A Roundtable Discussion On Nicki Minaj's 'Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded The Re-Up'
Four of her biggest fans discuss the album's legacy on its fifth anniversary.
Back in November 2012, Nicki Minaj tacked on eight brand new songs to her second studio album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and re-issued it as The Re-Up. It wasn't exactly a traditional re-issue; Nicki served up a mini EP with production from Boi-1da, T-Minus, Juicy J, and features from Lil Wayne, Ciara, Cassie, and more.
"I'm putting lots of new songs on there and I'm actually going to drop my new single like next week," she told Rap-Up at the 2012 VMAs two months prior to its release. "Barbz, you are gonna spaz. You are gonna love it. You are gonna go crazy!"
And that, they did.
On the album's fifth anniversary, four of the biggest Barbz— Nick B., Nelly, Patrick, Izzy—discuss Nicki's legacy, where The Re-Up stands in her catalog, and what they're most looking forward to on Nicki's forthcoming album.
Lauren Nostro: I'm assuming you all know each other, but can everyone introduce themselves and tell me their earliest memory of Nicki Minaj?
Nick: My first memory of Nicki was in 2009. I was a big music fan and always browsing forums in regards to anything pop culture and music. Someone posted a video of the 5 Star Remix video, and that’s the first time I saw and heard Nicki. I instantly fell in love, and after that moment. I think I became a true fan.
Izzy: Yes I do know them, I've known them for years thanks to Nicki! My earliest memory of Nicki Minaj was in 2010, my sister was sitting on the floor and I walked by and she was listening to a song called “Itty Bitty Piggy” and I remember saying, “Oh another female rapper from NYC? They all eventually die out” and letting out a laugh, but little did I know Nicki would have the last laugh (which she always does)! Maybe a month later, I saw the video to “5 Star Chick” and I fell in love with Barbie at the age of 19. After that, I was addicted. I couldn't wait for every single verse.
Nelly: I’m Nelly from California! My earliest memory of Nicki Minaj would be when I was in college 2009, a girl I was familiar with was playing “Freaky Girl” from her phone. While I was never a fan of provocative music, I was intrigued by her lyricism! From then, I downloaded everything I could and have been a fan since then.
Izzy: I was a gay boy who was sold on the whole Barbie look, I just knew I needed more!
Patrick: "5 Star Chick" was such an iconic moment! The barbiiieeee movement was in full effect. We all know each other and have met before! It's crazy how Nicki really brings people together. I'm Patrick and I'm from the East Coast (the DMV) but now live out in LA. My earliest memory of Nicki was back in 2007 or 2008 during the mixtape days. I remember it like it was yesterday, I was watching a crazy interview of Nicki and Jabari Johnson and I just fell in love with her personality. At the time, I was working for this Lil Wayne fansite where we'd update folks with news about his songs and tour... and one day I was doing some posts about Nicki and how she was this dope up and coming female MC... and after that I've just been rocking with Nicki's movement ever since. I even got to interview her a few times, and those conversations will always be so special to me!
Lauren: You guys can talk about Nicki for hours I know, but what I want to really focus on specifically is The Re-Up. Can you each tell me a little about what you remember about the anticipation behind this release?
Patrick: There is always this HIGH anticipation level with everything she does. People are waiting to see what her next move and sound is, so as die hard fans we knew it was going to be another magical release. I remember watching this video on Twitter of Nicki playing "Freedom" for Tim Westwood and some of TMUK (Team Minaj UK) in this hotel in the United Kingdom, and I just got goosebumps watching. At that moment, I knew we were getting a special body of work, and it wasn't something just being "repackaged" with a few new tracks.
Izzy: I remember the anticipation behind the release specifically because the time after Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded was such a contentious period for the fanbase. The Re-Up felt like an answer to a lot of the questions people had about Nicki, especially concerning her rapping after such a eclectic album like PFRR. We, her die-hards, understood the path she was taking but The Re-Up was her signaling her direction for the following album—to me anyway.
