I haven’t been able to make enough sense of Nicki Minaj’s self-mythology to understand who or what Roman Zolanski is beyond an alter-ego somewhat in the Hulk mode, but there’s enough evidence on Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded to suggest that Minaj would be better off if she left things in his/its hands. Roman Reloaded is alternately near-brilliant and bloated, transgressive and tired, and the split falls almost directly at the line where Roman and Nicki intersect.
The opening six songs here, which make up the bulk of the Roman material, aren’t exactly perfect, but they explode with the attention-grabbing ballsiness of a slap to the face. Roman Holiday, the album’s opener, is a near-schizophrenic conglomeration of styles that works both as an avant-garde collage of musical styles and a pretty bold beginning for someone of Minaj’s stature. If you’re into this album for something like the bland club ear-wormness of lead single Starships, it’s practically an assault. It opens with Minaj affecting a seriously faux-English accent over synth blasts and electronic drums, before slipping onto bongo-accented Missy Elliot-style freak raps, playing those two off each other while finding time to mix in an echo-y bridge of Minaj singing “Come all ye faithful.”