From hip-hop to Hollywood, Queen Latifah reigns.
Today's diva is the inimitable Queen Latifah. This woman can do it all - she's a rapper, singer, Grammy-winner, TV and film actress, Academy-Award nominee, talk show host, Cover Girl…the list goes on and on. While one could argue that she is just now reaching the pinnacle of her career, in my humble opinion, her first album, 1989's All Hail The Queen was one of the Top 10 albums of the 80's and represents some of her best artistic work. (Not that I didn't love Living Single though - her stint as Khadijah James on the 90's sitcom was totally awesome too…and of course Chicago and she ruled on Top Model a few weeks ago...)
All Hail The Queen introduced an 18-year-old Dana Owens to the world as Queen Latifah, after a nickname given to her as a child by a Muslim cousin ("Latifah" is Arabic for delicate and sensitive). Latifah's attitude on the first album was not exactly delicate or sensitive - in fact it's full of hard rhymes about strength and perseverance, like the feminist anthem, Ladies First which featured Latifah's British contemporary Monie Love. The album also contained club hits like Dance for Me and the legendary Come Into My House, which opens with the ultra-diva line, "Welcome into my queendom..." Check out the fantastic video featuring New York gay legend and star of Paris is Burning Willie Ninja. The sound quality on the YouTube clip is horrible but it's very much worth it anyway. All Hail The Queen also features a number of other amazing tracks like, Wrath of My Madness, Queen of Royal Badness and Princess of the Posse. If you don't own it already I suggest you go out and buy it. It's an essential.
Latifah followed up her stellar first album with a solid if not-as-amazing sophomore effort called Nature of a Sista'. It contained the great track Latifah's Had It Up To Here -- you may remember the hook: "Queen L-A-T-I-F-A-H in command." You can watch a spot-on live performance of the track on Yo! MTV Raps here. (Incidentally - how amazing was Yo! MTV Raps?!?! It's, like, my favorite show ever.)
Latifah's third album, 1993's Black Reign is widely heralded as her best album, and it solidified her place as one of the preeminent female rappers of all time. It was also the first gold rap album by a female MC - and it gave us the single U.N.I.T.Y. which you should all go vote for on the LOGO Ultimate Divas page.
In the late 90's and the '00s, as we all know, Queen Latifah came into her own as an actress and a superstar, and she even released a standards album which features her singing like a more traditional diva - but for me, it's the rap albums that really make me adore Latifah. She's also been widely rumored to be a lesbian, and despite denying this, her Wikipedia entry claims that she is a supporter of same-sex marriage and gay rights in general.
Latifah in her uptown, jazzy "Dana Owens" mode.
A few months ago I was walking my dogs on the West Side of Manhattan and I saw Queen Latifah coming out of Chelsea Piers and getting into a limousine. She looked at me and smiled - she seemed totally nice and I considered saying something like, "Hello" or "I love your work". (Actually, I considered breaking into my version of "Come Into My House" - I know every word…but somehow I wasn't sure how I would come across saying, "The asiatic black woman, hardcore beat drumming / It's hard to keep a good woman down, so I keep coming.") I ended up smiling and leaving it at that and I totally regretted it afterwards…so Queen, if you're reading this, "Hello. I totally love your work. Call me!"
From "Fly Girl" to...
...to Oscar nominee.
Long live the Queen!