Why Did the Media Side with Nicki Minaj Over Taylor Swift?
When she didn't receive the MTV VMA (Video Music Awards) Video of the Year (VOTY) nomination for her song 'Anaconda' rapper Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to complain. Based on her tweets, Minaj felt she deserved a slot. She seemed to imply that she should have received a nomination instead of Taylor Swift. Anyone who pays attention to award shows know that there are usually only 4 to 6 slots per category and many deserving nominees will be overlooked. Minaj didn't see it that way and felt she had a right to be there. Anaconda was nominated for both Best Female Video and Best Hip Hop Video, so it's not like the song was ignored.
Taylor Swift became aware of the tweet that seemed to imply her slot wasn't deserved and called Nicki Minaj out on it. After claiming she wasn't directing her comments at Swift, Minaj claimed her tweets had:
"nothing to do with any of the women, but everything to do with a system that doesn’t credit black women for their contributions to pop culture as freely/quickly as they reward others.”
I looked up the nominations to see if black women were not credited "for their contributions to pop culture as freely/quickly as they reward others” at the VMAs. It's true that many award shows overlook black contributions by having just a few token black nominees. At the Grammys pop rapper Macklemore beat out the critically acclaimed and very influential Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album. So, yes this is a problem. However, this wasn't the case for the VMAs, which completely invalidated Minaj's claim she was speaking out against discrimination rather than being butthurt that she didn't get a VOTY nomination.
There are 75 total nominations for the 2015 VMA Awards. Six white women and five black women received nominations. Overall, 30 of those nominations went to black artists making up 40% of total nominations. And that was just when black artists were the lead on the songs. Black artists were also featured in several other nominations. That includes Taylor Swift's Video of the Year nomination 'Bad Blood,' which features rapper Kendrick Lamar. Two out of 5 of the VOTY nominations went to black artists Kendrick Lamar for 'Alright' and Beyonce for '7/11'. 4 out of the 7 lead and feature artists in the VOTY category are nonwhite.
I concluded after seeing this that Nicki Minaj was in the wrong for bringing up racism when there clearly wasn't any. I thought the media would call out Minaj for trivializing racism as well as calling Swift out for her faux-feminism. To my surprise, that's not what happened. While some articles claimed Minaj was starting a feud with Swift, many actually sided with her. They claimed she was bringing up an important point about racism against black artists. She was credited with "starting a conversation about racism against black women in the music industry." Many commenters on these articles pointed out the obvious fact there was no racism based on the high number of black nominations, including Nicki Minaj who got 3.
Even YouTube personality Kingsley who's very outspoken on racial issues and a Nicki Minaj fan felt the rapper was in the wrong to bring up race.
"Nicki's point about race would have been far more well received/made more sense if Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Kendrick were not sitting in the Video of the Year category she is upset she is missing from...When a woman was just shoved into the ground, arrested and mysteriously found hung days later after a routine traffic stop, amidst a year of other horrifying and eye-opening events, please forgive me if I don't see racism in Anaconda not being nominated for Video of the Year."
Calling someone racist is a serious claim to make. Nicki Minaj's tweets seemed to imply that the people behind VMA nominations were racist despite black artists making up more than 40% of the nominees. In America, racism is very real. For many black Americans, routine traffic stops can turn into frightening and sometimes deadly encounters. In Texas black kids were attacked by neighbors and a police officer for having a party at a swimming pool in their own neighborhood. The unemployment rate for black college graduates is almost double the rate for white college graduates.
Nicki Minaj's trivializing of racism should have been condemned by the media. Yet it wasn't. Most articles on the topic sided with her and berated Taylor Swift for missing the larger point about racism in entertainment despite the fact that racism played no role in Minaj not being nominated. Those articles also indirectly implied that MTV and the people behind the VMAs were racists refusing to acknowledge the contributions of black artists when that clearly was not the case.
Why did the media react this way? I think maybe because of the speed with which these articles end up online. When the spat started, I'm sure many writers rushed to their computers to write about it. They had to get their articles up ASAP when many people were rushing to Google to get more details. I think it's possible that none of these writers went through the VMA nominations list to determine if black artists were underrepresented or not. Although many posted the five VOTY nominated videos and should have realized that 4 out of 7 nonwhite nominees undermined the very argument they were trying to make. But I doubt any of these writers had the time to do any meaningful research or think through the issues. They probably just assumed the VMAs ignored black artists because it's happened with other award shows including the very controversial 2015 Oscars. The Washington Post backed up their argument supporting Minaj by bringing up the 2013 Grammys rather than addressing the VMA nomination list at issue.
Unlike with newspapers where writers may have hours to research and write their stories or opinion pieces, it's probably to be expected that online publications aren't going to spend much time getting their stories right or ensuring that they're being fair and accurate. Their main focus will be to get their articles and opinion pieces up as quickly as possible to take advantage of the potential money-making clicks that will flood in when a story breaks. In that environment it can be left to people in comments sections, online forums and social media like Twitter to set the record straight. One commenter on the popular pop music forum ATRL complained:
"It's actually disgusting how she is praised for pulling the race card in such a stupid and ignorant way"
"the current misguided first articles that have been blogged"
You know the media has gone downhill when a YouTube personality like Kingsley made more intelligent and better thought out arguments on Twitter than many professional writers for publications like Time and The Guardian were capable of doing.
Some Articles that Sided with Nicki Minaj
- The Guardian: Taylor Swift's response to Nicki Minaj was faux-feminist and tone deaf
- The Independent UK: Nicki Minaj had to explain the music industry's race problem to Taylor Swift after MTV VMAs
- Time: Nicki Minaj Already Won Something Bigger Than a Video Music Award
- The Washington Post: Nicki Minaj is annoyed with MTV and the media, not Taylor Swift. Here’s why.
More by this Author
Many famous pop singers like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Nicki Minaj have personas or alter-egos that allow them to say things in their music they wouldn't be otherwise comfortable saying
Ke$ha is upset because people think she isn't able to sing and doesn't deserve her success. She wants to prove her vocal ability on her latest album Warrior and Deconstructed EP.
Rapper Pitbull has managed to have a very successful career despite criticism that he isn't talented. So, how has he managed to have a decade long career?