Nick: I remember rumors of Nicki releasing new music a few months after Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded dropped, so I was really excited. And then not long after we got the new single “The Boys,” and still to this day I have so much fun rapping the third verse because it’s so fast. The video that came with it was so colorful and fun (that purple and blue wig is my favorite wig of hers!). I remember all of us were so excited for the album, and I remember a lot of us were making fanmade album covers for it before the official one came out. When the entire project dropped, it was such a fresh sound for Nicki. She’s so versatile and I love that about her. I remember hearing the opening chorus of “Up In Flames” and getting chills from that alone. It was a truly special moment for all of us.
Patrick: The fan love was crazy! There were covers and people were out in the streets passing out flyers. We made our own little street promo team. We really go hard for Nicki!
Nelly: Fanmade covers was dope! I feel like this was when I first realized how connected she really is to us although we were years in by then. For me, it was celebrating her second album released again in addition to a few new tracks. It seemed that she was just having fun with this album and giving her core fans what was wanted! So celebrating her second album in addition to adding a few new fun tracks for us.
Lauren: You mentioned it was a contentious period, Izzy, can you elaborate on that?
Izzy: We were fighting literally everyone online almost everyday. A lot of people had an issue with Nicki's pop sensibility, The Re-Up felt like a return to form.
Patrick: Twitter was so fun back then. But yes, we deadass were fighting EVERYONE!
Nelly: Excitement in addition to that! Several people who don’t understand Nicki attacked her so it was war for us!
Lauren: Do you guys think she as aiming for that "return to form?" I interviewed her for a Complex cover once and she hated the "bringing mixtape Nicki back" narrative.
Nick: I don’t think any artist really likes the “comeback” comments if they haven’t been gone for like 10+ years. And Nicki has always reinvented herself and not settled, so I can see why she wouldn’t like that.
Izzy: I remember everyone feeling super excited about the new project! We knew it wasn't the third album, but kind of a "connecting flight" to the third album. She was teasing a lot of different songs in the months leading up to it, it really brought the fanbase forward with her, in terms of her sound. Nick and Nelly can tell you how much we all feel we've grown with Nicki with each and every release.
Nelly: I think that at this point, she knew the exact route she was taking in her career. As for “return to form”, absolutely not. I personally don’t feel she’s reverted back to “old Nicki” until recent years. At the time of the re-release, she was still establishing who Nicki Minaj was to the world. Now that she’s beyond that, little by little, she’s giving that raw Nicki her core fans have seen from the beginning.
Lauren: Do you guys have any funny stories about the night/day Re-Up was released?
Patrick: That whole day/night was a gag, sis. We already had been FIGHTING folks online coming off her AMA performance the night before. Bitches were pressed that Nicki was being innovative with this new sound. I remember she had a CHOIR for her "Freedom" performance—and people just couldn't understand it. I'm like, "Can y'all listen, this is pure artistry."
Nelly: There were so many, I’d have to swim miles down my timeline on twitter to find them. Too many!
Patrick: Album release days are always so special. I flew into NYC that day... and did 106 & PARK with a bunch of the Barbz. It was FREEZING, but we were all out in the streets rapping and having fun at like 1AM. But it was all worth it, and we were front row with Nicki.
Nick: I remember people trying to make fun of her because the album was on track to sell ~30k copies in the first week. But many don’t realize that’s actually very well for a re-release. Just shows they really reach for anything!
Izzy: The night of the release, I don't remember any online wars with the Barbz except for the week after when some tried to mock her for sales not knowing what she sold was higher than other re-releases (Katy Perry etc). I remember feeling this project was perfectly timed, it was really the essence of Nicki Minaj. Sugary pop hooks on some songs mixed with her addictive lyrical wordplay that we all know her for.
Lauren: I'm going to play Devil's Advocate for a second—30K for a reissue isn't bad but a lot of people criticize her for how much she talks about sales and chart accolades. How do you respond to those critics then?
Patrick: I love a good humble brag. At the end of the day, Nicki puts a lot of time into her craft and she doesn't get the props she deserves. Women have it so much harder then men, which is really unfortunate. Nicki's critics should really look at how she's changed the game over the last decade.
