*Update: On July 9, Nicki Minaj announced the cancelation of her appearance in Saudi Arabia. Read updated story here.
She's partied in Dubai, walked along its beaches, and had the time of her life there, but only had a single brief gig in the emirate. Now, she will full on lead a concert in Saudi Arabia on July 18.
Rap queen Nicki Minaj will perform in the kingdom in two weeks and the news is almost too good to be true.
Minaj, with her most recent album being appropriately named Queen, is taking part of Jeddah World Fest, which will also witness the great talents of the likes of DJ Steve Aoki and singer Liam Payne (yes, one of the now-defunct One Direction dudes).
"Jeddah World Fest is the first-ever international festival of its kind in this country, which is really spectacular, and the fact that it's right here in Jeddah makes it even more special," Robert Quirke, president of event organizer Roqu Media International, said.
Saudi Arabia has been investing its efforts in the entertainment sector, hosting a bouquet of concerts and events.
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.
So, it makes sense to see Saudi Arabia invest millions in international artists to give its entertainment sector a boost. It makes sense in terms of cash flow from both residents and tourists alike.
This year, Jay-Z and DJ Khaled were announced to perform in the kingdom; Trevor Noah and Seth Rogen to host stand-up comedy shows; the international Madame Tussauds wax museum to open in Jeddah and Riyadh for the first time in the Middle East (excluding the branch in Turkey).
So does inviting Nicki Minaj come as a surprise? In a way, it does; a good surprise for most, a not-so-pleasant one for many.
Saudi Arabia is a conservative nation, following Sharia law in its everyday decisions. Nicki Minaj, on the other hand, a U.S.-based rapper from Trinidad, is quite the opposite. Minaj has her own alcoholic beverage, MYX, and uses profanity as well as sexual and drug innuendos in her songs. (Most times too explicitly. She has a song called Ganja Burn; ganja meaning cannabis, and that's illegal in the kingdom.)
So, how did people in Saudi Arabia take this news? Just like any other matter, online users were divided into two teams: those with and those against.