A timeline of Nicki Minaj's biggest controversies and problematic comments

A timeline of Nicki Minaj's biggest controversies and problematic comments
  • Nicki Minaj has been embroiled in many controversies and feuds over the years.

  • Cardi B, Remy Ma, Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus are just a few stars she's had drama with.

  • Minaj has also been criticized for making anti-vaccine comments and marrying a registered sex offender.

Nicki Minaj is no stranger to drama.

The outspoken musician, who released her latest album "Pink Friday 2" in December 2023, has been embroiled in many feuds with her music industry peers (Lil Kim, Iggy Azalea, and Azealia Banks, to name a few), random celebrities (Kevin Federline and Farrah Abraham, for some reason), and even government officials.

Minaj has also been accused of more serious offenses, especially involving her husband, a registered sex offender.

Here's a breakdown of Minaj's biggest controversies.

2012 to 2013: Minaj and Mariah Carey famously didn't get along while serving as judges on season 12 of "American Idol."

"American Idol" judges Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj at the Fox Winter TCA Tour on January 8, 2013.
"American Idol" judges Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj in 2013.Todd Williamson/Invision/AP

In August 2012, TMZ reported that Carey wasn't pleased at the possibility of Minaj joining "American Idol," because she was under the impression that she'd be the only female judge. However, a month later, Carey laughed off the idea of there being any drama, joking, "How can you feud in two days?"

But in early October 2012, TMZ posted a video showing Minaj yelling at Carey during the season 12 auditions. Minaj appeared to tell Carey, "Every time you take a shot at me imma take it back, and if you gotta fucking problem, then handle it. I told them, I'm not fucking putting up with your fucking highness over there."

Days after the video leaked, "The View" cohost Barbara Walters said Carey told her over the phone that multiple people heard Minaj threaten to shoot her when she walked off the set.

Minaj reacted on Twitter (now X), writing: "Hey yAll. Lets just say nicki said smthn about a gun. ppl will believe it cuz she's a black rapper. Lmao. I'll then hit up Barbara n milk it."

Around the same time, "American Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe told TMZ, "The statement [that Nicki made a death threat] is absolute rubbish. It's absolutely not true in any way, shape or form."

Carey then downplayed the drama in early January, calling the dispute "convoluted" during a 2013 Winter TCA tour panel ahead of the season 12 premiere of American Idol on January 16, 2013.

At the same event, Minaj shared kind words about Carey. "She's one of my favorite artists of all times," she said. "She's really shaped a generation of singers. To be on a panel with her, it's kind of crazy."

Carey reflected on the feud in 2015, telling an Australian radio show that being on "American Idol" was "the worst experience of my life."

"Pitting two females against each other wasn't cool," Carey said, adding, "It should have been about the contestants instead of about some nonexistent feud that turned into even more ridiculousness."

July 2015: Minaj and Taylor Swift had a brief dispute that quickly dissolved.

Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj performing together at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 20, 2015.
Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj perform together at the 2015 VMAs.Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

After the nominations were announced for the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Minaj voiced her displeasure that "Anaconda" was snubbed for video of the year, saying she would've been nominated "If I was a different 'kind' of artist" (presumably, a white one).

Minaj shared a series of posts on X calling out the omission. One post in particular seemed directed at Swift's video for "Bad Blood," which featured appearances from her star-studded squad, including Victoria's Secret models Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Martha Hunt, and Lily Aldridge.

"If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year," Minaj wrote.

Swift replied in a now-deleted post: "I've done nothing but love & support you. It's unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.."

However, Minaj clarified that she wasn't referring to Swift. Swift soon apologized to Minaj for misunderstanding her comments.

Following the social media exchange, the two musicians performed a medley of their tracks together on stage at the VMAs on August 30, 2015. They've since spoken fondly about each other.

August 30, 2015: Minaj called out Miley Cyrus on stage at the VMAs after the "Wrecking Ball" singer described her as "not too kind."

Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj backstage at the Grammys on February 8, 2015.
Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj backstage at the 2015 Grammys.Mark Davis/WireImage

Cyrus, who hosted the 2015 VMAs, was asked to share her thoughts on Minaj's apparent snub in a pre-show interview with the New York Times.

Cyrus said she "didn't follow it," but felt Minaj could have voiced her frustration differently.

"What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind," she said. "It's not very polite. I think there's a way you speak to people with openness and love."

