When Jeddah World Fest first announced that rap queen Nicki Minaj will be taking the stage this month, people had a feeling it was too good to be true. Well, they were right - it was.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, the U.S.-based rapper from Trinidad said she won't be performing in Saudi Arabia following external pressures from one rights group. In a show of solidarity with women's rights, LGBTIQ+ rights, and freedom of expression, the rapper has decided to cancel her scheduled concert, which was set to take place on July 18.
"After careful reflection, I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest," she said.
Her scheduled concert had initially drawn polarized opinions from people in the kingdom, many of whom criticized the organizers for inviting Minaj as they believe her music goes against the country's values.
Jeddah Season has not yet shared the news on its social media platforms.
Last week, The Human Rights Foundation issued a statement, urging Minaj and other performers to back out of the show. Following the cancellation of the show, the rights group acknowledged Minaj's decision as a step forward. The President of the group, Thor Halvorssen, told AP they are "grateful to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring and thoughtful decision."
Other singers set to perform include the likes of DJ Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne.
Saudi Arabia has ramped up its entertainment sector in recent years, but it doesn't seem to be going as smoothly as expected. In 2017, the kingdom announced a budget allocation for the sector worth $2.67 billion under its Vision 2030 plan. This comes as the Gulf nation is trying to lure its residents into spending more money locally, even simplifying e-visas - which can be cleared in three minutes - for foreigners attending events. Just a year later, a three-day music festival took place with a mixed-gender crowd dancing to songs by David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, Black Eyed Peas, and Jason Derulo.