I guess we should talk about Nicki Minaj, huh?
First, it’s necessary to say this: Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty is one of the greatest rappers alive. She’s behind some of the sharpest and wittiest lines to ever land on record. Like have you even lived if you haven’t thrown ass to “I Get Crazy” or shouted her verse to “Monster” at the top of your lungs? Pink wig, thick assss, give 'em whip lashhhh? I mean, just her run from 2010-2014 alone would have made her an icon if she never gave us anything else.
All that said, Nicki Minaj’s undeniable brilliance continues to take a backseat to her well-known abhorrence towards criticism. If you’ve seen Minaj or her acolytes in action you’re fully aware that even saying something as innocuous as “I’m not really feeling her new music” could get you doxed and viciously harassed—quite often at Minaj’s behest.
Her Barbz have rightfully earned their infamous reputation amongst pop music’s stan constituencies. The Barbz are fiercely loyal, but there are some who take their loyalty to the extreme. If you have a web presence and have publicly shared an opinion of Minaj that was perceived as critical or negative then you’ve likely encountered the wrath of whatever Barb was clicking around the net—and there’s always a Barb lurking, ready to threaten and intimidate those who wrongs their queen, which is essentially anybody not bowing down to Queen Nicki, taking on her beefs as their own war, or worshipping her every move.
I still chuckle at one of her fans threatening me with career ruin because I wouldn’t write a story about his personal quest to meet his idol. Even though I sensed I was dealing with an immature teenager he caught me on the right day so I bullied him right back and my boss got an earful from his mommy (who most definitely didn’t appreciate learning her son was playing in a grown man’s inbox with violent emails and put his little ass on the phone to apologize lol).
So naturally when the Queen jumped on Twitter to share a wild tale about her cousin's friend's testicles as an explanation for her own hesitation around the Covid-19 vaccines it created a firestorm between those of us who prefer to not get our information from memes or chain messages and the fiercely loyal Barbz that will tirelessly argue with anyone on social media about their goddess.
If you somehow(?!) missed this week's madness, let’s recap. For those of us tuned in online to see what the rich and famous donned to the Met Gala, Minaj jumped on Twitter to explain to her 22 million followers that she wasn’t showing up to fashion’s biggest night because she didn't want to travel with her infant son and that she was still weary of the vaccine—which the Met and many public gatherings require.
“They want you to get vaccinated for the Met. if I get vaccinated it won’t [be] for the Met,” Nicki tweeted. “It’ll be once I feel I’ve done enough research. I’m working on that now. In the meantime my loves, be safe. Wear the mask with 2 strings that grips your head & face. Not that loose one.”
All perfectly fine, of course. Not that Minaj owed us a statement about a goddamn fashion event, but there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be at a public event while we’re still battling a pandemic. Nor is there anything wrong with a person expressing that they still don’t feel ready to make a decision about getting the vaccine or engaging their community and gathering anecdotal evidence as part of their personal research before choosing (or not) to get the shot.
However Minaj didn’t quite leave it there. In explaining her hesitation towards the vaccine, and the research she still wanted to do before making her choice, Minaj offered a story about her cousin back in Trinidad who won’t get the vaccine because his friend experienced swelling in their testicles after getting the jab. The swelling got so bad, apparently, that the man was deemed impotent. “His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied,” Minaj cautioned.
One of my least favorite things about the pandemic (and there are sooooo many) outside of the reprehensible handling from the Trump administration and the culture wars that have erupted over rudimentary science is the disinformation and misinformation that has impacted all of our communities.
Everyone’s seemingly had a friend of a friend of a cousin that’s a nurse or an aunt of a colleague that’s a government official who apparently knows more than the world’s most esteemed infectious disease experts and epidemiologists combined. And strangely, the only place we can get these absolutely true and not at all made up stories of the dangers of the vaccine are from the high school classmate you barely remember or that unhinged relative you stopped fucking with because they ruined Thanksgiving by casually saying something racist or homophobic (or both!!). So when Minaj’s tweet about the cousin of a friend or the friend of a cousin my only thoughts were either this dude caught the clap and somehow convinced his entire circle to suspend all real logic or she’s just making it up.
That Minaj would pass along her own version of a familiar vaccine horror story isn’t all that surprising considering what the pandemic has brought out of America. We haven’t exactly been understanding the assignment as the kids would say. Certainly not when folks are forging vaccine cards or purposely coughing on strangers or getting into fistfights or murdering people or willingly dying themselves in a bid to prove a virus with a global death toll of 4.6 million and growing is a hoax or a way for the government to control the population or any of the other theories that have been repeated by someone you know.
