Nicki Minaj had a good year. Despite an MTV snub, she came out the winner by collecting all the crocodile tears from white princesses like Taylor Swift, and calling Miley Cyrus a bitch on live TV at the Video Music Awards. Minaj left Cyrus mealy-mouthed and meek: “After Minaj's taunt, Cyrus, stunned, replied, ‘We're all in this industry. We all do interviews and we all know how they manipulate shit. Nicki, congratu-fuckin-lations.’ The camera then cut back to Minaj who seemed to mouth back, ‘Bitch.’” “What’s good, Miley?” is the zeitgeist, a demolition of white fragility broadcast before millions.
But Minaj accepting $2 million to perform at a private party in Angola is disgusting. Dopes like Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez have been criticized in the past for performing for despots in Libya and Turkmenistan, and according to The National Review, “A common excuse made for those in the ‘Celebrities with the Dictators’ club is that they can’t be expected to know much about places they visit, and they also aren't political figures.” What planet are we on? How can you perform for Muammar Gaddafi and take millions of dollars while there are people starving and screaming miles away outside the castle gates? “Until her trip became controversial, Minaj could be excused for not knowing much about life in Angola.” Really? If you were doing a one-off show for a big payday in a country you know nothing about, is it really too much to expect that you’d skim a Wikipedia article or something? Maybe Google Jose Eduardo dos Santos and see what’s up?
Admitting ignorance and apologizing, and perhaps donating the money to charity, would be the only way to save face in a situation like this. But Minaj enthused about meeting the despot’s daughter Isabel dos Santos, writing on Instagram: “Oh no big deal… she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world, (At least that’s what I was told by someone b4 we took this photo) Lol. Yikes!!!!! GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!! S/O to any woman on a paper chase. Get your own!!!! Success is yours for the taking!!!!! #Angola thank u to the women who brought me out here as well.” That’s career-ending material, but somehow the callout culture is silent when it comes to openly opportunist singers like Carey and Minaj. In an age when a single rape accusation or a bad tweet can end someone’s professional life overnight, it’s shocking that anyone can get away with taking blood money from despots. It shows you how myopic and narrow-minded the millennial thought police are—none of them could find Angola or Turkmenistan on a map, so it’s out of sight, out of mind. Nicki Minaj isn’t a convenient person to shame: while Oberlin students are screaming that their cafeteria is a racist wasteland, pop stars are taking money from mass murderers in Africa and the Middle East without even a slap on the wrist.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1992