Nicki Minaj raps racial bias at MTV Video Music Awards as Taylor Swift leads nominations

Rapper Nicki Minaj poses backstage at the 2015 BET Awards in Los Angeles, California on June 28, 2015.
Rapper Nicki Minaj poses backstage at the 2015 BET Awards in Los Angeles, California on June 28, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP, REUTERS) - Pop singer Taylor Swift led nominations for the MTV Video Music Awards, but quickly was embroiled in controversy when rapper Nicki Minaj suggested she was passed over because of racial bias.

The premier music video event announced on Tuesday that Swift was in the running in nine categories for two hits from her blockbuster album 1989. British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran garnered six nominations, while R&B singer Beyonce and DJ-producer Mark Ronson each scored five nods.

The host of the Aug 30 gala in Los Angeles will be singer Miley Cyrus, who twerked at the 2013 awards and brought the bottom-thrusting dance move typically associated with lower-income African-American women into the mainstream.

Minaj, one of the top female stars in hip-hop, criticised MTV's choices and hinted that she was ignored for Video of the Year as she is a good-sized African-American woman.

She noted that her video for Anaconda, which is dominated by twerking, broke what was then a record for first-day views and turned into a popular meme.

"When the 'other' girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination," she wrote on Twitter. "If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it."

Anaconda was nominated in three categories including Best Female Video and Best Hip-Hop Video.

Swift broke Minaj's first-day view record with Bad Blood, in which the pop superstar appears as an action hero with a bevy of fellow stars including actress Jessica Alba and model Cindy Crawford.

Swift, who has cast herself as a feminist, responded to Minaj by inviting her to share the stage if Bad Blood wins Video Of The Year.

"I've done nothing but love and support you. It's unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot," Swift tweeted.

Minaj said she was baffled by Swift's comments and urged her to speak out on portrayals of African-American women.

Two African-American artists were nominated for Video Of The Year, Beyonce and rapper Kendrick Lamar.

Beyonce was nominated for 7/11, in which she dances on a hotel balcony, in a bathroom and in front of a Christmas tree.

Swift was also nominated for Blank Space, in which she plays a romantic villain feuding with a lover at a mansion. It is the fourth most-viewed video ever on YouTube, with more than one billion views.

The racial dynamics of the nominations mirrored a debate at the latest Grammys where critics questioned the four nominations given to Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, although she ultimately went home empty-handed.

Rapper Azealia Banks was especially outspoken against Azalea, accusing her of exploiting African-American culture.

Banks offered further commentary on Tuesday, saying that she deserved both Grammys and Video Music Awards.

"But I'll never get one because America doesn't like opinionated black women," she tweeted.