Nicki Minaj provided an unexpected opening for the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards as she teamed with Taylor Swift, who the rapper briefly beefed with in the months prior to the VMAs, onstage for a surprise duet. Minaj and a cadre of dancers started things off with a thumping rendition of “Trini Dem Girls” before Swift emerged to join in on Minaj’s “The Night Is Still Young.”
After trading verses on the The Pinkprint track, Swift sang a few bars of her hit single “Bad Blood,” a song that caused actual bad blood between the singer and Minaj after the 1989 cut scored a Video of the Year nomination over “Anaconda.” After making peace on the VMA stage to a rousing ovation, Minaj threw it over to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who performed “Downtown” outside the Orpheum in Los Angeles.
Thankfully for the rapper, she wasn’t hit with any wardrobe malfunctions at this year’s ceremony. At the 2014 VMAs, Minaj first delivered an incident-free “Anaconda” – no backup dancers were bitten by snakes, unlike at rehearsals – before swapping outfits to join Ariana Grande and Jessie J on “Bang Bang.” However, while changing from her silver bikini into a black décolleté dress, Minaj failed to properly latch the dress, resulting in an awkward, garment-clutching performance.
Minaj’s 2015 VMAs appearance wasn’t without controversy, either. After “Anaconda” was snubbed of a Video of the Year nomination, the rapper tweeted, “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year. I’m not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much, but are rarely rewarded for it.”
Considering that the Video of the Year nominees included three men (Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran and Mark Ronson) and one African-American female (Beyoncé), Minaj’s tweet was seemingly aimed at Taylor Swift, whose nominated “Bad Blood” video was filled with a celebrity assortment of “women with very slim bodies.”
Swift, who also interpreted Minaj’s comments as a knock on “Bad Blood,” tweeted at Minaj, “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.” Minaj snapped back at Swift, “U must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about u.” The brief beef was squashed when Swift apologized to Minaj, “I thought I was being called out. I missed the point, I misunderstood, then misspoke. I’m sorry, Nicki.”
In the days leading up the VMAs, however, host Miley Cyrus criticized Nicki Minaj for her behavior after “Anaconda” was shut out. “If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that. But don’t make it just about yourself,” Cyrus said. “If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement. But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it. And it’s not anger like, ‘Guys, I’m frustrated about some things that are a bigger issue.’ You made it about you. Not to sound like a bitch, but that’s like, ‘Eh, I didn’t get my VMA.'”
“Anaconda” did earn two VMA nominations for Best Hip-Hop Video and Best Female Video. Minaj later revealed that, despite the residual bad blood from the “Anaconda” snub, she would open this year’s VMAs. Minaj made the announcement by posting a sonogram showing a Moonman instead of a fetus, a nod to rumors in recent months that she was pregnant with boyfriend Meek Mill’s child.