Last week, Nicki Minaj retired.
"I've decided to retire and have my family," she tweeted. "I know you guys are happy now. To my fans, keep reppin me, do it til da death of me, in the box—cuz ain't nobody checkin me. Love you for LIFE."
She's been known to post in jest before, but this sounded pretty straight-forward. Sudden and awfully blunt, but the platinum-selling rapper and walking lightning rod has been guilty of both sometimes. The announcement also came just a couple of days after she called Kenneth Petty her "husband" while holding court on Instagram Live. She's also "Mrs. Petty" on Twitter now. (They obtained a license in July but there's no immediate evidence in public records that they're married, and a Minaj source hadn't heard anything about wedding plans.)
Interestingly, though she's made a career out of carefully choreographed theatrics to accentuate her songs, music that long ago cemented her place in the pantheon of groundbreaking rappers, it didn't occur to her to wrap that news up in a prettier package before she dumped it into her devastated Barbies' virtual laps.
Perhaps the idea of retirement had only just occurred to her, too. Then again... retirement from what, exactly?
"I'm still right here," Minaj replied to one of numerous assertions of heartbreak. "Still madly in love with you guys & you know that. In hindsight, this should've been a Queen Radio discussion & it will be. I promise u guys will be happy. No guests, just us talking about everything. The tweet was abrupt & insensitive, I apologize babe."
Another fan agreed, "Like yea it might be a bit dramatic but a lot of barbz are really shaken by this .I just need her to talk to us about it or something." To which their queen proclaimed, "I will babe. I promise. I love you so much."
She shared another couple of compliments and then it was time to get excited about her capsule collection for Fendi, which is heavy on the pink and features everything from a mink and sheepskin bomber jacket to a hoodie with her face on it.
"She is a great artist and one of the best rappers. Fendi shares great affinity with her. She represents one of Fendi's dimensions, the fun aspect of the brand and she will present it extremely well," Fendi CEO Serge Brunschwig told WWD.com about Minaj, who was a good friend of the late Karl Lagerfeld, longtime creative director of the Italian fashion house as well as Chanel.
About the aesthetic, he added, "Yes, she is extreme, but we are not afraid of that and found it very interesting working with her." The collection is "very colorful and strong; it makes a statement. We are super happy."
All terms that define the woman herself.
So, it's not as if she's retreating from the public eye entirely to have that family (which of course we'll all be watching for signs of now), but for as much of herself as she's invested in putting on a good show over the past decade, Minaj has also been keeping an eye on what she's been putting on the back burner to do so.
"If I'm done with my fifth album and I don't have a child by then, no matter how much money I have, I would be disappointed, as a woman, because I feel like I was put here to be a mother," she told Complex in 2014. "I have definitely put off the wife thing because I don't want people in my business. I'd rather not do anything that's going to be on paper but I definitely will be married before I have my baby. I want to make sure I do it in that order. I've always felt like that since I was young; my mother always put that in my head.
"By the fifth album, I will have walked down the aisle and I will at least be on baby number one, possibly baby number two...And have $500 million."
2018's Queen, which was received rapturously by fans but was overshadowed, hype-wise, by off-stage drama, was her fourth studio album and she says a fifth is in the works. "Megatron," which dropped in June, was her first solo tune of the year, and she's been busy collaborating—onstage, with Ariana Grande at Coachella, and in the studio, with Megan Thee Stallion on "Hot Girl Summer."
Up until her abrupt tweet on Sept. 5, that plan seemed perfectly feasible. She and Petty—an old beau she reconnected with late last year—are going strong and albums can take awhile to complete, presuming there would be an album.
"I think I have what I was striving for, just happiness," Minaj said on her Queen Radio show in July. "It was so hard to get to a happy place. Now that I'm there, I don't want to compromise that for anyone or anything."
Minaj has credited her current relationship for the recent sea change in her life, a newfound feeling of safety and security after being abused by others and suffering from self-doubt in the past.
"I could maybe say one wrong thing that would get me hit," she tweeted Sept. 1. "So the diff you see in me now is that feeling when a woman feels lifted up, safe, appreciated & unconditionally loved."
She continued, "But I first had to learn how to love MYSELF. If you wouldn't let a man treat your mother, your sister or best friend like that b/c you LOVE them, then you wouldn't let a man treat YOU like that b/c you love YOU. This isn't about judging. We judge too much. Lift them up."
Minaj did not contradict a fan who tweeted, "Well NM5 will be her final album for now. This better be HER BIGGEST ERA." Nor, however, did she give any further insight as to when "NM5" might happen.
