It started on Thursday, when Nicki Minaj posted a livestream captioned “Dear Grammys.” In the video, she revealed her frustrations that her single “Super Freaky Girl” had been moved out of the rap category into pop, pointing out that rapper Latto’s “Big Energy” had not.
Just a reminder: Grammy nominations aren’t announced til November. But Latto, a 23-year-old rapper from Ohio, had her first mainstream hit with 2021’s "Big Energy" and clearly Minaj thinks she's in with a chance.
On her Instagram livestream, Minaj said that she felt her songs and Latto’s songs should be competing in the same genre, based on their respective productions, and that she felt there was a larger industry movement against her.
“They stay moving the goalposts when it comes to me,” said Minaj in the livestream. “If you can’t tell by now there is a concerted effort to give new artists things they don’t deserve, over artists who have been deserving for many years.”
The criticism broke down into public argument when Minaj later posted a text from Latto on Twitter. “I agree w u however because of where we left off ion think u need to bring my name/song up to prove ur point,” the now-deleted screenshot read.
Minaj added the comment: “This Karen has probably mentioned my name in over 100 interviews... but today, scratch off decides to be silent; rather than speak up for the black woman she called her biggest inspiration.”
Latto has said repeatedly in interviews that Minaj is her idol and someone she has always looked up to, and that she hopes to collaborate with her one day.
After Minaj started targetting her on Thursday, Latto began replying on Twitter. “1st of all I texted u cause I didn’t wanna do the internet sht w sum1 I looked up to,” she said. “I do agree but the way u going about it seems malicious.”
More past behind-the-scenes drama bubbled to the surface, as Latto began sharing how she felt mistreated by Minaj in the past.
Latto, whose given name is Alyssa Michelle Stephens, posted some of Minaj’s past tweets in which Minaj told her fans to stop posting a “dud” on her timeline and several others subtly aimed at Latto.
“With all this being said this wasn’t JUST about a Grammy category,” Latto, 23, said. “U literally told me I’m not ‘flourishing’ and no one cares about my ‘little song’ otp lol @NICKIMINAJ.”
Latto then posted a recording she’d made of a conversation between the two of them.
She also shared a screenshotted DM conversation in which she had confronted Minaj about the shade.
It quickly devolved into a flurry of accusations that brought up several past controversies: Latto hit out at Minaj for her marriage to Kenneth Petty, who is a convicted sex offender, while Minaj accused Latto of using ghostwriters.
“super freaky grandma is married AND related to fucking rapists. You ain’t gone bully me BITCH! My idol turned rival now u hating!” Latto wrote.
“I’ve never raped anyone. I’ve inspired millions. You’re one of them BOZO,” Minaj responded in a later-deleted tweet.
As all this was unfolding, fans quickly began reacting in real time, with many criticizing Minaj, 40, for fighting with Latto, who is 17 years younger. “Been literally arguing with people half your age for a month straight now. Give it tf up ma’am,” said one.
Barbz quickly came to Minaj’s defense as well. “nicki can defend herself,” another tweeted. “i get it. but im so sick of her getting bullied and gaslit by the entire industry and nobody ever coming to her defense. that shit is so weird to me. if you call her your sis, why you can't ever publicly defend her?”
Others pointed out how confusing the entire situation has gotten as it’s escalated. “All this to lose to Jack Harlow...,” radio show host Scottie Beam tweeted.
Grammy categorization has long been a point of dissatisfaction among many artists who make music in predominantly Black and Latinx genres. In 2017, Drake publicly criticized his awarding for “Hotline Bling” as Best Rap Song, saying he felt it “wasn’t a rap song” and should have competed in pop.
In 2020, Diddy called out the categorization issues at a pre-Grammy gala, saying “To be honest... Black music has never been respected by the Grammys.”
This argument between Minaj and Latto is the latest in a series of arguments between Minaj and other women in rap.
Many eminent figures, including City Girls’ JT, Cardi B, Azealia Banks, as well as Minaj and Latto, have been involved in social media tension for weeks, largely in a proxy battle between Nicki Minaj and other rappers over what being a woman in rap should look like.
Many fans pointed out that the legacy of women rappers has often been fraught with fights and suspicion, with opportunities for solidarity being overshadowed by territory-marking.
Lil’ Kim became a related trending topic on Twitter, with many resharing an old interview in which Kim said Minaj “wanted to be the only female out there.” Some pointed out that many of Lil’ Kim’s feelings toward Minaj were the same as Latto’s.
The 2023 Grammy nominations will be officially announced on Nov. 15. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Minaj, Latto, and the Recording Academy for comment.