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Nicki Minaj Performed For A Dictatorship And Hoped Everyone Would Be Cool With It

But no, not everyone was cool with her performing in Angola.

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Nicki Minaj, the one true queen of rap, on Saturday joined a depressingly long list of celebrities who when faced with criticism for performing in a country with human rights abuses responded with "¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

The country in question is the southwest African country of Angola. Its president, José Eduardo dos Santos, has been in power since three years before Minaj was born; the last presidential election in the country was 1992.

Instagram: @nickiminaj

The concert, held in the 12,000-capacity Coqueiros Stadium, was sponsored by telecommunications company Unitel. In a weird coincidence, Unitel just happens to be controlled by Isabella dos Santos, the president's daughter, who Nicki took a picture with.

Instagram: @nickiminaj

A 2013 article from Forbes, accused Santos — who is worth more than $3 billion — of building her wealth on government kickbacks, being written into deals with foreign companies wishing to work in Angola, and other corruption. Just this year, Transparency International listed her as one of 15 individuals who represent "grand corruption."

Before the concert, the Human Rights Foundation attempted to get Minaj to cancel the show, writing an open letter to her listing the numerous rights abuses that Angola has carried out, including a massacre of civilians this year.

Instagram: @nickiminaj

In the letter, HRF president Thor Halvorssen suggested that Minaj would be receiving $2 million for the performance. BuzzFeed News was unable to reach Minaj's manger at the Blueprint Group to confirm this number.


But instead of canceling, she kind of maybe subtweeted at everyone who was telling her not to go? It's hard to tell.

Every tongue that rises up against me in judgement shall be condemned. 😘😊

While Minaj was performing, one of Angola's local talents had to miss the show. Rapper Luaty Beirao was one of 17 activists arrested back in June for reading a book about nonviolent resistance.

Instagram: @nickiminaj

They were charged with "preparing acts of rebellion and plotting against the president and state institutions," in a process that Amnesty International has called a kangaroo court. The day before Minaj's concert, he was moved from detention to house arrest.

Mariah Carey was the last A-list singer to perform in a Unitel-sponsored Christmas show two years ago. Since she'd already performed for Libya's former strongman Moamar Qaddafi, people were super not thrilled and she dumped her manager.

But so far Minaj has been unrepentant and the backlash relatively low-key. So it's still unclear what — if anything — Minaj has taken away from the experience, aside from her performance fee.

Instagram: @nickiminaj


The last presidential election in Angola was in 1992. The last legislative election in Angola, which under the new constitution chooses the president indirectly, occurred in 2012. A previous version of this article indicated that the last election period was in 1992.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

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