Warning: Discussion of rape.
The piece describes him as a "high school flame with a checkered past" who "offered a tether to the old days." There's a sweet nostalgia presented in the depiction of the then-teens gathering at the same pizza spot in Queens, worlds away from the global juggernaut Nicki would become.
“Because I’ve known my husband for so long, there’s an ease we have with each other,” Nicki herself told Vogue. “We make each other laugh. We’re silly. And we’re always reminiscing about some old story. If it was a guy that I met as Nicki Minaj, I think I’d feel like they liked me because I’m Nicki Minaj, and what if I don’t look like Nicki Minaj every day? And that, combined with pregnancy, would probably have made me crazy.”
The biggest challenge in their relationship is depicted as raising their son without any outside help. "I’m not going to lie, things got testy between us,” she continued. “Because of our history, I think we knew we’d get past it. But there’s no such thing as confidence in parenthood. I kind of wish that someone had told me — although I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to understand it — that there’s a level of anxiety, and you think it’s going to go away, but in fact, it gets scarier. So often you think: I don’t know how to do this!"
The piece does address some of Nicki's controversies — her "greatest public misstep" is described as her strange, friend-of-a-cousin's-balls tweets about COVID. She addresses not being party political and being seen as "mean." Still, I can't help but wonder why the hell we're dancing around the giant elephant in the room that is her husband's legal troubles (though dancing is mentioned, as apparently their child gets his moves from his dad!).
If you take a look through the New York Sex Offender registry, Kenneth's name does indeed pop up. Yes, he pled guilty to and was convicted of attempted first degree rape at knifepoint in 1995 and served almost four years. People magazine further reported that he also pled guilty to manslaughter in the first degree for killing a man in 2002 and served seven years in prison.
Nicki has repeatedly defended the relationship. "Every time you mention him, you feel the need to bring these things up," Nicki said after Wendy Williams brought up the manslaughter and attempted rape charges on her show. "I didn't know that in our society, you have to be plagued by your past. I didn't know that people can't turn over a new leaf. I didn't know that your viciousness and evilness was this deep-rooted, this deep-seeded."
Kenny was 16 at the time of the attempted rape — the same age as the woman — but it's his behavior over the past few years that I want to focus on. In 2021, around the same time Nicki was tweeting about her cousin's friend's balls, Kenneth was sued by the woman he is convicted of having attempted to rape, Jennifer Hough. In the words of the New York Times, "The lawsuit alleges harassment and witness intimidation, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress." Basically, she is accusing him of trying to pressure her and her family members into recanting her accusation through bribes and threats.
So, what has Nicki herself said about the attempted rape? In 2018, she claimed that Kenneth and Jennifer were "in a relationship" and that she was older than him — both of which Jennifer's lawsuit denies. In 2019, Nicki further said on a radio show that Kenneth was "wrongfully accused" when he was 15 and that he went to prison "because he didn’t have $7K to get himself bailed out." She further implied that Jennifer is white, which she is not, by saying "white is right."
Now, Jennifer's lawsuit against Kenneth appears to still be ongoing, as she submitted evidence in August which included images of her bruised face. Jennifer told the Daily Beast that she “just wanted to show proof that I didn’t lie on this man. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. When it happened, I went to the police. I went to the hospital. I had a rape kit done.”
However, that's not all of Kenneth's recent legal troubles. In 2022, he was sentenced to house arrest for failing to register as a sex offender in California. In September, he was once again sentenced to house arrest for making threats to the rapper Offset. Nicki subsequently wrote on her Instagram story, “Can’t call the cops every time you flop. Just saying" along with a series of laughing emojis.
So perhaps you'd forgive me for wondering why we're so quick to brush aside all of these ongoing legal troubles with a sly reference to a "checkered past" (though, to be fair, I wouldn't be surprised if asking about the topic was a no-go for the reporter).
To be frank, I worry about what this says about how we discuss and think of sexual assault. I worry that Nicki fans will come after me personally for questioning why her career has gotten through without a scratch. I worry that sexual assault victims will see this and think that even with a conviction, doubt can be easily sown by those with money and power.
BuzzFeed has reached out to representatives for Jennifer, Nicki, and Vogue for comment.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE), which routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search for your local center here.