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All photos: Katherine Gaines

Headlining her first major US tour since her debut to the music scene nearly five years ago, Nicki Minaj brought Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded to DC’s Constitution Hall. Her adoring fans, Barbies as she refers to them, came out in mini hoards, one more flamboyantly attired than the next. With Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz along for the journey, the lady of the hour set to prove her position in music’s cosmos.

As an opener, rapper 2 Chainz was a great choice, serving a particular purpose and not setting the bar too high for Miss Minaj. He was all that one would expect from a buzz artist like himself: not very dynamic or memorable, but exciting for the radio-play identification. Judging from the crowd of mostly teeny boppers at the time (there were a surprising number of ~16 year olds), his charm was lost as he attempted to showcase his “skills.” Outside of the top 100 hits that he pulled out, he acted more as a welcome change to the interlude music’s looping of Rihanna’s recent chart-topping singles.

Considering rappers don’t have much to rely on in terms of theatricality to command attention, they have hype men to keep the energy up—2 Chainz’ was more of a crutch. If one wasn’t aware of what he looked like in person, it would be easy to confuse the hype-man as the artist. For every few bars 2 Chainz had as a feature on a track, the hype-man would go harder on the other verses. Outside of the novelty of being able to say “I saw 2 Chainz live,” there wasn’t much to be gleaned from his performance.

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With the bar set at a comfortable level, Nicki Minaj jumped right into her shtick with “Roman’s Revenge” and “Did It On’em.” However, the woman of many faces seemed surprisingly subdued and, dare I say, normal. Going off her various on-camera performances and music videos, there was an expectation of a more ballsy performer to emerge. Instead, we received what is most akin to Katy Perry: generic stage direction and dancers more exciting than the actual act. Despite being no stranger to the stage, her set seemed more like an extended opener than a show to write home about.

Perhaps it is her identity as an artist that creates a weak stage presence—existing somewhere between tough MC and pop star, but offering little on either fronts. Miss Minaj dropped the ball on opportunities to just go all out with her alter egos, Roman specifically, and garner some major brownie points. Instead, she remained a passive fawn existing amongst the lights, smoke, and choreography centered around (but not including) her. In terms of singing, her backing track was quite on point… sounds just like the album, and her lips almost matched the words in most areas.

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This was certainly a show for the fans, and Nicki Minaj came through for them in more ways than one. As she drifted through her first and second albums, she took time out to show appreciation to her dedicated Barbies, although in waves. On tracks like “Whip It” and “Turn Me On” she got personal with her front row, and went as far as to invite a group of fans on stage to help perform “Bedrock (Remix).” She seemed to be genuinely enjoying the space, and her fans seemed receptive, but the real show was her dancers—images of Magic Mike came to mind multiple times.

Taking in all that was presented, Nicki Minaj offered a fairly thrown together experience from start to finish. While all the pieces were in the pile for her to create a show that played into her commercial appeal and hood credibility, she opted to play it safe. Very disappointing for her as an artist to not fully flesh out the attitude that oozes from her music, nor commit to performing rather than rely on a lip-sync. Overall it seemed lazy to say the least. Come harder Nicki. Here’s to hoping your revamped tour, Pink Friday: Reloaded Tour, serves to correct the pitfalls of this run.

…it may not be Friday, but if the weekend can’t come soon enough for you, check out Nicki Minaj’s sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded available in full on iTunes and Spotify.

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Set-List
Roman’s Revenge
Did It on ‘Em
I Am Your Leader
Beez in the Trap
Stupid Hoe
Dance (A$$) (Remix)
Right by My Side
Moment 4 Life
Automatic (Interlude)
Starships
Pound the Alarm
Medley
Where Them Girls At
Fly / Right Thru Me (Interlude)
Fire Burns
Save Me
Marilyn Monroe (Interlude)
Mixtape Medley
Guest Feature Medley
Super Bass

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