Nick: I don’t see anything wrong with being proud of your work. Many artists like Rihanna and Drake do the same thing when they release new music, but it’s a problem when Nicki does it. I don’t get it.
Lauren: Well, why do you guys think that is?
Izzy: I believe those same critics are the people who tell her numbers and sales do matter whenever she releases a song and it doesn't automatically becomes a chart topper. Why is she restricted in talking about her success? I think there's a concentrated effort in misunderstanding Nicki Minaj. I think people want to be offended by everything she does, she's such a polarizing figure. It's easy to react that way to someone who's been so dominant. People get tired of seeing you win, they want to see you down. They want to see you lose. If she doesn't scream her successes, they'll drown her in her failures.
Nick: Honestly, I can’t 100 percent figure it out. I think because it’s Nicki they just like to do so. I think lately it’s a “trend” to hate Nicki Minaj.
Nelly: A lot of people criticize Nicki for everything and always have. As for people upset when she speaks about numbers, I personally disregard it all because they’re never satisfied with Nicki Minaj. Her core fans have been with her for such a long time so all of those things matter to us. She isn’t understood by the general public in any form. Why can’t a hard working female mogul brag about what she’s achieved? Power to her!
Lauren: I can see that. OK so back to Re-Up—what do you each like most about the album?
Nick: I don’t think people like how groundbreaking and trendsetting Nicki has been partly because she’s a woman in a male-dominated industry. Especially male rap fans.
Patrick: I love that Nicki wasn't afraid to take risks and explore her sound. As a fan of her music, it's exciting for me to see different bodies of work. "Freedom" with Boi-1da was such a magical track, and the visuals they shot in England were so great. And then you have songs like "I Endorse These Strippers"—reminds me of 2010 when I was going to the clubs in DC to see Nicki. For me it was just a great body of work—it didn't even feel like a re-release.
Nelly: I like that Nicki ventured out. I love that she gave us both hip-hop and pop. Not to mention, I was never a fan of hip-hop prior to becoming a fan of hers. I grew up listening to pop music for the most part so for me, it was the best of both worlds. Pop was very different as for what was expected of Nicki and whether she knew she’d be great at it or not, she went for it. I think it was smart and absolutely helped boost her career.
Lauren: Do you think it's different than the pop she made on Pink Friday or Roman Reloaded?
Izzy: She fed every part of me that enjoys the different sounds of Nicki Minaj. If I wanted to feel like I'm the baddest bitch in the room, I'm going to listen to "I'm Legit." If I needed to feel like a boss, I'm going to play "Up In Flames" and if I wanted to kick a bitch in her teeth, I'm going with "The Boys."
Lauren: People always say "pop is different" for her and but her albums always had pop.
Izzy: I love that she sort of explored new sounds. Like with “The Boys,” I cant see any other artist bodying a track like that. It’s a little different but Nicki can make it work.
Nelly: I wouldn’t say it was different from the first release, just more of it!
Izzy: But even her mixtapes had hints of pop. She was always playful with her sound, she just had the budget and the audience when the first and second album came around to really go there.
Patrick: She's always been animated, and had sounds of pop! I think people just really need to look at her overall discography.
Lauren: What do you all like least about the album?
Nick: I disliked how short it was. I wanted more! Lol.
Lauren: It's 27 tracks!
Nick: Well, the re-release with new songs.
Patrick: Not many people know this, but Nicki let a fan design the album cover. For me, I was sad to see that some people criticized her for that. It was so dope that she did that... so I disliked that some fans had opinions on that.
Nelly: As biased as it may sound, there isn’t much. I’d only say more newer songs, especially being that it was a re-release for us! Then again, it was a re-release.
Nick: See how greedy we are?
Izzy: Well if we're including the tracks from PFRR with The Re-Up, I didn't like the song "Automatic"
Nelly: See our mindset? Spoiled. But from The Re-Up, I liked every track she put on there
Nick: You mean the one she stole from Lil Kim?
Izzy: Girl! We could've done without it. I didn't like it because it was "Whip It" ugly little sister.
