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This marked the rapper’s first onstage performance since 2018, and her seventh performance on the VMA stage.
A 17-time VMA nominee and five-time winner, Minaj won her first VMA, for best hip-hop video, in 2011. This year, she was nominated in the same category for her collaboration with Lil Baby, “Do We Have a Problem.”
The rapper began her performance in a Nicki-themed Barbie box, followed by a medley of her greatest hits over the years, including “Roman’s Revenge,” “Bees in the Trap,” “Chun-Li,” “Moment 4 Life,” “Super Bass” and “Anaconda.” Dressed in her signature pink wig, Minaj closed out her performance with a live rendition of her newly released single, “Super Freaky Girl.”
Following the performance, five members of Nicki Minaj’s fan base, known as The Barbz, took the stage. Calling her the “reigning queen of hip-hop,” the group presented Minaj with her Video Vanguard Award.
“I never ever in my life have written a speech and today I jotted something down on my phone,” Minaj began. Although she did not have her phone initially, she later received it from personnel off-stage. Minaj thanked “key people that inspired” her, including Lil Wayne, Foxy Brown, Lauren Hill, Jay-Z, Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. She also thanked “people who gave [her] huge opportunities that [she’ll] never forget,” such as Kanye West, Beyoncé, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Eminem and Rihanna.
“I have to thank Drizzy for always saying the things I need to hear to get back in the game,” Minaj shouted out to fellow rapper and close friend Drake, along with her “whole Young Money family.”
She continued, “I wish that Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were here. I wish that people understood what they meant and what they were going through. I wish people took mental health seriously, even for the people who you think have perfect lives. I wish Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD and Nipsey Hussle were here.”
Minaj went on to thank “all the artists producers and writers who have contributed to any of my projects,” as well as “the people who allowed me to feature on their work.” In thanking her devoted Barbz fan base, Minaj also shouted out her son, nicknamed Papa Bear, whom she welcomed in 2020 with husband Kenneth “Zoo” Petty. “You guys are my babies but I have a new baby. His name is Papa Bear. Papa Bear, I love you so much, Mommy loves you so, so, so, so much.”
Previous Vanguard Award recipients include Madonna, Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Jennifer Lopez and Missy Elliott.
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