Nicki Minaj may have proven wildly adept at marshaling the powers of the social media sphere to promote her music and outsized persona to unprecedented success for a woman in hip-hop, but over this past weekend, she violated one of social media’s cardinal rules when it was revealed that Houston rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld second-week sales would eclipse her Queen first-week sales; she reacted, going on an extended rant that proves just how bothered she truly is.
First, there were the tweets. Sunday afternoon saw the assertively outspoken rapper using the platform to try to explain away the perceived commercial failure of the album. “I put my blood sweat & tears in writing a dope album only for Travis Scott to have Kylie Jenner post a tour pass telling people to come see her and Stormi,” she wrote. She continued to try to further elucidate the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to Astroworld‘s higher sales totals.
“Travis sold over 50K [tour pre-sale access passes that came with a digital copy of the album],” she went on. “With no requirement of redeeming the album! With no dates for a tour, etc. I spoke to him. He knows he doesn’t have the No. 1 album this week.” She bolstered her arguments with comparisons to other big name releases that have dropped in recent months. “I looked at the numbers the Carters, Kanye, Nas, etc recently did. Travis sold 200K in his first week off clothes alone. I spoke to him last night & he said he’s been selling clothes b4 the music. Billboard says they’ll change the rules cuz of this, so it should be changed now!”
Then, her explanations turned downright accusatory as she laid a share of the blame at the feet of Spotify, which she says deliberately sabotaged her promotion on its service to punish her for previewing Queen early on Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio. “Spotify had to teach me a lesson but rewarded the man who has had an Apple radio show the longest,” she raged. “They took away my promotion they had promised for the first couple days because of this.”
She concluded her tirade by retweeting supportive messages from her staunch Barbz fanbase, which has served as her loyal attack team as much as a listener base. While they were quick to buy into her conspiracy theories as fact, others were much more skeptical, however, wondering why Nicki felt the need to cop such pleas in the first place. After all, No. 2 is nothing to be ashamed of. Billboard reports that Queen racked up 185,000 equivalent album units earned. 78,000 of those were traditional album sales. That’s nothing to shake a stick at; Nicki has still outsold a number of other artists in the hip-hop arena, including the aforementioned Nas — a certified rap legend. She also had the second-largest week for an album by a female artist in 2018 — right after Cardi B, whose Invasion Of Privacy completed its first week with 255,000 units in April.
However, maybe that’s the problem. As tiresome as it is to compare Nicki Minaj and Cardi B again, it seems their fortunes have been inextricably linked by the ongoing “are they beefing or not?” narrative that defined the late part of 2017 and early 2018. Nicki herself has made her sales figures her proudest talking point, boasting that “these b*tches is my sons” with regards to album sales since her very first album, Pink Friday. They’re a fixture of any number of interviews about her never-before-seen level of success as a woman rapper. Her sales, as much as any other aspect of her brand, have come to define what she sees as success. So, of course, it rankles that an album in its second week outsold her latest — especially since most albums see a significant falloff in sales in their second weeks.