I can't blame Nicki Minaj for allowing the success of her highly successful debut, "Pink Friday," inspire the direction of her sophomore set, "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," but the Young Money rapper-turnt-singer went overboard.
Though more than half of the 13 songs on her 2010 debut served as official or underground singles, her break through pop hit "Super Bass" is the one that set her apart from other female MCs, earning her props from Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, justification for touring with Britney Spears, triple platinum certification and Super Bowl and feature alignments with Madonna.
Little on "Roman Reloaded" will warrant any more comparisons to Lil Kim as barely a third of the album targets the hip-hop demo.
Also, some of the rap tracks on "Roman Reloaded" are more experimental and hard to follow than cool. "Roman Holiday," one of the songs Nicki performed during her exorcism at the Grammys, mixes rapid Ol' Dirty Bastard-esque rhyme flows, sporadic beat changes and a sacrilegious rendition of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful."
"Come On A Cone" has a erratic, spacey track similar to "Pink Friday"'s "Did It On 'Em," but loses appeal for too many compulsive profane moments, including the song title and chorus. The booming, slower-paced "Champion" featuring Drake, Nas and Young Jeezy could have been a massive all-star collaboration like Drake's "Forever" or T.I.'s "Swagger Like Us" but falls short because Drake and Jeezy lost sight of the message. In rhyming about their triumphs, Nicki and Nas offer meaningful reflections of overcoming hardships while Drake and Jeezy contribute boring raps about strippers and cars.
The album's best hip-hop song is "I Am Your Leader" featuring Rick Ross and a refreshing Cam. "Beez In The Trap" with 2 Chainz and "Hov Lane" don't live up to their potential.
By track 8, Nicki appears to have gotten bored with the antics thus far and takes a break from the rap songs to try her hand as an Auto-Tune pop singer, kicking off this departure with "Right By My Side" with Chris Brown.
This hit-and-miss stream of pop attempts lasts for 10 songs and does little to threaten the reign of the genre's leading ladies Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna even though she works with Gaga producer Red One on "Starships."
The Auto-Tune effects are so prominent that its impossible to focus on other aspects of the songs which are possibly not bad records.
"Marilyn Monroe," however, stylistically is reminiscent of Rihanna while also conveying a message as empowering as Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" as Nicki compares her insecurities to those of the song's iconic entertainment namesake.
Another surprising win is "Gun Shot" featuring reggae superstar Beenie Man. It is big enough to score a trailer for a summertime teenage chick flick.
But overall, "Roman Loaded" is too scattered and captures Nicki in a place of transition. It's quite disappointing listening to one of hip-hop's most interesting new artists work so hard to abandon her unique style to adopt an oversaturated trend she is far from mastering.