At the VMAs, Minaj confronted Cyrus while accepting the award for best hip-hop video. "And now, back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what's good?" Minaj said.

Cyrus quickly responded, saying, "Hey, we're all in this industry. We all do interviews. And we all know how they manipulate."

Minaj later addressed Cyrus' comments in her own interview with the New York Times.

''The fact that you feel upset about me speaking on something that affects Black women makes me feel like you have some big balls," Minaj said. "You're in videos with Black men, and you're bringing out Black women on your stages, but you don't want to know how Black women feel about something that's so important? Come on, you can't want the good without the bad."

Minaj said that if Cyrus embraces Black culture, "then you should also want to know what affects us, what is bothering us, what we feel is unfair to us."

December 2015: Minaj reportedly paid for her brother's bail when he was arrested and charged with child rape.

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Nicki Minaj and Jelani Maraj in 2015.Bryan Steffy/Chance Yeh/Getty Images

In August 2015, Minaj shared a photo with her brother, Jelani Maraj, on Instagram.

"I would cross the ocean for u. I would go & bring u the moon. Promise u. For u I will," she wrote in the caption. "I do anything to see my brothers smile."

Four months later, Maraj was arrested and charged with predatory sexual assault against a child and endangering a child. Minaj sparked intense backlash when she allegedly forked over $100,000 for his bail.

Maraj's attorney, David Schwartz, told Newsday that Maraj was falsely accused. He also said Minaj was prepared to support her brother "100%." (It appears the interview has since been scrubbed from Newsday's website, but the quotes were reported by Essence.)

During Maraj's trial, the child in question testified in graphic detail. She said that beginning in April 2015, when she was 11 years old, Maraj raped her multiple times a week — sometimes twice a week — at his home in Long Island, the AP reported.

In 2017, Maraj was found guilty. Shortly after his conviction, Minaj visited him in jail, but only in an effort to support their mother, according to TMZ.

In 2020, Maraj was sentenced to 25 years to life.

February 2017: Minaj's long-simmering feud with Remy Ma became explicit.

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Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma in 2017.Victor Boyko/Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Remy Ma spent years taking veiled shots at Minaj in her music until February 25, 2017, when she released "Shether."

The seven-minute diss track, rapped over the instrumental from Nas' trademark diss track "Ether," is an explicit attack that begins "Free Remy / Fuck Nicki Minaj." Ma even tagged Minaj when she shared the song online.

To Minaj's credit, this beef seems to be mostly one-sided. She casually responded two weeks later with "No Frauds," a collaboration with Drake and Lil Wayne that doesn't explicitly name Ma ("I don't need no frauds / I don't need no drama when you call").

She also accused Ma's husband of ghostwriting "Shether" in a guest verse on the 2 Chainz track "Realize" ("I've been winning 8 years consistently, at least respect it / Papoose wrote a 'Ether' record / But I broke Aretha record").

June 2018: Minaj was called out for comments about sex workers.

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Nicki Minaj performs at the 2018 BET Awards.Paras Griffin/VMN18/Getty Images

In a cover story for Elle's July 2018 issue, Minaj said she didn't know how to preach about female self-respect "without being offensive."

"Maybe I was naive, but I didn't realize how many girls were modern-day prostitutes," Minaj said. "Whether you're a stripper, or whether you're an Instagram girl — these girls are so beautiful and they have so much to offer. But I started finding out that you give them a couple thousand dollars, and you can have sex with them."

Minaj added: "It's just sad that they don't know their worth. It makes me sad as a woman. And it makes me sad that maybe I've contributed to that in some way."

Many people took issue with Minaj's comments about sex workers and accused her of slut-shaming.

As Business Insider has previously reported, sex work is a stigmatized field that already carries significant risks, both physical and financial. Minaj's comments were criticized by advocates for reinforcing those stigmas.

"Nicki Minaj profiting off of the idea of sex work while shaming sex workers is nothing short of violent," one critic wrote on X. "She has had a platform to support sex workers after she has made songs — a profit — off of them and has chosen to embrace her negative and damaging biases instead."

July 2018: Minaj faced backlash for teaming up with Tekashi 6ix9ine, a rapper accused of pedophilia and domestic violence.

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Nicki Minaj and Tekashi 6ix9ine in the music video for "Fefe."Tekashi 6ix9ine/YouTube

On July 22, 2018, Tekashi 6ix9ine released his new song "Fefe" featuring Minaj and Murda Beatz. Minaj also costarred in the music video alongside 6ix9ine, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez.

