Roman’s second half.
“The only thing that’s pop is my endorsement op,” Minaj rasps, although the song is, paradoxically, the gateway track to the album’s pop-on-steroids second half. It makes matters painfully clear: Minaj’s competition is no longer the ’90s ghost of Lil’ Kim. It’s Katy Perry.”
BBC: “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.”
XXL: “With her sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the Queens, New York native continues on the career path she has laid out for herself since the release of Pink Friday a year and a half ago, forsaking hip-hop for wider-ranging domains, as she sprinkles in hardcore rap records with dance-made pop songs.
Without attempting to mask the intentions, it seems Minaj uses the first half of the project to cater to her rap audience, and then jumps into music for her broader demographic on the second half. The hip-hop comes to a halt 25 minutes in, and a more mainstream sound takes over. The bubbly “Right By My Side,” her Chris Brown collaboration, was just released, but is already picking up on radio.
More than its lack of rap, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded suffers most from not fully being any one thing, as it’s unable to balance multiple approaches into one package.”
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