Nicki Minaj Used Her ‘Billboard’ Game Changer Award Speech To Pay Tribute To Juice WRLD

Last night, as Nicki Minaj accepted the Billboard Women In Music Game Changer Award, she took time out of her speech to pay tribute to the late Chicago rapper Juice WRLD, who died this week after having a seizure at Midway Airport. Nicki previously toured with Juice WRLD after he replaced Future on her European tour late last year. Incidentally, Juice had just released his own collaboration with Future, WRLD On Drugs, two months before.

During her speech, Nicki acknowledged the other women being honored at the event, saying, “I know this is a Women in Music night, and I’m honored to be in the presence of all these women,” but added, “It doesn’t feel comfortable to talk about me when someone so important to our culture just died.” She called Juice a “kindred spirit” and said that she wished she’d been able to help him with his addiction struggle.

“I felt like he was a kindred spirit and looking back now, I wish I did something differently or said something to help,” she said. “He spoke to me in detail about how in love he was with his girlfriend and how passionate he was about music. When he was in the studio with me, he did so many songs so quickly. He was honest and pure about what he felt and that inspired me.”

Nicki also addressed the elephant that continues to linger in the room regarding Juice’s death: The rumor that his seizure was caused by an overdose. While some members of the hip-hop community lashed out at modern rap’s perceived fascination with rhymes making drug use “cool,” Nicki shared a different perspective, calling for more empathy for rappers who struggle with dependency as Juice WRLD did.

“Drugs isn’t the problem, it’s the way we fix our problem,” she said. “So it’s so important that we don’t pass judgement so that people don’t feel ashamed to speak up and ask for help. It’s so important we talk about mental health. People are dying because they don’t want to express how miserable they are and how much they’re suffering, so they’d rather medicate themselves… I just came here tonight to ask people to be a little bit more forgiving and understanding, especially with entertainers.. I just wanted to encourage everyone to talk about whatever it is that they need to talk about, and be honest and open and get help.”

You can watch the full speech in the video above.