Minaj was heavily criticized for the collaboration, given Hernandez's criminal history.

Back in 2015, Hernandez pled guilty to the use of a child in a sexual performance. The crime, which occurred when he was 18 years old, involved a video that he had posted on social media.

The video shows a 13-year-old girl engaging in oral sex with another man, who was charged separately.

Hernandez can be seen standing behind the child, "making a thrusting motion with his pelvis and smacking her on the buttocks," the original complaint reads, per Jezebel. "The child is nude in the video."

As Business Insider previously reported, new details emerged at Hernandez's sentencing hearing, regarding a second video that he uploaded online. Assistant District Attorney Sara Weiss told the court that Hernandez appears again with another 13-year-old, fondling her breasts and smacking her butt, while she was being penetrated by two other adult men at the same time.

Hernandez was sentenced to four years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

After the release of "Fefe," Minaj brushed off the criticism. In a series of posts on X, she claimed that publications were being paid to portray her negatively.

"Shout out to my baby Tekashi. I love him," she said in a Tidal interview.

The following year, in 2019, Hernandez was publicly accused of domestic violence. His ex-girlfriend, Sara Molina, told the Daily Beast that Hernandez regularly assaulted her during their seven-year relationship. Since then, he has also been convicted of racketeering and sued for allegedly hitting a woman with a champagne bottle at a strip club.

Not to be deterred, Minaj released a second collaboration with the rapper in 2020 titled "Trollz."

After receiving another wave of backlash, Minaj said she's "not afraid of internet trolls, blogs, artists."

"I don't jump on band wagons," she wrote on X. "Many will never know what it feels like to have a mind of their own."

Shortly after the release of "Trollz," Hernandez was sued by the alleged victim in the 2015 case for child sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and infliction of emotional distress.

August 2018: Minaj lashed out at Travis Scott, Kylie Jenner, and their infant daughter.

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Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, and Kylie Jenner at the 2018 Met Gala.Angela Weiss/Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Met Museum

Minaj was overtly upset when her 2018 album "Queen" debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, losing out to Travis Scott's "Astroworld," which spent its second week in the top spot. ("Astroworld" eventually became the second biggest rap album of the year in terms of pure sales, according to Forbes.)

"Queen" sold 185,000 equivalent units in its first week, the worst album release performance of Minaj's career thus far.

After initially blaming Spotify and Republic Records, Minaj dealt with her disappointment by lashing out at Scott, his then-girlfriend Kylie Jenner, and the couple's daughter Stormi Webster, who was 6 months old at the time.

She complained about Scott's release strategy on X (specifically a merch-bundle promotion that she also used to sell albums) and continued to criticize him on her Apple Music radio show.

"But what we're not gonna do is have this autotune man comin' up here, selling fucking sweaters and telling y'all he sold half a million fucking albums, 'cause he didn't," she said. "And there's a lot of rappers behind the scenes that wanna talk about it and they're scared — but sweetheart I'm not scared. I'm legendary in these streets."

Minaj continued to gripe about Scott and Jenner, going so far as to say she has a "rivalry" with their daughter.

"I love Kylie, I love Kim, I actually love all of them. I know that you guys are saying me and baby Stormi have beef," she said, followed by a laugh. "Yes we do. Now, this is what the fuck is happening today. Me against baby Stormi. We have this rivalry now."

Shortly after, Minaj canceled her "Queen" tour following unverified reports of low ticket sales.

September 7, 2018: Minaj's feud with Cardi B reached a boiling point at the Harper's Bazaar Icons party.

nicki minaj cardi b fight 2018
Nicki Minaj and Cardi B seen outside the 2018 Harper's Bazaar Icons party.Nancy Rivera/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Steven Ferdman/WireImage

After Cardi B's breakneck rise to fame in 2017, there were whispers that Minaj wasn't pleased to have another female rapper on the scene.

That same year, Minaj was featured on Katy Perry's song "Swish Swish" and seemed to throw shade at Cardi's soon-to-be husband ("Silly rap beefs just get me more checks / My life is a movie, I'm never off set / Me and my amigos / No, not Offset").

Although Cardi didn't call out Minaj directly, she did go on Instagram Live to complain about people in the music industry being "fake," adding, "That shit be breaking my heart because your idols become rivals." She also asked fans online to stop comparing her to other rappers.

