From rap to film to pop standards, Queen Latifah's fans have followed
Queen Latifah's debut album All Hail the Queen (1999) is now considered one of the classics from hip-hop's golden age. At a time when Run-DMC was Raising Hell, Public Enemy was Fighting the Power, KRS One was the Teacher and Salt N Pepa were the First Ladies of rap, Latifah (born Dana Owens in Newark, N.J. in 1970) came on the scene and was able to breathe something new into hip-hop.
While she gained record sales and critical acclaim -- at a time when it was hard for women to get either in the hip-hop world -- Latifah's early singles, "Princess of the Posse" and "Wrath of My Madness," also showed off her "street flava" on the microphone. Longtime fans still talk about the skills she showed on "Wrath"; some remember where they were upon first hearing the track.
Latifah's defining moment in hip-hop's golden age, however, came with the release of her anthem "Ladies First" and the subsequent debut of the song's video on the MTV program Yo! MTV Raps. The single established a few important Queen Latifah concepts.
First, she showed the world that black was still beautiful as she proudly donned African inspired garb in the video. With the song's lyrics, she proved that she could write just as well as her male counterparts, and that a lady on the mike could be something very special.
The video for "Ladies First" was iconic itself. Her four-minute-plus masterpiece showed Latifah leading a discussion in a war room, knocking over potential kingdoms. At only 19, Latifah was already setting the bar higher for what hip-hop videos should be.
Another important Queen move was using "Ladies First" to introduce the world to fellow female rapper Monie Love.
Over her successful career, Queen Latifah's hip-hop fans have come to expect lyrics hard enough for a man, but clearly made by a woman. Additionally, they know that they can expect a lot more as Latifah has branched out into other avenues such as acting and traditional pop singing.
On television, Latifah is known for her role as magazine editor Khadijah James on the hit program Living Single (1993-98). The character mirrored Latifah's real life persona -- a woman who was serious, successful and able to deal straight with men in the business world, yet at the same time could be every bit the woman that any mother, daughter, aunt or niece could relate to.
Her film-acting career began with a memorable restaurant scene opposite Wesley Snipes in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991). Since then she's matured into an Oscar-nominated actress (Chicago, 2002), who, as last year's Last Holiday proved, has the acting talent to carry a movie on her own as well.
What the future holds for Queen Latifah is an open question. She has just released her second album featuring her singing voice in recent years, Trav'lin' Light (Verve) and is headlining a tour that comes to the House of Blues at Showboat this Friday, Oct. 19. The album, a follow-up to her 2004 singing debut The Dana Owens Album (Interscope), features more pop standards, including "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," "Don't Cry Baby" and the title track.
While Latifah has picked up many new fans over the years, during a recent chat with AC Weekly, she says that she's still in tune with the listeners who helped her become the first female rapper to earn a gold album (1993's Black Reign). She also hints at a return to hip-hop and a possible new album in that genre sometime soon.
How have the people who have been with Queen Latifah since All Hail The Queen responded to your projects The Dana Owens Album and Trav'lin' Light?
They've actually responded quite well. I have such a crazy audience. I have a lot of young kids who know me from the acting. And people my age who know me from hip-hop and acting. And now people who know me from my music. A lot of my hip-hop audience grew up with me. And we're grown now and they can get into this kind of music as opposed to just being strictly into hip-hop all day, every day. I think as we get a little older that our taste in music diversifies anyway. So [my hip-hop fans] can ride with me. They still want a rap album out of me though.
What's your favorite song of the ones you've recorded on your last two albums?
I'm going to go with "Simply Beautiful." But I may want to change my mind later.
Who is someone who you would like to record with someday?
Rakim, Slick Rick, and Biz Markie, who will join Special Ed Friday, Aug. 24, at the House of Blues at Showboat in Atlantic City.
Laughing with George Lopez
Fight Night at Boardwalk Hall
Rush to the Taj