When Nicki Minaj was presented with the Video Vanguard Award at Sunday’s ceremony at the MTV Video Music Awards, her greatest hits medley was a characteristically colorful and raucous affair — a relationship that had her famous fans (or “Barbz” ), like Taylor. Swift and the ladies of BLACKPINK rock the Prudential Center crowd to ‘All Things Go’, ‘Roman’s Revenge’, ‘Monster’, ‘Beez in the Trap’, ‘Chun-Li’, ‘Moment 4 Life’, ‘ Super Bass’, ‘Anaconda’ and brand new single ‘Super Freaky Girl’.
But when Minaj approached the podium flanked by five lucky Barbz, she got serious — delivering an acceptance speech that proved exactly why she’s garnered such a devoted following over the past decade.
“I’ve never, ever written a speech in my life, and today I jotted something down on my phone and I’m giving my phone to Joe and he’s not here with him — which is sad, because now I don’t remember things,” she began Minaj was embarrassed. Concerned/amused onlookers immediately blew up Twitter with “Where’s Joe?” and “You had a job!” memes and predictions that the rapper’s alleged assistant was going to be fired. But once the delusional Joe saved the day and finally took the stage with Minaj’s missing phone, it turned out to be worth the wait.
“I wrote this, I don’t know why, but this was in my spirit to say: I wish Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were here,” Minaj began. (The Video Vanguard Award is sometimes known as the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.) “I wish people understood what they meant and what they were going through. … I wish Pop Smoke and Juice Wrld and Nipsey Hussle were here. RIP Daddy, my cousin Richard, and my business manager Angela, who I never got to say ‘rest in peace’ in public.”
Nipsey Hussle was shot to death in 2019, the same year Juice Wrld died of a drug overdose at age 21. Pop Smoke was also murdered in 2020. he was 20 years old. As for two particularly personal recent losses mentioned in Minaj’s speech, in 2021 her father, Robert Maraj, was killed as a pedestrian in an accident, and her former business manager, Angela Kukawski, died in a suspected homicide.
Minaj also remarked in her VMA speech, “I wish people would take mental health seriously — even for people you think have the perfect life.” Minaj has spoken candidly about her own mental health struggles in the past. Way back in 2011, he confessed Cosmo that she was once so depressed that she considered suicide, and last year during a Twitter Q&A with fans, she explained that she took a break from music after her 2018 album Queen was “very necessary” for her mental well-being. Apparently her career hiatus hasn’t slowed her down, because this year she became only the second female rapper ever to receive MTV’s Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement Award.
On a lighter note, Minaj also called out her influences (Lil Wayne, Foxy Brown, Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z) on Sunday. “All of Jamaica” and of course her Barbz. She also thanked her many collaborators for giving her “huge opportunities that I’ll never forget,” including Kanye West, Beyoncé, Madonna, Eminem, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Drake … and, surprisingly, her ex . American Idol Season 12 nemesis Mariah Carey, with whom she duetted on “Up Out My Face” very early in her career. Later, when she won best hip-hop, she graciously checked out several other artists she didn’t get to mention earlier, including Fergie (who was a surprise VMAs performer on Sunday with Jack Harlow), Taylor Swift, Elton John , Christina Aguilera, Ciara, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole, Gucci Mane, Puff Daddy, Salt-N-Pepa, Kid ‘n Play, Nas, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, G-Unit and Lil Baby .
The 2022 MTV Music Awards, which Minaj co-hosted with LL Cool J and Harlow, took place on Sunday, August 28 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ Other performers included K-pop group BLACKPINK, country singer Kane Brown, the Italian glam. rock band Måneskin, emo veterans Panic! At the Disco, EDM headlines Marshmello with Khalid, Lizzo, Eminem and Snoop Dogg, Latin sensations Anitta, Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and the Global Icon Award goes to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For the full list of winners, click here.
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