Nicki Went Off the Deep End

Courtesy of Young Money Entertainment

 

Consider yourself warned: Roman Zolanski is back and more bizarre than ever in Nicki Minaj’s new album, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.” Even for those who find the rap antics of Nicki Minaj to be a bit too off-kilter, it is difficult to deny the talent and creativity of this punchy female MC.

Since releasing her debut album “Pink Friday” in 2010, Minaj’s ascent to rapper superstardom has been studded with Grammy nominations and guest-appearances galore. Female rappers are rare gems to begin with, and Nicki Minaj is strikingly unique with her brash attitude, hard-hitting rhymes and well-timed zingers, which earned her a mention as one of Billboard’s 2011 Rising Stars.

While Minaj is known for her eclectic stash of alter egos, it is clear in this muddled disaster of a sophomore album that Nicki is in the throes of an identity crisis between glam rap princess and pop diva sellout.

It is fitting, then, that the album opens with “Roman Holiday,” an anthem of Nicki’s confused alter ego. This track features the maniacal musings of Roman, including unsettling chants and inexplicable sonic drops such as the softly sung “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which descends into Minaj pandemonium. While vocal distortion is an expected staple of Minaj’s work, the grating use of it here verges on the unlistenable.

One might expect that, because Minaj both opens and christens the album with his name, Roman is the focus of this album. However, Roman takes his own holiday a few songs into the album, specifically after the title track “Roman Reloaded,” featuring Lil Wayne.

Fans of Minaj’s early work will most likely enjoy the first few tracks of the album, in which she exchanges rhymes with some of the big dogs of the rap industry. “Beez in the Trap” has an old-school grit that is reminiscent of Minaj’s mixtape days, while “Champion” is a successful collaboration with Nas, Drake and Young Jeezy in which Minaj brings her uniquely feminine swagger. While these tracks are clearly “Nicki,” her rhymes are disappointingly generic and lack the clever punch that fans expect.

After these first few salvageable minutes, this album takes a tragic nose dive into the depth of disaster. The mess begins with the absolutely ridiculous “Sex in the Lounge,” featuring Lil Wayne and Bobby V.  Minaj spits early in the track, “It went down / ‘Nuff Said.” Oh, if only that was the end of it; the remainder of the song is a train-wreck of a slow jam that comes off like a Lonely Island parody with its decidedly unsexy trade-offs and past-the-line innuendo.

Despite vehemently rapping “the only thing that’s pop is my endorsement op” in an earlier track, Minaj ditches her swag mid-album in favor of an incessantly sugary string of dance-pop tracks. “Pound the Alarm,” “Whip It” and “Automatic,” to name a few, flaunt flimsy EDM beats and such lyrical genius as “it’s getting hotter and hotter / and sexy and hotter” and “I’m on the floor / I love to dance / If you want more / Then here I am.” Any semblance of Minaj’s bright spark of a personality is lost among throwaway lyrics and cookie-cutter dance beats. Here, “Starships” stands out only slightly, sounding like a dance music ode to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Along this strange vein of Minaj’s journey into the realm of pop are the mid-tempo pop-R&B hybrids “Young Forever,” which is as hokey as it sounds, and “Marilyn Monroe,” a saccharine track which explores the pitfalls of superstardom.

The crowning jewel on this disaster of a sophomore album, though, is “Stupid Hoe.” By far the most jumbled track on this album, it features Nicki in all of her quasi-schizophrenic glory. Set to a clappy beat that is destined to burn itself into your brain, “Stupid Hoe” includes a variety of uncomfortable moments such as an inexplicably long-winded and off-key hold out of the word “would” and a strange digression into a reggae-meets-crazy-schoolgirl taunt during which Minaj jeers, “Stupid hoes is my enemy / Stupid hoes is so whack.” Unfortunately, the lyricism in this song never gets any better, given that the verse is an incessant repetition of the line “You a stupid hoe.”

The worst part of this album, aside from its length (70 minutes of your life which you will never get back), is that Nicki Minaj, a one-of-a-kind rising star, sells out hard in this album, trading her hard-earned swag in favor of “Roman” shock value and pop trash.

Rating: 1 out of 5