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The 50 Best Albums of 2012 (So Far)

49. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

Label: Young Money Cash Money/Universal
Released: April 2nd

It's unfortunate that, despite its sales, Nicki Minaj's sophomore effort will go down as a schizophrenic, overindulgent, pop-pandering cataclysm. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is all of those things, but it's far from a failure because of them. Listen to Nicki's Hot 97 interview with Funkmaster Flex about the controversial decision to cancel her headlining performance on this year's Summer Jam. She comes across as assertive, intelligent, and unwilling to apologize for her eccentrics, especially as a black woman.

That attitude is omnipresent throughout this record, which is fine if you're not expecting it to sound like her Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape series. The life Nicki and 2 Chainz bring to the bare-bones backdrop of "Beez In The Trap" makes it one of the most enjoyable rap songs of the moment. Her singing irrefutably transitions from gimmick to full-blown R&B manifesto with ease on "Right By Your Side"—and next to Chris Brown no less.

Then there's the oft-criticized EDM-influenced second half of the album, which finds the rapper unabashedly basking in the lofty sound of modern Top 40. As evidenced by songs like "Whip It," that portion of the LP is actually a thrilling look into contemporary pop production and songwriting that would be celebrated if anyone but Nicki Minaj were doing it.

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded isn't perfect, but it is better than good: an ambitious, experimental album that should be applauded not just for the risk involved, but also for affirming that there are really no restrictions on the growth of hip-hop artists anymore.

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