Nicki Minaj was honored with the Game Changer award at the 2019 Billboard Women in Music ceremony, but instead of giving her usual thank you speech Minaj utilized her time to remember her friendship with Juice WRLD—who died last week at the age of 21.
On Thursday (Dec. 12), After accepting her award from Normani, Nicki Minaj immediately brought up Juice WRLD, who passed away on Sunday (Dec. 8) after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway Airport. Opening her speech with a story of how the young rapper offered her comfort during a time she was stressed, Minaj noted that she didn’t feel right not acknowledging what he meant to not only her, but the culture.
“I recently had the pleasure of working and touring with Juice WRLD,” Minaj told the audience. “I had a great conversation with him one day and while we walked to the stage he held my hand and told me to stay calm and to pray. He said he had been trying to do just that. I was so shocked to hear him, of all people, tell me that. But right there in that moment with him telling me that, I actually did feel calm. And I felt like, what am I actually worried about?”
Nicki Minaj also noted that Juice WRLD was a “kindred spirit” and was someone who inspired her with his luxuriant passion for creativity.
“Looking back now, I wish I did something differently or said something to help,” she said Thursday night. “He spoke to me in detail about how in love he was with his girlfriend and how passionate he was about music. And when he was in the studio with me, he did so many songs so quickly. He was honest and pure about what he felt and that inspired me.”
In addition to remembering his impact on her life, the Megatron rapper then sent condolences to Juice WRLD’s friends and family, before touching on the importance of not judging others about struggles with drug addiction and mental health.
“I wanna tell everyone that drugs isn’t the problem, it’s the way we fix our problem,” she said. “So it’s important that we don’t pass judgment so that people don’t feel ashamed to speak up and ask for help. It’s so important that we talk about mental health, it is, because people are dying because they don’t want to express how miserable they are and how much they’re suffering so they’d rather medicate themselves.”
Check out Nicki Minaj’s full speech below.