Nicki Minaj Wins the VMAs With Career-Spanning Performance

Nicki Minaj Wins the VMAs With Career-Spanning Performance

The queen of rap is getting her flowers.

It's been a big night for Nicki Minaj, who was set to win the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2022 VMAs, making her only the second female rapper, after Missy Elliott, to receive the prestigious recognition. So hotly anticipated was the moment — as well as Minaj's performance — that #NickiVMAs began to trend alongside the regular VMA hashtag.

After a dance-heavy, career-spanning performance that took us from "Monster," "Super Bass," and "Anaconda" to the present day with "Super Freaky Girl," the show flipped to a montage of Minaj's stans, called Barbs, who paid tribute to the rapper as an inspiration and source of strength. Several lucky fans also got to appear on stage to speak on behalf of the Barb community, right before Minaj herself re-appeared to accept her award.

After briefly leaving the microphone to grab her phone (containing the speech she had written), Minaj shouted out a host of mentors, collaborators, and other artists who had helped inspire her flow and given her opportunities in her career, including Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Rihanna, and Beanie Man. She also paid a solemn tribute to those who had passed away and addressed mental health in the industry.

"This was in my spirit to say: I wish that Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were here. I wish people understood what they meant and what they were going through," Minaj added. "I wish people took mental health seriously, even for the people you think have perfect lives. I wish Pop Smoke, Juice WRLD, and Nipsey Hussle were here."

Minaj ended her speech by thanking the Barbs, shouting out her baby Papa Bear ("Mommy loves you!"), and plugging her greatest hits compilation, entitled Queen Radio: Vol. 1, which was surprise-released earlier this week.

Photos via Getty Images / Johnny Nunez