Over the next few months, Cardi repeatedly denied the existence of a feud. "I mean, I don't really want problems with anybody," she told Billboard. "I don't want to be, like, queen." Minaj also congratulated Cardi on X for topping the Billboard Hot 100 with "Bodak Yellow."

They were both featured on the Migos track "MotorSport," released in October 2017, and they even seemed cordial at the Met Gala in May 2018. But it didn't take long for things to bubble up again.

The tension reached a boiling point at the 2018 Harper's Bazaar Icons party.

According to eyewitnesses, Cardi and Minaj were engaged in a physical "altercation" after they both arrived at the New York Fashion Week event. Footage showed Cardi lunging toward Minaj and throwing a shoe in her direction. Cardi was photographed leaving with a visible welt on her forehead.

Cardi later released a statement on Instagram, which accused Minaj of "making comments" about her infant daughter, Kulture, and criticizing Cardi's abilities as a mother.

A few days later, Minaj said she was "mortified" by the incident.

"It's so sad for someone to pin that on me because I'm the bad guy and they know people would believe them," Minaj said on her radio show. "So let me just go on record having said, I would never talk about anyone's child or parenting."

December 2018: Minaj went public with her then-boyfriend, Kenneth Petty, who's been convicted of attempted rape and manslaughter.

nicki minaj husband kenneth petty
Nicki Minaj and Kenneth Petty got married in 2019.Gotham/GC Images

Minaj reunited with Petty, a former flame from high school, sometime in 2018. She made their relationship public with an Instagram post on December 10, 2018.

People were quick to point out Petty's checkered past. As Business Insider previously reported, he is a registered sex offender due to a conviction for first-degree attempted rape in 1994, when he was a teenager. His conviction details reveal that he used a "knife/cutting instrument" against his victim.

When Minaj noticed that fans were disappointed in her choice of partner, she defended Petty online — though she also acknowledged details of the incident.

"He was 15, she was 16 ... in a relationship," she wrote in a comment on Instagram. "But go awf, internet. y'all can't run my life. Y'all can't even run y'all own life. Thank you boo."

Petty served almost four years in New York state prison. Later, he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for shooting a man and served nearly seven additional years in prison. He was released in 2013.

In September 2019, Minaj announced that she would retire to focus on her family, shortly after she revealed her plans to marry Petty. The following month, they quietly tied the knot. The couple welcomed their first child, a son, in October 2020.

August 2021: Minaj was sued by the woman that her husband assaulted.

nicki minaj husband kenneth petty paparazzi photo
Kenneth Petty and Nicki Minaj photographed in 2021.Photographer Group/MEGA/GC Images

An explosive lawsuit was filed against Minaj and Petty in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Business Insider's Alia Shoaib reported.

The couple was sued for harassment by the woman Petty sexually assaulted in 1994. Jennifer Hough, who is now 43, has accused Minaj and Petty of trying to make her revoke her story, using both intimidation tactics and bribery.

Court documents reviewed by TMZ show that Hough and her family were offered money — up to $500,000 — if she would recant the allegations. Minaj also offered to send a birthday video to the victim's teenage daughter "as a bonus."

In court papers, Hough said she is "living in isolation out of fear of retaliation" and has not been able to work due to "severe depression, paranoia, constant moving, harassment and threats from the defendants and their associates."

The couple ignored the lawsuit for months, which prompted Hough to request a $20 million default judgment. In an email to The Daily Beast, Hough's attorney said Minaj and Petty "believe they're both above the law."

"I was never a fan of bullies," Hough told The Daily Beast when she brought her lawsuit. "I taught my kids, you don't be a bully and you don't stand around and watch somebody be a bully. And I guess that's how I feel in this situation."

Shortly after, Minaj filed court papers that claimed her failure to respond was due to a "series of innocent miscommunications," per Vulture.

"I ask the Court to excuse the delay so that I can defend what I believe to be an entirely frivolous case which Plaintiff's counsel has brought against me in an effort to use my name to generate publicity for himself," Minaj said in her filing.

Three months later, Minaj was dropped from the lawsuit. Hough's lawyer said they plan to refile in California, where Minaj lives. The claims against Petty are still pending.

September 2021: Minaj was criticized for making comments that many perceived as anti-vaccine and anti-science.

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Nicki Minaj attends the 2022 Met Gala.Kevin Mazur/MG22/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

On September 13, 2021, shortly before the COVID-19 death toll in the US surpassed 700,000 people, Minaj said she wouldn't attend the Met Gala due to vaccine requirements.

