In one of the most notable Hip Hop news bits of the year, Hot 97 radio personality Peter Rosenberg called out Nicki Minaj’s song “Starships” as “bullshit,” and said it wasn’t “real Hip Hop.” Lil Wayne pulled his Cash Money roster from the lineup as a result, but Rosenberg’s scathing critique echoed the feelings that other critics and fans had said for months. Listeners fell in love with the lyrical clinics that Nicki conducted alongside heavyweights like Eminem and Kanye West on “Roman’s Revenge” and “Monster,” but her sophomore disc, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, was filled with poppy Top 40 cuts. With Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded: The Re-Up, Nicki Minaj aims to grab those detractors back. On The Re-Up, Minaj looks to have her cake and eat it too.
After the Super-Pop sensibilities of Roman Reloaded, the YMCMB queen uses this new EP’s worth of songs to remind listeners of her bar-heavy rhymes, but keeping the poppy backdrops that dominated her work last year. The results, like last year’s album, are inconsistent: the instrumentals and lyrics often work fine on their own merits, but they don’t work well together.
The high point of The Re-Up is “High School,” which sees Minaj spewing sexy rhymes about seducing a man who served a prison bid. The song, which is topped with a Lil Wayne cameo and a capable backdrop by Boi-1da, is reminiscent of the Nicki who impressed with her mixtapes and debut album. She also finds the right balance on “Up In Flames” and “Hell Yeah,” which she uses to celebrate her success and denouncers, including her American Idol co-judge Mariah Carey.
Elsewhere, the new disc heads south. “Freedom” and the trite ladies’ anthem “I’m Legit” both fall short with corny choruses, with the latter further suffering from a formulaic soundbed and a staccato flow that splits the song’s verses. By the time the disc reaches “I Endorse These Strippers” and “The Boys,” Nicki has already fully migrated back to her Pop sensibilities. As its own EP, The Re-Up would help provide balance to the pop chart aspirations from last year. But as a tack-on for Roman Reloaded, it plays like a band-aid over a shotgun wound. Despite glimpses of her glorious past, Nicki’s Pop star transformation is complete: for better, and for worse. Former fans will need more than a bonus disc to change their minds.