Nick: "Automatic" is better than "Beautiful Sinner," let’s not!
Nelly: Izzy is clearly feeling ill today. "Automatic" and "Whip It" were phenomenal!
Lauren: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about this album?
Nelly: Why she did it.
Izzy: That she did it to push the sales exclusively. Nicki’s always had a plan, she’s very precise about what she does in her career. There’s a song on PFRR where she hints at a re-release, & then another hint on PFRR-TRU where she hints at TPP.
Nick: Yeah, people always think she always has some greedy narrative when it comes to these kinds of things.
Lauren: She came in with a gameplay.
Nick: She’s really smart. People don’t realize that.
Patrick: So smart. She's a mogul. I love how she has FULL control over all her business decisions.
Nelly: I can’t say I completely understood myself but I think with the connection to her and being on the journey with her for so long, her goal was to reroute and she people what she was musically capable of. Not to “sell out” and switch over to some other genre. She opened doors for herself and gathered so many more fans.
Izzy: It was always some insidious reason for Nicki releasing anything, as you can see with her last few features. But they said she did it for sales, and it's clear they didn't listen to album No. 2.
Lauren: What’s everyone's favorite lyric on The Re-Up and why?
Patrick: "12 Milli to kick my feet up, get ready this is the Re-Up!" My bitch is VERY rich! She's here to stay. But seriously, Nicki's career is really legendary.
Izzy: “They’ll never thank me for opening doors but they ain’t even thank Jesus when he died on the cross. ‘Cause your spirit is ungrateful, bitches is so hateful, I remain a staple. My career’s been the pink print. When I retire tell ‘em think pink. PINK FRIDAY is the imprint and these bitches basic—INSTINCT!" It's my favorite because it is still relevant and will be relevant long after she retires.
Nick: Yasssss. That song always speaks volume.
Nelly: I second Izzy!
Izzy: HERE, HERE FOR "FREEDOM!"
Lauren: I love "Freedom." Remember that AMA performance?
Patrick: Nicki came out in the WHITE fur coat looking like Cruella de Vil. It was the night before the album dropped, and she had her heel in the girlies necks.
Nick: Honestly I love all of the lyrics on “Up In Flames.” The amount of punchlines.
Izzy: The girls couldn't take NICKI MINAJ reading them from the AMA stage, what an icon with pink hair
Nicki: I loved it bc it was a different side of Nicki that a lot of people didn’t know. At the time they knew her because of her unique looks and fun music. The “Freedom” was a real side of her, so a lot of people were probably taken back.
Nelly: Nicki always shakes the table. This is why we love her!
Lauren: What's everyone's favorite song on the album and why?
Nick: “The Boys” because of her incredible flow and unique beat.
Patrick: "Freedom" no doubt! The track just speaks to me.
Izzy: I want to say to “Freedom” but I have too much fun rapping “The Boys.” Especially that last verse! I thought it was the perfect balance of sugary pop music mixed with killer verses where you just imagine yourself beating the shit out of some bitch you don’t like.
Nelly: The pop girl in me was obsessed with “Pound The Alarm” but my number one on the album was absolutely "Freedom."
Lauren: Ok, a few more questions. Do you think doing the Pink Friday narrative for all three was "too much?"
Izzy: No. I think it’s unfair to say that, men have series of albums all the time with the same name. “Pink Friday” is her brand, all 3 albums were different releases with different music. It felt like a lazy criticism when people would say that but then in the same breath say they understand why JAY-Z has The Blueprint and Lil Wayne has Tha Carter series.
Nick: No. When it came to her brand, it set herself more in history. JAY-Z did it, so I can see why Nicki is doing it. He’s a big inspiration to her.
Patrick: No, Nicki's brand was Pink Friday. That was the narrative she was telling, and it works for her! Again, men have done this narrative before—so why does Barbie get criticized?
Nelly: I completely agree with both! My reasoning would be the same.
Lauren: What are you guys most looking forward to with NM4? What do you think people can expect from this era?
