[artist id="3055069"]Nicki Minaj[/artist] came out of the gate sprinting last week. Her debut LP, Pink Friday, racked up sales of 375,000 copies, making it the highest-selling first album from a female hip-hop act since [artist id="150232"]Lauryn Hill[/artist]'s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill back in 1998 (which sold 423,000). It's almost appropriate that Minaj should share that distinction with Ms. Hill, because while they're definitely very different stylistically, they're actually very much cut from the same cloth.
"At one time, you had to sell a few kilos to be considered a credible rapper," Minaj says in the December 9 issue of Rolling Stone.
"But now, it's like Drake and I are embracing the fact that we went to school, we love acting, we love theater, and that's OK — and it's especially good for the black community to know that's OK, that's embraced."
When Lauryn Hill skyrocketed to fame with the Fugees in the mid-'90s, and then later on her own, she was very much in the same lane as Minaj. Perhaps more artsy, more earthy, more organic and less glammed-up, but still, at the core, a lyricist who earned respect from the hip-hop community by showing and proving as a hip-hop act first and foremost before becoming a celebrated pop star.
Lauryn Hill sang a great deal on her debut LP. On Pink Friday, Minaj sings a bit as well.
Lauryn acted in the film "Sister Act 2" in 1993, before the Fugees were a household name. Minaj attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where she studied drama, and has indicated many times that she thought she'd grow up to be an actress, not a rapper.
But their similarities come into full view when you examine how both artists embrace their female power in a male-dominated industry. At the time of Lauryn's ascension, she was the counterpoint to the hyper-sexual Lil' Kims and Foxy Browns of the hip-hop world — artists who were selling their sexuality just as much as their music.
Minaj entered the music industry doing much of the same, but in the past year, has noticeably turned away from an overtly sexual image. She also has moved away from being one of Lil Wayne's underlings and carved her own identity, much like Hill did with bandmate Wyclef Jean.
"I have the same power as these boys," Minaj says in the Rolling Stone profile. "I have the same magic carpet. There's nothing different between me and them except they have a twig and berries, and I don't. I no longer feel lesser than. I don't want my girls to feel that way.
"I want them to feel that, even if you have a 9-to-5, if you grow up to be vice president of the company, you should earn the same thing the male vice president earned. You should demand the same thing."
What artists would you compare to Nicki Minaj? Share your ideas in the comments below!