The saga of Minaj’s cousin's friend's testicles is similar to stories that have been shared on social media about potential side effects of Covid-19 vaccines. Actual scientists have already determined that the vaccines are safe and effective for most people, and in case you or the man in your life is concerned about your balls research has proven that there’s been no difference in sperm concentration, motility or volume in men before and after getting their “Fauci ouchie.”
None of that mattered though. Nicki Minaj tweeted an irresponsible piece of misinformation and when she was called out for it she slid into victimhood and went on the attack, with her most loyal Barbz falling in line as she knew they would. As Minaj, and her fans saw it, any criticism or interrogation of the story was an attempt to censor her. She retweeted those who validated her with their own anecdotal evidence or personal anxieties and unleashed her venom towards anyone who dared to interrogate or criticize that particular claim.
The whole thing was quite embarrassing. It spiraled to the point where Minaj was calling esteemed MSNBC pundit Joy Reid a homophobic coon and an “Uncle Tomina” and the health minister for Trinidad and Tobago held a press conference to announce that the government had looked into the story and found no such case—or any case for that matter—to back the claim. And as expected, Minaj stuck to her guns. She told her followers that Twitter had locked her out of her account and that she turned down an invitation to come to the White House to discuss the vaccine's safety and effectiveness (both responded and said she wasn’t being truthful). She was even defensive when political commentator Hasan Piker pointed out that a validation from FOX News host Tucker Carlson and unabashed white nationalist wasn’t something to be proud of—and by the way Carlson has spent days talking about th unsubstantiated claim, which tells you all you need to know.
As Ballgate unfolded I couldn’t help but think of how brilliant the moment was. While everyone was busy getting off their jokes about Minaj’s cousin’s friend and his swollen nutsack, what continued to evade our timelines and the cultural conversation at large were the legal troubles closing in on the superstar rapper and her husband.
Minaj and her husband Kenneth Petty are currently named in a lawsuit by the woman who accused Petty of sexual assault back in high school. The suit, which was filed last month in New York, alleges Minaj and Petty intimidated, harassed and attempted to bribe the victim into recanting her accusation from 1994. The woman alleges that Petty (then 16, the same age she was) took her into a house at knife point and raped her. Petty was arrested the day of the assault and was charged with first-degree rape. He pled guilty to attempted rape and served about four and a half years in prison. [Petty would later serve seven years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter in 2006.]
When Petty’s violent past resurfaced more than two decades later as he and Minaj went public about their relationship, his victim found herself the target of the Barbz who didn’t quite appreciate her trying to defend herself against Minaj, who discredited the woman’s story to her fans. Anything Minaj said in defense of her man was backed up by her most rabid fans and the division between those who backed Minaj blindly and those who had common sense began to widen.
Before Petty was arrested by U.S. Marshals in March 2020 after failing to register as a sex offender when he and Minaj moved to California, the woman alleges the couple and several people associated with them offered her money to recant the story. She also alleges that Minaj personally arranged for a written recanted statement to show up to her home along with another bribe. The suit detailed an “onslaught of harassing calls and unsolicited visits” she and her family have received from people looking to pressure her into recanting which she says has forced her into hiding and left her with severe depression and paranoia.
Because the case isn’t getting much ink from rap blogs, there’s a theory that Minaj has been using her power to suppress them—this is, after all, the same woman who once got a writer fired from a site just for sharing her opinion about her music and posting the ugly DMs she personally received from Minaj. And who could be wrong for thinking that? The day a formal guilty plea over the failure to register as a sex offender was logged, Minaj was on Twitter telling us she was skipping the VMAs and would explain later.
She never got around to telling us why she sat the show out because she’s been busy riling us up over a pair of swollen nuts that may or may not be for real. But hey, none of us are talking about the fact that a woman who was raped at 16 has had those wounds reopened in her 40s by one of the most famous rappers on the planet and her fanbase—nor are we talking about the fact that Minaj’s husband and the father of her child is now facing a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for failing to register as a sex offender. And maybe, just maybe, that's exactly what she wanted.
“Y’all gotta stop pretending to love ppl with backbones,” Minaj posted on her IG story amid all the vaccine chatter. “If Malcolm X were here, he’d be asking questions and most of y’all that holler “black lives matter” and ‘protect black women’ would be telling him to shut-UP and fall in line. Y’all say these people’s names but embody the spirit of a coward.”
If only she listened to her own advice.