Nicki Minaj becomes first female rapper to headline Rolling Loud festival solo – but why do festivals shy away from female headliners?

4 mins read

On Wednesday 8 June, Rolling Loud announced that Nicki Minaj would be a solo headliner for their New York festival on September 23. This made Minaj the first female rapper to ever headline the festival solo, an accolade formerly only partially achieved by Bronx rapper Cardi B who co-headlined with Lil Uzi Vert for the Los Angeles festival in 2018.

This is just another addition to her long list of festival headline spots this summer, including the upcoming Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, London on July 10.

Image credit: BBC radio 1 extra

Even 15 years into her career, Minaj is still at the top of her game. She’s the highest selling female rapper of all time, with over 106 million units sold, and holds the position of sixth highest selling rapper of all time below the likes of Eminem, Drake and Lil Wayne. Despite this, Rolling Loud had not booked her for a headlining spot until now.

The festival is infamous for its majority male headlining acts across the US, a practice which has been largely debated as of late especially within the UK festival scene.

The disparity between female and male acts performing at UK festivals is shocking; as a survey conducted in 2021 found that of the performers at major UK festivals that took place that year, only 21% were female or female identifying.

Further study carried out by Protectivity showed that despite the cancellation of festivals in 2020, the percentage of female artists due to perform was 1% higher than that of 2021 festivals. This study also found that London’s Wireless Festival held that year had the lowest percentage of female performers that year, with a disappointing 10%.

In a bid to eradicate this disparity, the movement Keychange is aiming to reach a 50/50 split between male and female acts in several festivals worldwide, including Wide Awake Festival and Manchester Pride. But this alone is not enough. Many large festivals are being urged to rethink their lineups following the drop in female performers between 2019 and 2020. Protectivity’s study shows that in that time, female performers in the lineup for large UK festivals such as Glastonbury and Wireless have significantly dropped.

Image credit: Protectivity insurance

However, Wireless Festival London appears to be making a step in the right direction towards a 50/50 split following their announcement of an all female headliner lineup. Cardi B, SZA and Nicki Minaj are set to headline the three day event which takes place from July 8 to July 10 – with Minaj’s headline debut on the 10 selling out within four hours, and remains the only sold out date of the festival.

It is fantastic that Wireless has taken this step, but more needs to be done across all festivals in order to eventually reach this 50/50 split worldwide. Primavera Sound, a European festival, became the first to achieve the split in 2019. This is solid proof that it is entirely feasible, we just need to push harder.

Featured Image Credit: billboard.com

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