Pink Friday ... Roman Reloaded

Pink Friday ... Roman Reloaded

If Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday was an exercise in camp, Pink Friday ... Roman Reloaded was a master class in pop absurdity. Released nearly two years after her transformative debut, the 2012 LP saw Nicki at her maximalist extreme, threading technically proficient raps with Day-Glo production and the fluttering cadences of her alter ego Roman Zolanski, the namesake of the album. The persona is as roaring and raging as it is dexterous. Whether channeling late 2000s Lady Gaga or trading bars with 2 Chainz, Nicki-as-Roman embraces all of her stylistic quirks, connecting them with quippy charisma and acrobatic lyricism. A slice of microtheater, "Roman Holiday" distills confidence and manic intensity through pulsing synths, jittery flows, and a faux-British accent; it sounds like a personality split. "Stupid Hoe" is Roman in full Mean Girl mode, with Nicki's prissy diction, dismissive lyrics, and a clap-laden instrumental playing out like a locker room roast session. Coated in an animated flow and a sun-soaked instrumental, "Pound the Alarm" is whimsical and unfailingly energetic, a soundtrack for Electric Zoo or a commercial for Disney World. She finds room for more conventional raps, too, trading bars with street-rap titans while recontextualizing her own roots in Queens, New York. "Beez In the Trap" sees her turn the sounds of dripping beakers into a trapper's anthem, flaunting fluctuating rhythmic tempos as she nods to regional hustlers in the mix. 2 Chainz matches her wit and agility on the track, while Rick Ross and Cam'ron infuse effortless yet theatrical opulence into "I Am Your Leader." The cypher-dwelling Nicki eats well, but sunshine electro-pop Nicki soars. If it isn't already, "Starships" will be seen as a stylistic microcosm for a generation of rap's colorful-wig wearers and over-the-top vocal spectacles designed for Broadway. Meshed with gleaming synths and Nicki's expressive, Auto-Tune–drenched vocals, it's the euphoria of a Barbie's triumph.

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