TMZ reported Friday that sources said Minaj had been in the studio in recent weeks, recording and making plans for collaborations—and has time booked for next month.
So, that's at least something for Barbies to take to the bank.
But while they may have spent the weekend mired in disappointment, Minaj had a nice weekend on social media, with supporters rallying to her online side to express their love, laments and worship of her considerable talent. And while being praised is nothing new for her, it still must have been refreshing to be the target of so much good energy all at once. It makes a nice change from the troll-eat-troll world that is endlessly trying to take a bite out of the world's biggest stars.
Sources also told TMZ that Minaj's decision to retire is likely more about a much-needed break from negativity and toxic trolling than anything having to do with music.
The seemingly fearless artist is one of the all-time Twitter-feud-wagers, and has rarely pulled punches when she's in the mood to say something, and has at times seemed to encourage her fans to do the same. But she has acknowledged that it wasn't always easy to stick up for herself. First, a woman's got to build up the courage to speak her mind. Then she's got to be able to steel herself in the face of the inevitable backlash. Then not lose her voice amid all the hysteria. And that all takes energy, even for the toughest among us.
As Minaj herself noted, "We judge too much." And social media is about nothing if not judging.
After a rather raucous 2018 online, punctuated by her infamous feud with Cardi B (which started with an in-person altercation involving flying footwear) and calling out Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott for what amounted to good business sense, Minaj has stayed away from starting, or sticking her hand in, any fires this year.
"Ok you guys, let's focus on positive things only from here on out," she tweeted in October about the Cardi beef. "We're all so blessed. I know this stuff is entertaining & funny to a lot of people but I won't be discussing this nonsense anymore. Thank you for the support & encouragement year after year. Love you."
Cardi agreed, "@Nickiminaj alright then! Let's keep it positive and keep it pushing!" The truce held after Nicki released her video for "Good Form," featuring two women bartenders Cardi had been accused of ordering people to attack, in December.
These days, Cardi's got her politics to focus on and Nicki has her own set of plans.
And as much as Minaj has readily courted attention—you don't do concept albums and alter egos and subtweeting Taylor Swift and asking Miley "what's good?" if you'd rather avoid the spotlight—perhaps the epic battles got to be a little too epic.
In May, Miley Cyrus was asked about her "Cattitude" lyric, "I love you, Nicki, but I listen to Cardi B."
"I think what they do is so different from each other," Cyrus said on Capital Breakfast with Roman Kemp. T"hat's why they both get a crown. They don't have to share. They don't have to break it in half. There's no reason to fight over it. They're both queens. And anytime you want to feel powerful and strong, that's my go-to, Cardi and Nicki."
A month later, however, Minaj, without mentioning Miley by name, said on Queen Radio, "Perdue chickens can never talk s--t about queens. She disrespected me in a magazine article for no reason."
In 2015. At the time, Minaj had called out the MTV Video Music Awards for nominating a video that "only celebrates very slim bodies" for Album of the Year. Swift—whose "Bad Blood" featured numerous slim bodies—took it upon herself to respond, tweeting, "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."
The two of them spoke on the phone and ended up opening the show together. But Cyrus, who hosted that year, had told the New York Times beforehand, when asked about the Swift-Minaj drama, "What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It's not very polite."
And so, onstage, during the show, Nicki fired off, "Miley, what's good?"
Fast-forward to May 2019 and Miley said, "I don't think there is beef now anymore. Actually, one of my songs says, 'You want to know if we're really beefin'? There's no beef. I'm a vegan.'"
Yet then Minaj also said, seemingly about Cyrus (who wore a pink wig in a Black Mirror episode), "Now you coming out with pink wigs, all you bitches wanna be Nicki."
Minaj knows when she dishes it out she's going to get it back—and no one truly enjoys that part, generally, but Minaj has a particularly long memory.
Of course, still sounding annoyed by Miley was in June, and a lot can happen in a few months, including the acquisition of a marriage license, a treatise on recapturing self-love and self-respect after being laid low by toxic relationships, and some serious studio time.
It will be up to Minaj herself to put her fans' minds at ease whenever she chooses to explain what, exactly, is going on. Parsing her words, it does sound as if she was talking more to the haters than the lovers. She has always taken her followers into account.
"I've already given my fans so much, but the expectation is to go higher and higher," Minaj noted back in 2011, talking to BlackBook Magazine when she was only one album in to this wild ride. "And when I've done that, I'm expected to go a little bit higher. I've always wanted fame. But when I achieved fame, I started realizing that it wasn't as important as being great at what you do, or being critically acclaimed. Still, I never wish I wasn't famous."