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  • Nicki Minaj, the in-your-face, highly animated sex kitten and protege of rap prince Lil Wayne, has not only emerged as hip-hop’s leading female, she’s outdoing her male rivals, too.

    Minaj, real name Onika Maraj, was born in Trinidad, but grew up in Queens, N.Y.

    Lil Wayne discovered and signed her to his Cash Money imprint last year.

    She’s released three mixtapes and performs with the rap group Young Money, which includes Lil Wayne and Drake.

    The group’s 2009 album, the gold-selling We Are Young Money, has produced two Top 10 singles on the pop charts.

    The 26-year-old Minaj’s first album Pink Friday will be released on Nov. 23, but she’s already saturating all facets of hip-hop, from radio to mixtapes to magazines.

    She’s costarred on songs with Lil Wayne, Drake, Usher, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Diddy, among many others.

    She’s also set to appear on Kanye West’s upcoming CD.

    With her collaborations, she’s landed 10 songs on the R&B/Hip-Hop singles chart, including three in the Top 10; and Minaj’s had eight overall tunes on the Hot 100.


    Her current single, the Annie Lennox-sampled “Your Love,” is spending its seventh week on top of the rap charts; it’s the first time a female act, as the lead artist, has topped that chart since Lil Kim in 2003.

    And “Your Love” is steadily climbing elsewhere, peaking at No. 5 and No. 14 on the R&B and Hot 100 charts, respectively.

    “I think since Nicki came out there’s going to be a lot of new girls coming out,” producer-rapper Pharrell said. “There’s always one that paves the way and opens the door (and) I think she reopened the door to hip-hop for females.”

    “Now that you have somebody that has pretty much her own style and does her own thing, people are gravitating toward it, so I think that makes her stick out ’cause she’s so different,” added Ludacris, who had Minaj rap on his hit “My Chick Bad.”

    Minaj’s style is one that is playful, youthful and wild.

    She wears multicolored wigs, sings and raps in various accents and boasts about her sexuality, even playing up bisexuality, though she’s said in a recent Vibe interview that she doesn’t date or sleep with women.

    Queen Latifah, the rap pioneer who’s segued into acting and singing, says when Nas declared that hip-hop was dead in 2006, that was partially due to the lack of feminine voices.

    “Part of the reason hip-hop was dead is because there weren’t any female emcees out, really like in the forefront of hip-hop, playing on the radio, in the daytime, every day,” Latifah said.

    “Honestly, between (Lauryn Hill) and me and Nicki being out there, hopefully a lot of other females will be coming up,” Eve said.

    “There’s just too many guys on the screen. I can’t take it.”

    Mesfin Fekadu coves music for the Associated Press