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‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’: How Nicki Minaj Shot For The Mainstream

A sign of things to come, with ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’, Nicki Minaj led the way for female rappers and helped hip-hop consume pop completely.

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Nicki Minaj Roman Reloaded

Nicki Minaj is rounding out a decade as one of the biggest figures in the history of rap. While some of her breakout singles are turning 10 this year, it was Minaj’s sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, that made her a superstar.

Listen to the deluxe edition of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded right now.

Released on 2 April 2012, the album’s wide-ranging sound was indicative of how hard it was to pin down Nicki stylistically. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded was a controversial album that garnered attention from haters while simultaneously making Minaj’s hardcore fanbase even more intense. Divisive in its diversity, the album cemented Nicki’s superstardom amid a rapidly changing hip-hop landscape.

The biggest female rapper in the game

When you’re the biggest female rapper in a male-dominated industry, you’re going to get a lot of unfair criticism. With Minaj, however, even that feels like an understatement. Being “the biggest” makes you “the only” in the eyes of many consumers. You become a standard-bearer for any sort of experimentation. And because the first Pink Friday earned Nicki success with both rap and pop-oriented singles, she doubled down in both directions on her sophomore effort. There are some hard-rapping singles, but the Roman Reloaded’s poppier breakouts are more emblematic of its success.

It’s not the most synergistic album, but Nicki was still figuring things out. The album’s credits are a time-capsule grab-bag of the era’s producers (this is the case with many rap albums, but it’s especially true here), many of whom had previously helmed hits for Nicki and others.

Nicki had success with Kane Beatz on ‘Bottoms Up’, ‘Bedrock’, and most significantly, Pink Friday’s ‘Super Bass’, a single – and bonus track, no less – that was so popular it impacted the direction of Roman Reloaded. ‘Champions’ was one of the last big songs T-Minus did before his semi-hiatus, RedOne helped make Lady Gaga the biggest artist on the planet, and in 2012 Hit-Boy was one of the most popular producers since Mannie Fresh.

The names behind the boards aren’t the only ones emblematic of the era. ‘Beez In The Trap’ boasted a 2 Chainz feature in the middle of his legendary come-up. And while Minaj and Drake didn’t repeat Pink Friday’s ‘Moment 4 Life’, when Roman Reloaded dropped, it seemed like their alliance would last forever… but things got more complicated than that.

Undeniable importance

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded was also designed to discredit Nicki’s doubters by spotlighting the respect she’d generated from the greats. It sports features from Cam’Ron, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Nas and, of course, Lil Wayne. Even if the album’s impact was pop-inclined, Nicki’s prominence and importance in hip-hop were undeniable.

‘Starships’ went further in the ‘Super Bass’ direction, and was decidedly more pop than some would have liked. But Drake or Kanye could have done the same thing – many times over, and no one would have batted an eye – which is why Roman Reloaded’s release and the surrounding circumstances were also emblematic of rap’s enduring problem with misogyny.

Redressing the balance

To say the genre has a gender imbalance would be frustrating, even if the situation today is a lot better than it was almost a decade ago. Nicki played no small part in paving the way for so many female rappers that have emerged in her wake. Because there are comparatively fewer women doing it, and because rap is so competitive, the notion that there can only be one successful “Queen Of Rap” at a given time has permeated the culture. Even as more and more women are beginning to experience success, fans tend to pit them against one another even more so than they do with their male counterparts.

The further we get from Roman Reloaded’s release, the more it feels like a harbinger of change. In 2012, rap wasn’t yet the dominant force it is in radio today; the success of songs like ‘Starships’, which achieved massive popularity as both rap and social media were evolving into something else entirely, are partly to thank for this. Categorise it as pop, rap, or whatever you want, after ‘Starships’ and Roman Reloaded, rap consumed pop completely. The single was so huge, it often eclipsed (and still does) the rest of the album, which is a shame. Even at its most ambling, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded was a sign of things to come.

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded can be bought right now.

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Listen to the best of Nicki Minaj on Apple Music and Spotify.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Frank Simon

    April 3, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I think one reason Nicki Minaj received so much criticism from early on in her career, even until now, is how versatile she was as a female artist who rapped hardcore songs, fun rap songs, sang ballads, and addictive EDM-style songs. She set the standard very high, and brought a level of professionalism that others could not deliver on. It wasn’t that she was the “only” female rapper around, it was more so because every time she was asked for a feature, she not only delivered, but people began saying, “when Nicki Minaj is on the song, it becomes her song.” Up to now she is still criticized for things that other female artists are being praised for, and truth be told, much of the criticism she recieves, is not in part because of her music, but because of personal issues behind the scenes. A strong female in the industry will always be crucified, thats why we rarely see radio interviews with the biggest female artists, there will always be that double standard. Just look at how Hot 97 and Breakfast Club continue to diminish Nicki Minaj’s career through petty tactics.

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