When Nicki Minaj, the former star of a series of hardcore hip hop mixtapes and features, dropped her first album 'Pink Friday", the reactions were mixed. Mainly due to a huge change in style and the decision to do neither an exclusively hip hop-based, nor pop-based album, but would mix both styles, sometimes mixing them up ("I'm the Best", "Here I am"), sometimes recording dirty rap ("Roman's Revenge", "Did it on 'Em"), sometimes sweet and fun tracks ("Right Thru Me", or the inspiring "Fly"). She never clearly drew a line between her personas and frequently experimented around. But with her second album, "Roman Reloaded", she took her musical shizophrenia to an entirely new extreme. The first thing you hear, before anything else on this album, is the sound of a female singer (not Minaj) imitating the voice of an old woman singing the chorus about wanting her son to overthink his lifestyle, followed by an ensemble of oriental instruments, drums and rattles playing a rumbling, exciting beat with Minaj rapping verses as her alter ego Roman, a homosexual, extremely violent and crude rapper, undergoing an exorcism. At a certain part her voice slowly departs from a clear structure and instead merges into barely understandable moaning and panting. In this state, Roman (you forget it's Nicki Minaj at a certain point) joins in on a choir singing "Come all ye faithful", ending up in loud growling. This song is "Roman Holiday", most of the wildest hip hop songs that is not done by Kanye West, propably named after the sweet and charming Audrey Hepburn picture. It's exactly that kind of contrast that makes "Roman Reloaded" such a darn fine album. We experienced Minaj fully giving in to her personas, sometimes going to such extremes it almost seems like a mental illness when Nicki's voice ranges from girly chattering to deep pitched screaming and yelling. In this state, Minaj delivers excellent pieces of hard edge rap music, like the title track of the album, or the awesomely insane "Come on a Cone". But then, somewhere in the middle of the CD, the tone changes. A lot. It's when Minaj stops being Roman, and goes back to... well not normal, but Nicki Minaj. Maybe it's somewhere around the three tracks "Champion", "Right by my Side" and "Sex in the Lounge" (the latter being the only track on this superb album that lacks a bit bite). They seem like the fusion of Nicki and Roman. They still could count as hip hop. But they are also melodic, harmonic, calm. Nicki starts singing. For the first time on this album, not counting the multiple times she jokingly sung inappropriate or silly lyrics in an emotional, comical or eerie voice for humorous purpose. It's pop-ish singing that takes itself serious. From then on, Minaj delivers one delicious dance pop track after another. We get those awesome club anthems, with melodies that get stuck in your ear right after you heard them, addictive beats that make you nod and jump and all that stuff, and those synthesizers that seem to have a life of their own and play with such presence, you get the impressions you are listening to a duet between Minaj and the instrumentals. There are those wonderful moments after the choruses of "Starships" and "Pound the Alarm" where you feel the producers went crazy on their keyboards. You just have to love it. And what about "Beautiful Sinner"? It sounds like a 90s eurodance beat originally designed for 2 Unlimited or Ace of Base along an 80s like melody written for Cyndi Lauper or a young Madonna. There's just no way this song was supposed to be released in 2012. Oh, and Nicki Minaj can sing! I mean, like for real! Just check out the power ballad "Marilyn Monroe". She wonderfully closes the album with the inspiring and uplifting "Gun Shot" after a few more astonishing and perfectly produced songs. That is, before the ultimate final track, "Stupid H**" rolls on like those credits that play wild music after an emotional ending. When this song pops up, you kind of wonder if Minaj... or Roman, really lost her mind. And how in particular. It's also kind of a fun song. And it makes you want to replay the entire CD, reminding you of how crazy this album started.
"Roman Reloaded" has its extremely vulgar and prophane, foul-mouthed, graphically sexual and shocking moments, gloriously celebrating bad taste. They're done by Minaj, but also by the featured artists. It's a bit more extreme than its preceeder, but there's also a more cynical, comical and tongue-in-cheek tone to those explicit tracks. Minaj in her Roman persona can be compared to Eminem as Slim Shady. Both are offensive and extremely crude, violent and politically incorrect, but it's so over-the-top that it's funny. If you think or know your teen can handle an Eminem album, they should have no problem with Nicki Minaj's "Roman Reloaded". On the plus side, Minaj isn't homophobic. Besides the bad language and sex, there are several references to cocaine, and there is a violent undertone to some tracks, with gun clicking sound effects on at least 2 tracks (one being aggressive, the other one is rather metaphoric).