Nicki Minaj's "Starships" and "Stupid Hoe" couldn't sound more different. We know this. The lyrical themes are light years apart, as is the production. For those like us who were wondering how Minaj could reconcile such a wide sonic divide on her new album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the answer comes in the form of an album cover -- one hell of a complex cover for one hell of a complex album.
Take it at face value. Minaj, donning blonde locks, pale skin and pink shades of makeup splattered across her face in a pattern both intriguing yet aggressive -- as if she found herself in a knife fight with "Telephone"-era Lady Gaga and was left with these cuts -- looks more fierce, and sexy, than ever. Her eyes, piercingly assured. The backdrop, not a blank canvas but a multi-colored one instead. Then, at the bottom, the album name, "Roman Reloaded," and a banner which Minaj hides behind, like she still has something to conceal after being such a prominent figure in the industry for two-plus years.
The best part of the cover's psychological implications, however, is that it manages to encapsulate the manic hip-pop artistry that is instantly and unmistakably Nicki Minaj. It's not weird, not theatrical like Minaj's "Roman's Holiday" performance at the Grammys. Intriguing but intimidating, this cover may be the best move of the Roman Reloaded campaign yet. Where the "Stupid Hoe" video ripped cues from all of Minaj's pop contemporaries except Ke$ha, it's obvious that Nicki saved the "Tik Tok" hitmaker's influential hot messiness and manipulated it to her own creative advantage for this cover.
Stare at the cover long enough and you start to feel like you're looking through a Minaj kaleidoscope of alter egos: blink once and you see Minaj; blink twice and see Martha; blink again and you see Roman Zolanski. Finally. Something from the Roman Reloaded album campaign that unites each of Minaj's personalities, not isolate them.
Minaj explains Roman:
Touted as Roman's opportunity to speak -- or rap, rather -- for himself, Roman Reloaded should be as aggressive sonically as it is visually. For every "Starships" type of track, expect two or three "Stupid Hoes." Not a bad thing, especially considering how flawless Roman was on "Roman's Revenge" when Minaj and Eminem spit raps back and forth on her debut. Needless to say, while Pink Friday lacked a strong single until the "Super Bass"-helmed re-release came along, Roman Reloaded could likely offer multiple singles and truly establish Minaj at the top of the pop-hip-hop crossover echelon. She certainly has enough single-worthy demos floating around YouTube for it, anyways. Should Minaj put as much creative energy into the video for "Starships" as she did this cover, she could very well even have a "Poker Face" visual masterpiece on her hands.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, it's rewarding to finally see an image of Minaj that is equal parts Nicki as it is Roman, Martha, Rosa and any other alter egos the woman has buried underneath that wig.
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