Roman, Roman, Roman! As Nicki Minaj promotes her new album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, all the talk of the New York rapper’s Roman Zolanski alter ego is enough to make a weary pop fan sympathize with Jan Brady complaining about sister Marcia. In one recent interview, Minaj discusses new single “Roman in Moscow” as if her character’s storyline were as commonly known as a Harry Potter plot line, but in reality what exactly is happening is far less clear.
This much we can say for sure: Roman allows Minaj to tap into the fire-breathing, giddily nihilistic spirit that drew so many rap heads to her mixtapes, such as Beam Me Up, Scotty, as well as her guest appearances on others’ tracks. In other words, the bubblegum lightness of her smash hit “Super Bass” wouldn’t be Roman’s bag. She’s also said Roman is her gay-boy alter ego, telling Out last summer, “Roman is so flamboyant, so outspoken, so open, and, you know, creative.” With that in mind, here’s a quick recap of his role in her music, on 2010 debut Pink Friday and beyond.
- “Roman in Moscow” After cementing her pop stardom, Minaj revives the Roman character for another track of frenzied wordplay: “Yeah, ain’t no motherfuckin’ bridge, bitch / Ain’t no motherfuckin’ hook, ain’t no motherfuckin’ third motherfuckin’ verse.” Ain’t more than the most cursory mention of Moscow, either.
- “Bottoms Up” (Trey Songz song) This Roman appearance has “electrifying eccentricities,” we wrote, noting that Minaj’s verses find her “stammering, convulsing, and modulating her voice to sound like Marilyn Monroe.” She turns down “Mr. Steal Your Girl,” too.
- “Monster” (Kayne West song) Perhaps Minaj’s most famous Roman verse finds her going completely unhinged, “like a motherfucking monster” in every way: “OK, first things first, I’ll eat your brains.” Below listen to the “Nicki-Centric Edit” by Brooklyn producer Kingdom.
- “Moment 4 Life” (feat. Drake) Here’s how you know this Pink Friday highlight isn’t really a Roman song: There’s so much singing on it! Also, it’s a bit too cheerful for a monster. In the video, however, Minaj dresses up as Roman’s mother Martha, busting out that fake British accent to inform us her son has been sent away to boarding school. “Him and Slim Shady. They were wreaking havoc over the industry, darling.” https://www.youtube.com/embed/R5rqBA2xxTI?version=3
So now we see why, on “Roman in Moscow,” Minaj raps, “Yeah I’m crazy — just a smidgen.” Just a smidgen!