Nicki Minaj’s fans used AI to create their own digital town

In anticipation of her new album, the rapper Nicki Minaj has assured fans for months on social media that they would be “going to Gag City” — and they took it literally.

Minaj’s online fan base appears to have used generative artificial intelligence to create a fictional city, creating and sharing images of metropolises with the same pink, dreamlike aesthetic featured in the cover art for her album “Pink Friday 2,” which comes out Friday.

The rise of generative AI has put powerful tools in the hands of millions, allowing them to create just about anything they can think of. In this case, those tools in the hands of one of the internet’s most rabid fan bases have resulted in the community creation of a fictional world that has gotten enough traction that even major brands are participating.

Such is #GagCity.

It all started in September, when Minaj uncovered the artwork for the album, which features her in a surreal sky train heading toward a pink city. Minaj and her fans, known as the Barbz, embraced the imagery.

Minaj and the Barbz began referring to the lead-up to the album as a journey to Gag City, a reference to the LGBTQ slang term “gag,” meaning to be awestruck by something.

Late last month, some fans started to visualize Gag City using AI, generating images of metropolises featuring the same pink and dreamlike aesthetic.

As Friday’s release date quickly approached, Minaj played into the AI renderings of Gag City and told her fans on X to “prepare for landing.”

More social media users, brands and celebs began inserting themselves into their own AI versions of Gag City or declared themselves citizens of Minaj’s digital town.

The behavior of diehard fans of celebrities who often organize online, commonly known as stan culture, has been regarded as highly influential in recent years. The passionate fan bases have organized to affect politics to the ticketing industry.

The Barbz and Minaj are used to engaging online, and she has connected with fans across various platforms. “Gag City” offers a sense of the potential power of fandom when it is combined with powerful AI that has surged in the past year.

Generative AI, defined as AI programs that can create a variety of media based on simple prompts, has already been used to create pictures of a stylish Pope Francis and trailers for ’80s versions of popular TV shows.

“Gag City” appears to be the first time an artist’s fan base has driven attention toward a project using generative AI and built a world that those outside the fandom can join.

Minaj, meanwhile, is leaning into the hype. She posted a teaser for “Pink Friday 2” on X on Wednesday evening, informing fans that they were “approaching Gag City.”