This week is already full of ups and downs for Tekashi 6ix9ine. The controversial rapper was kidnapped, beaten, and robbed before being hospitalised on Sunday. On the same day, he released a new song, “FEFE,” with Nicki Minaj. Now, Minaj has announced that Tekashi will be joining her and rapper Future on their NICKIHNDRXX World Tour, which kicks off its North American leg on 21st September in Baltimore. But Tekashi’s good fortune this week is being interpreted by some as a very bad move on the part of Minaj, a figure who has consistently pushed for women to be strong and independent.
She has a penchant for telling young girls to “stay in school” and has been vocal about the male dominance running rampant in hip-hop. She was featured on Beyoncé’s 2013 single “***Flawless,” which explicitly defined feminism for listeners with audio from Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If Minaj’s sexual lyrics or persona come under attack, she will defend her right as a woman to be as sexy as she wants to be. When her fans infiltrate the mentions of someone who has dared to say something bad about Minaj, a favourite strategy is to accuse the critic of not supporting women.
Meanwhile, Tekashi is a 22-year-old rapper who was just released from Rikers Island Correctional Center earlier this month on $150,000 bond after allegedly choking a 16-year-old at a Houston, Texas, mall for recording a video of him. More disturbingly, he also plead guilty to the use of a child in a sexual performance in October of 2015 after he uploaded videos of himself present while a 13-year-old girl was nude, fondled, and performing oral sex on another man.
When “FEFE” was released, Twitter users called Minaj out for collaborating with a confirmed sex offender. In bringing him on tour in the wake of these critiques, Minaj has made her position clear: Their partnership will continue despite what anyone thinks about it. This move raises more than few questions about the self-proclaimed “Queen of Rap” and where her loyalties to women actually lie. Is she a feminist? Is she really a supporter of women like she says she is? Her track record is certainly casting some doubt.
Taking advantage of universal themes like financial independence and education has made it easy to categorise Minaj as a defender of women. However, Minaj’s own brother was recently convicted of predatory sexual assault after repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl. She supported her brother throughout his trial. The rapper's most impactful statements about women — specifically, the way Black women are policed and burdened with heavier expectations than everyone else — have been self-serving. She’s been called out by several artists for being something of a mean girl. Earlier this summer, Minaj called a woman who critiqued her music jealous and ugly, demonstrating her own narrow view of how women relate to one another. And it is clear that she is willing to make concessions when it comes to helping men who have hurt women build out their platforms.
It’s worth noting that Minaj herself has never identified as a feminist. I think this is probably for the best, since I don’t believe she is. Her lack of discernment in working with men like Tekashi is certainly not going to convince me otherwise.