The fact that Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl” was shifted out of the Grammys’ rap categories and into the pop division on a preliminary ballot has nearly resulted in an international incident, given the ensuing publicity and controversy as voting began this week. It’s certainly resulted in the year’s most visible hip-hop feud, with a fiery war of words between Minaj and Latto, whose “Big Energy” stayed as a rap contender and was not bounced to pop.
But lost amid all this — or unreported till now, anyway — is the fact that Minaj is, in fact, on the ballot in rap categories this year… just not for “Super Freaky Girl.”
Grammy voters who’ve received their ballots tell Variety that Minaj is in contention in the best rap performance category for another song of hers, “Do We Have a Problem?,” which has a featured appearance from Lil Baby. The Grammys’ rap screening committee apparently considered this more of a true hip-song and “Super Freaky Girl” more pop in nature, splitting the difference.
“Do We Have a Problem?” was a substantial hit, although not quite as mammoth as “Super Freaky Girl,” which went to No. 1 this summer on the Billboard Hot 100. “Do We Have a Problem?” came out in February and soared to No. 2 on that chart. Minaj has already been awarded for it: The “Problem” video won a best hip-hop video trophy at the MTV Video Music Awards in August.
In fact, Minaj makes several more appearances on the rap part of the Grammy ballot, although several are for collaborative songs on which she was considered more of a featured artist and may not have been involved in making the Grammy submissions.
“Blick Blick,” a track she shares with Coi Leray, is on the ballot for best rap performance and best rap song. (It was also submitted and accepted in the music video category.) Similarly, “Love in the Way,” a song she did with Bleu, is listed among the eligible songs for best rap song and best melodic rap performance. In both cases, Minaj is listed as a featured artist, not the primary name (although when these two respective songs came out, she shared top billing rather than taking the “featured” credit).
As was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter — setting off Minaj’s alarm bells in a series of social media posts and video monologs Thursday — the Grammys’ rap screening committee bounced “Super Freaky Girl” to the pop division. It’s far from uncommon for artists to complain about being shifted into the pop division from a genre category: Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile both expressed their displeasure about having it done with their submissions last year, as Justin Bieber had done the year before. In any case, “SFG” ended up as a contender for best pop solo performance as well as in the all-genre best music video category.
Altogether, Minaj appears eight times on the ballot — once in a pop category, twice in music video, and five times in rap categories. However, the fact that she has other shots at being nominated and winning in the rap division does not alloy her and others’ belief that “Super Freaky Girl” remains her best shot at picking up something, and that its best shot might have been in the far less crowded rap category.
However, Minaj’s apparent belief that she was bounced out of rap in order to clear a path for Latto’s “Big Energy” may not entirely hold water. It’s not clear at all that “Super Freaky Girl” and “Big Energy” ever would have contended in the same category. Because while it’s been rumored that “Super Freaky Girl” was originally submitted by Minaj’s camp for best rap performance, then rejected, “Big Energy” is not included in that category, either. The Latto song is on the ballot under the separate category of best melodic rap performance.
And here’s where it gets complicated. Latto does have a song on the ballot for best rap performance, but it’s “Sunshine,” with features by Lil Wayne and Childish Gambino. Latto also appears in that category for two songs on which she was the featured artist, “Mind Yo Business” by Lakeyah and “Booty” by Saucy Santana.
So while there is a Nicki-vs.-Latto showdown potentially looming in the rap performance category, it will be for “Do We Have a Problem?” versus “Sunshine,” and was never destined to be a “SFG”-vs.-“Big Energy” matchup. Got all that?
The irony here, perhaps, amid the Minaj/Latto flap, is that neither of them would be considered a runaway frontrunner in the rap performance category in the face of Kendrick Lamar’s “The Heart Pt. 5” being on the ballot there. Lamar has 14 Grammys under his belt, five of which were for best rap performance.
One additional curiosity of note: Latto’s nomination in the best melodic rap category is for a live version of “Big Energy.” It’s not clear why that would have been submitted in place of the original hit recording. True, the single was released in late September of 2021, just days before the eligibility period for the current round of Grammys began. However, there is a proviso in song eligibility that allows tracks to contend as long as they were on an album released during the appropriate period, as Latto’s “777” album was. But maybe her camp was just hedging its bets.
On top of the aforementioned song entries in rap categories, Latto has “777” entered for best rap album. Minaj did not have an album release this year, with the four tracks she has in contention all being one-offs or appearing on collaborators’ albums.
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