Nicki Minaj—acclaimed rapper and Meek Mill handler—is set to perform for the family of Angola’s dictator this weekend. And human-rights activists are lobbying her to cancel the gig immediately.
On Saturday, Minaj is set to appear at the Christmas party for the communications company Unitel in Luanda, Angola’s capital. The company is run by the family of José Eduardo dos Santos, the country’s president who has clung to power for more than three decades and has been called “Africa's least-known autocrat.”
“I’ll be at the Unitel Christmas festival on December 19th in Angola. See you there!” Minaj excitedly announced in a Unitel Facebook video.
Dos Santos’s regime has, to put it modestly, a lousy record when it comes to corruption and human rights. His government has been accused of widespread corruption, repressive policies, and killing political opponents. This month, Angolan rapper Luaty Beirão and 14 other activists were jailed for reading a book on nonviolent protest and discussing democracy.
The Human Rights Foundation, which often calls out celebrities (including Jennifer Lopez and Kanye West) caught partying with or performing paid shows for dictators, is now going after Minaj. They’ve tried getting in touch with the rapper and her representatives, but so far it’s been crickets.
“A game of pass-the-buck has been going on,” Thor Halvorssen, HRF’s president, told The Daily Beast. “Nicki Minaj and her managers don’t seem to care.”
Halvorssen and his team have reached out to managers and representatives several times, and have yet to hear back from them. (Minaj’s manager did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, either.)
In similar situations with other pop stars, Halvorssen has sometimes gotten sit-down meetings or pleasant emails for his efforts. Occasionally, HRF even gets celebrities to pull out, or at least issue a statement of apology or ignorance of the human-rights violator’s reputation. Here is the letter Halvorssen sent on Dec. 15 to Minaj and Brian Sher, who manages the rapper:
“Her managers will be collecting between 10 and 20 percent of her fee,” Halvorssen said. “At present, sources tell us her fee [for the Christmas party] is $2 million. This is a situation where the level of self-interest is astonishing. They are hoping this is all going to go away, and people will collect their money, and people will forget about it.”
There are so far no indications that Minaj has any intention of canceling her performance. When she appears at Saturday’s holiday festival, she will be performing for the family of a man consistently slammed by rights groups for overseeing a brutal dictatorship infected by corruption.
“Those who have challenged [the] government in recent years have been subjected to extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and torture,” Amnesty International reported. “Authorities continue to use repressive tactics including...harassment and intimidation to suppress freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression.”
To Halvorssen, Minaj is displaying a toxic level of hypocrisy for going ahead with this concert.
“These are folks who are very loquacious when it comes to conversations about racial justice in America,” he said. “Nicki Minaj specifically is no stranger to having strong opinions on this subject. What is astonishing is black lives matter—unless those black lives are living under a dictatorship in Africa…[Minaj is] getting money to ignore those black lives. It shows you the seedy underside of the celebrity pandering to social justice and racial justice causes. At the end of the day, it appears they don’t believe what they say.”
In 2015, Minaj began to be more politically outspoken. She recently called the war on drugs the new “slavery,” and tried to raise awareness about the case of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody.
“I support [Hillary Clinton] as a woman,” Minaj told Billboard for its year-end issue. “Am I convinced that she should be the next president? I still want to be open-minded about everyone. Obviously, I identify with her struggles as a woman…She has gone through horrifying things, even within her marriage. She has been brave and weathered the storm. And continued being a boss. That’s something that every woman should feel inspired by, no matter if you’re voting for her or not.”
Halvorssen is now wishing that Minaj has a last-minute change of heart, and at the very least tells her 20 million Twitter followers to call on the government of Angola to release the imprisoned rapper and activists. Thus far, no such luck.
“She has every right to earn a living,” he continued. “If she wishes to trash her own reputation by taking money to sing for a dictator’s family, she can do that. But it certainly means she will have zero credibility on issues of rights, education, and social justice.”