Nicki Minaj has spoken about why many prominent black artists have chosen to remain silent on issues surrounding race in America, after recent events and protests in Ferguson, New York and elsewhere.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, the rapper, whose album ‘The Pinkprint’ was leaked earlier this month, said that after figures such as Kanye West were criticised for speaking out about the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina , hip-hop artists became more cautious when discussing issues of race publicly.
“He was the unofficial spokesman for hip-hop, and he got torn apart,” she said.
“And now you haven’t heard him speaking about these last couple things, and it’s sad. Because how many times can you be made to feel horrible for caring about your people before you say, ‘Fuck it, it’s not worth it, let me live my life because I’m rich, and why should I give a fuck?’”
Asked about the death of Eric Garner , a 43-year-old man who died after being put in an illegal chokehold by an NYPD officer in Staten Island in July, Minaj said the event was “sickening”. Garner’s death and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer involved contributed to local and national protests against perceived police brutality towards people of colour.
“I’ve been reading so many people saying, ‘Why are we surprised?’” Minaj said. “That’s what’s really sad: that we should somehow be used to being treated like animals.
“It’s gotten to the point where people feel like there’s no accountability: if you are law enforcement and you do something to a black person, you can get away with it.”
The rapper also spoke about how she feels hip-hop artists are not as powerful as they were in the late 1980s and 90s, when groups such as Public Enemy, led by Chuck D, regularly made political statements.
“I feel like when Public Enemy were doing ‘Fight the Power’, we as a culture had more power – now it feels hopeless,” Minaj said.
Several hip-hop artists attended protests over grand jury decisions in the Garner case and that of Michael Brown , an 18-year-old shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August. There has been criticism that more prominent figures, such as Minaj, have stayed mostly silent on the issue.
Sports stars including basketballers Lebron James and Derrick Rose have worn t-shirts featuring the words “I Can’t Breathe” – Garner’s last words, as recorded on a video shot by a bystander – in solidarity with the protesters, as have the cast of the film Selma , which deals with the civil rights campaign of Martin Luther King Jr.