The queen of rap, Nicki Minaj, is throwing her weight behind the first openly gay Black man elected to office in the state of Texas.
This endorsement comes after San Antonio Councilmember Jalen McKee-Rodriguez gave the rapper a heartwarming birthday shoutout during a council session last week, local NBC affiliate WOAI-TV reported. In the now-viral video of that session, which was shared on Twitter by McKee-Rodriguez on Friday, the lawmaker can be seen wearing a T-shirt featuring Minaj.
“It was a very special birthday yesterday for a woman who is important to a lot of people worldwide,” McKee-Rodriguez said. “She is a mother to not just one, but a lot of sons. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be here today, but she is an icon and a queen — the queen of rap. I would like to wish a happy belated birthday to the Nicki Minaj. Thank you.”
In response, the multi-hyphenated artist retweeted McKee-Rodriguez’s video to her more than 23 million followers over the weekend. Minaj urged her fanbase, which she calls “Barbz,” to support the local official.
“A true KING omg. Barbz must assemble to vote for this great man at every election he’s apart of. Barbz ACTIVATE!!!!,” Minaj wrote alongside the video. “If you can’t vote in his city, MOVE THERE!”
McKee-Rodriguez, who affectionately describes himself as a “Barb,” said his admiration for Minaj started in 2010, when the rapper rose to fame as part of Lil Wayne’s recording label, Young Money Entertainment. McKee-Rodriguez said he was shocked to see the tweet garner so much attention on social media.
“I didn’t think anything crazy was going to come of it, but we were at our Christmas giveaway, and my Instagram had blown up and I saw that my Twitter had also blown up,” he told NBC News. “Then, I saw that Nicki Minaj had reposted me, and I was like ‘O.M.G.,’ it was so cool and definitely unexpected.”
McKee-Rodriguez — who has focused on issues including LGBTQ suicide prevention programs, LGBTQ-inclusive housing options for homeless populations and ramping up Covid-19 vaccination efforts — added that the retweet is helping him tap into a larger audience.
“There’s a whole bunch of people looking me up, and now they are responding to my message — not just my happy birthday, but they are responding to the policy and the change that I am fighting for,” he said. “They see that someone who has long black and red hair in braids and a Nicki shirt … is someone who is not a conventional politician … that we can succeed, and we are.”
This national attention, he added, could also help inspire others like him.
“That is a huge boost to San Antonio’s profile and to politicians like me, who are not traditional politicians,” McKee-Rodriguez said. “A lot of the barbz, they love Nicki, they love colorful hair, they love fast rapping, they love the glamour of it all, but that’s not often things you find in politics, and so I think a lot of people who followed me, they commented and said, ‘I followed you because Nicki told me, but I really love what you’re doing.’ I think that is so important.”
The official said that while he and his team are thrilled by the attention Minaj has brought to him, he can’t let this distract from their larger goal.
“We are super excited, but we have a lot of work to do for all the marginalized communities in San Antonio,” McKee-Rodriguez said. “We are fighting for a lot right now, so this was a nice moment of relief and joy.”