Thor Halvorssen, president of the foundation, requests in the letter that “in light of your status as a global personality,” Minaj should bow out of the concert “as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”
This isn’t the first time the rapper has been called upon to quit a gig sponsored by a government with a problematic human rights track record. In 2015, she performed in Angola at a concert backed by Unitel, a company partially owned by the family of Angola’s then-president, José Eduardo dos Santos, despite allegations of corruption and human rights abuses in the country. Dos Santos and his government had been accused of widespread corruption.
At the time, Minaj responded to criticism with a tweet: “Every tongue that rises up against me in judgement shall be condemned.”
Next week’s Saudi Arabian concert, which will also feature One Direction alum Liam Payne and DJ Steve Aoki, will be drug- and alcohol-free in keeping with the country’s laws, according to the Guardian. Women in attendance will also be required to wear modest clothing in accordance with Sharia law.
Minaj, who rarely performs in anything that’s not a leotard, is known for her in-your-face lyrics and style. Her new song “Megatron” features the hook: “Shots, shots, shots, I’m drinkin’ / It’s better when I’m drinkin’ / I tune up when I’m drinkin’.”
Other marquee names such as Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West and Beyoncé have appeared onstage at the behest of dictators and corrupt regimes in the past. In Saudi Arabia alone, Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias, the Black Eyed Peas and Sean Paul have performed in recent months. For her part, Carey, who was also asked to cancel her performance, “accepted the opportunity as a positive step towards the dissolution of gender segregation,” according to the Grammy winner’s rep.