Nick: I’m excited for EVERYTHING! The videos, the lyrics, the tour, the features, the photo shoots, the promotional stuff. We’ve waited for so long for a new album!
Patrick: I'm most excited for TOUR and New Music. I love being on the road with Nicki. We haven't had an album in like three whole damn years. I'm ready for the excitement and conversation around Onika Tanya Maraj. This will be a magical era, I can truly feel it.
Lauren: What are you expecting to learn about her more this era?
Izzy: I'm looking forward to the silence of her critics. I'm looking forward to vindication. Every single album, as a stan of Nicki Minaj, has always felt like vindication. We always win, she always delivers, no one can every claim her throne. I know her sound has grown, I personally know how excited she is for her release! Nicki's ready to release her classic and #NM4 will be her classic. Exciting features, just generally good music.
Patrick: I agree with Izzy... I'm ready for the music to speak for itself and for her to silence the critics. This body of work will be her best yet, and that's why she's taken so long to make it perfect for us.
Nick: I think they can expect Nicki to fight back. This year, a lot has happened to her and she’s received so much criticism, possibly the largest since she debuted. I think she’s going to prove everyone wrong, and also address certain situations that will get people to shut up.
Nelly: I don’t know what to expect myself, actually. It’s been cooking for so long! I feel like she’s going to take an entire new route with this album. I’m most excited to see what she does and for people to shut the hell up criticizing her. At the same time, I expect nothing less from them. Regardless of what she does, I truly believe she’ll never receive the credit she deserves. Numbers don’t lie, however. While riding the “hate Nicki Minaj” wave, numbers never lie! It’s been a long journey for her, I’m just excited and grateful to still be on the ride with her.
Lauren: Do you think this will be her "CLASSIC" album?
Patrick: Yes, I think this album will speak volumes. She's been in the studio for so long, and she's been through so much over these past few years, which I'm sure she's channeled into her work. Her pen game is crazy, and I think we're going to see some very strong lyrical tracks on this album. Hard core hip-hop tracks, so don't count NICKI MINAJ out of the game, just yet!
Nick: Just how much she’s evolved since TPP, especially with all of the life events that’s happened to her in the past three years. There’s so much to talk about.
Izzy: I want to learn how she views her legacy. How she views her career, how she'll fight off these hungry wolves lol. I think this will be her classic album. There's a drive and determination I haven't heard in Nicki for a very long time. Nothing fires her up like someone telling her she can't do it. Never, ever try to back Nicki into a corner.
Patrick: NEVER BACK THE QUEEN INTO A CORNER!
Nick: I think every album of hers is a classic. But with this one, I think because of the time period and all of the criticism around her right now, all eyes are on her and it will get everyone talking.
Nelly: Yes! I don’t think we’ve ever waited this long for another album.
Lauren: OK one more question for you guys: Are you guys tired of Nicki calling everyone her sons yet?
Izzy: NEVER! Every male rapper can come in the game and recycle bars and use the same lines over and over again and even have their own cliché bar that you’ll always attribute to them, why can’t Nicki Minaj do it? Every single time she’s done it, she’s always had a different flip on the phrase. Like, c’mon. Let’s give the Queen her credit for creativity. Everyone is always trying to police what she can and can’t say, how about we let Nicki Minaj rap how Nicki Minaj raps, because we’ll hear the same lines fly out of the next man/woman’s lips. PAY ATTENTION!
Nelly: Nope! Her word play with the saying is different for the most part every single time! Why not call these people exactly what they are? It’s facts!
Nick: No! The way she continues to come up with new lines and metaphors for it is so amazing. And she does it so effortlessly. No one complains when Lil Wayne has his “Weezy F baby and the F is for ____” tagline.
Patrick: Absolutely NOT! Nicki has BARZ and she out raps everyone all the time. She's the queen and the king, in my opinion. Look at what she's done over the past decade and then talk to me! At the end of the day, Nicki is a lyrical beast and you have to respect her craft.
Izzy: Forreal though. PAY ATTENTION! Nicki Minaj is mother, that's why she can keep saying it.
You can stream Nicki Minaj's entire discography here.