Don't mess with Nicki Minaj

Fans of Nicki Minaj (left) fought back on social media when freelance writer Wanna Thompson criticised her musical direction.
Fans of Nicki Minaj (above) fought back on social media when freelance writer Wanna Thompson criticised her musical direction.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Think you can get away with criticising American rapper Nicki Minaj?

Wanna Thompson, 26, now knows better and that she should have kept her mouth shut.

As a freelance writer living in Toronto, she also sees herself as a cultural critic with a focus on hip-hop. With her insights, she has built an audience via her personal website and social-media feeds.

So when she posted a tweet late last month about Minaj's recent musical direction, Thompson hoped to spark only a debate among fans.

"You know how dope it would be if Nicki put out mature content?" she wrote to her then 14,000 or so followers.

"No silly stuff. Just reflecting on past relationships, being a boss, hardships, etc. She's touching 40 soon, a new direction is needed."

What happened next was scary. Minaj's diehard fans attacked.

Then, galvanising them further, Minaj, 35, chimed in too.

The rapper called Thompson "ugly" and taunted her, writing: "Just say u jealous I'm rich, famous intelligent, pretty and go!"

In the week since publicising the acidic messages she received from Minaj, whose next album, Queen, is scheduled for release next month, Thompson has received thousands of vicious missives across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, e-mail and even her personal cellphone.

"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Thompson said, describing herself "physically drained" and "mentally depleted".

Such are the risks of the new media playing field, which may look level from afar, but still tilts towards the powerful. As social media has knocked down barriers between stars and their faithful (or their critics), direct communication among the uber-famous and the practically anonymous has become the norm.

But while mutual praise can cause both sides to feel warm and tingly, more charged interactions can leave those who have earned a star's ire, like Thompson, reeling.

"Her fans mimic her behaviour," Thompson said of Minaj, who had responded to her critique after some of the rapper's 21 million followers brought the initial tweet to the attention of their queen.

But Thompson said while she still stood by her opinion of Minaj's music, she wished she had never made it public.

"If I knew it would get this much harassment and that my daughter would be affected, I don't think that I would have posted it," she said.

"Every person has a right to defend themselves and react to certain statements. But when you start to insult somebody, you've crossed a line."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Don't mess with Nicki Minaj'. Print Edition | Subscribe