"If I get vaccinated it won't for the Met," she wrote on X. "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."

Minaj also shared a story about her cousin's friend in Trinidad, who she claimed "became impotent" after he received the vaccine.

"His testicles became swollen," she said. "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."

The CDC has stated there is no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in men or women. Several doctors have also debunked the claim.

However, Minaj refused to walk back her comments. Instead, she tried to dox two journalists who were attempting to corroborate the story by contacting the cousin's friend in question.

She also claimed the White House invited her to visit after she shared her vaccine skepticism — but a White House official said the rapper was only "offered a call."

Two years later, in an interview with Vogue, Minaj still declined to offer an apology or clarification for her controversial stance.

"I'm one of those people who doesn't go with a crowd," she said. "I like to make my own assessment of everything without help from everyone."

October 2022: Minaj complained about being "sabotaged" by the Grammys and dragged Latto into the drama.

nicki minaj latto
Latto, right, is best known for her viral hit "Big Energy."Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Minaj was gunning for a Grammy nomination for her 2022 single, "Super Freaky Girl," which debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100.

Ahead of the nominations announcement, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that "Super Freaky Girl" would compete in pop categories, despite Minaj's team submitting the song for consideration in rap categories. (The Recording Academy reserves the right to redesignate submissions into different genres.)

According to Minaj, the decision to reclassify "Super Freaky Girl" was evidence of personalized "sabotage."

"They stay moving the goalposts when it comes to me," she said in a video on Instagram, referring to the Recording Academy. "Why is the goalpost only ever moved when it's Nicki?"

"What do you think is gonna happen when they start voting on these pop categories and they have to decide between Nicki Minaj and Harry Styles, or Nicki Minaj and Adele?" she continued, adding: "Put her in there, so she has more competition and less of a chance to win."

On X, Minaj also said the Grammy voters were hypocrites for keeping Latto's "Big Energy" in rap categories, kicking off a contentious back-and-forth between the two rappers online.

When Latto apparently reached out privately, Minaj shared screenshots of her messages online and criticized her as a "Karen."

"Ur literally older than my mom trying to be a bully," Latto replied. She also accused Minaj of associating herself with "fucking rapists."

Minaj said Latto "didn't care about rape" when she asked to collaborate with Minaj on a song, adding, "I've never raped anyone. I've inspired millions."

When the 2023 Grammy nominations were eventually announced, Latto was up for best new artist and best melodic rap performance. Minaj did not receive any nominations.

November 2023: Minaj compared being famous to "getting arrested."

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Nicki Minaj at the 2023 VMAs.Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for MTV

Minaj was featured on the cover of Vogue's 2023 December issue, giving the magazine her first in-depth interview in years.

Minaj did not directly address her husband's convictions or any of her controversial comments. However, she did accuse detractors of putting "a negative spin on anything."

"Once you make it, it's like anything you say can be used against you. It's like when you get arrested — that's literally what being famous feels like," she said, adding, "It hurts."

Minaj also declined to align herself with a specific political party.

"Every time I talk about politics, people get mad. I'm sorry, but I am not going to be told who I should get on social media and campaign for," Minaj said. "There's a lot we don't know that's going on in the government, and I don't think it changes whether you lean to the left or right."

January 2024: Minaj mocked Megan Thee Stallion for getting shot during a public feud.

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Nicki Minaj, left; Megan Thee Stallion, right.Jason Koerner/Getty Images; JC Olivera/WireImage

Minaj had a strong reaction to Megan Thee Stallion's single "Hiss," which included a lyric about Megan's Law, a US law designed to protect children from sexual predators.

"These hoes don't be mad at Megan / These hoes mad at Megan's Law," she raps in the song. "I don't really know what the problem is / But I guarantee y'all don't want me to start."

Though the song doesn't reference anybody by name, Minaj jumped head-first into a feud with Megan, presuming the lyrics were attacking her husband, who is a registered sex offender. In addition to many scathing posts on X, Minaj released a diss track titled "Big Foot."

Minaj's lyrics include jabs about Megan's height, her sex life, and her late mother, who died in 2019. The title itself is a reference to Megan's experience with gun violence; last year, Tory Lanez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting her in the foot.

Many people criticized Minaj for mocking the traumatic incident, including some who once considered themselves fans.

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