Top Female Rap Artists #4: Queen Latifah
All hail the Queeeeen!! You may have seen Queen Latifah in recent films and TV shows, but before this lady was a movie star, she paved the way for female emcees. Queen Latifah’s work in music, film and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination. A true leader in the world of female hip hop, Queen Latifah is our #4!
Latifah was born and raised in New Jersey and attended Catholic school. She was a star forward on her high school basketball team and was given her name Latifah, which means “delicate” and “very kind” in Arabic, from her cousin. It all started for the Queen back in 1988 while she was beat boxing for the rap group Ladies Fresh, alongside DJ Mark the 45 King. This DJ gave her demo to the host of Yo! MTV Raps Fab 5 Freddy and which got the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who signed Latifah and issued her first single, “Wrath of My Madness”. In 1989, she released her first album All Hail the Queen, when she was nineteen. This album was a staple in the history of women’s hip hop as it one of the first albums to highlight gender equality in hip-hop. She continued to release 3 more albums including Nature of a Sista (1991), Black Reign (1993) and Order in the Court (1998). My favourite track from this artist is Grammy-winning “U.N.I.T.Y.” (Black Reign), because it demands respect for women with the classic line: Who you calling a bitch?
After Order in the Court, Latifah shifted primarily to singing in soul music and jazz standards. In 2004, she released the soul/jazz standards The Dana Owens Album. In 2007, Latifah sang at the famed Hollywood Bowl where she was backed by a 10-piece live orchestra and three backup vocalists, The Queen Latifah Orchestra. Later in 2007, Latifah released an album entitled Trav’lin’ Light. Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Joe Sample, George Duke, Christian McBride and Stevie Wonder made guest appearances. It was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album” category. In 2009, she released her 7th album Persona.
Queen Latifah gained her mainstream success as an actress after being cast in the Oscar-winning film adaptation of the musical Chicago. For this role, she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Latifah is one of three hip-hop artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category. In 2003, she starred with Steve Martin in the film Bringing Down the House, which was a major success at the box office. Since then, she has had both leading and supporting roles in a multitude of films including films such as Scary Movie 3, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Taxi, Kung Faux, Beauty Shop, Last Holiday, Ice Age: The Meltdown and Stranger Than Fiction.
Latifah was successful in her role in Hairspray (2007), in which she acted, sang, and danced. The film rated highly with critics. Also in 2007, she portrayed an HIV-positive woman in the film Life Support, a role for which she earned her first Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy nomination. For her work, Queen Latifah received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 2006. Latifah continued her success in film as she produced and starred in the 2007 film The Perfect Holiday, and appeared in the 2008 crime comedy Mad Money.
In 2009, Latifah was a presenter at the 81st Academy Awards and spoke at Michael Jackson’s memorial service. In 2010, she also hosted the 2010 People’s Choice Awards, sang at Super Bowl XLIV with Carrie Underwood, and hosted the 2010 BET Awards. In addition, Latifah is a celebrity spokesperson for Cover Girl cosmetics, Curvation ladies underwear, Pizza Hut and Jenny Craig. She has her own line of cosmetics for women of color called the Queen Collection and has her own perfume line called Queen.