Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

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April 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

The job of queen bee of the rap world had been vacant for years. But Nicki Minaj would have grabbed that moniker even if the commercial success and wiggy eclecticism of her 2010 debut, Pink Friday, breezily cartwheeling between candy-colored horrorcore and futuristic robo-pop, hadn’t rightfully earned it for her. At times Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (which is not a sequel, despite the title) excellently mines those extremes, like when she shuttles between a guttural bark and a faux-operatic croon during ”Come on a Cone” — as in, her flow is so cold it should be delivered by Mister Softee.

If Roman stuck to those technical high-wire acts, it would be a near-perfect schizophrenic juggernaut. But too many of its 19 tracks leave Minaj simply treading the territory of other radio divas. It isn’t that ”Automatic” and ”Beautiful Sinner,” dance froth sung in Nicki’s vanilla-starlet coo, are bad — it’s just that they could have been done by any lesser talent with a tolerance for Auto-Tune.

Since nobody else sounds like her, it’s frustrating to listen to Minaj waste time mimicking others. Fortunately, iTunes makes it easy to jettison all but Roman‘s vivid prog-rap bangers. It may not be a definitive knockout punch, but she can keep her title. B

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Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

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