When it comes to hip hop, Queen Latifah taught us all about U.N.I.T.Y. and female empowerment. Born Dana Elaine Owens in Newark, New Jersey, Queen Latifah is a force of nature—making a powerful impact in hip hop since the late eighties. Let’s take a quick retrospective look at some of the monumental points of her career.
She first started out beat boxing for the group Ladies Fresh and later debuted her first single, “Wrath of My Madness”. At nineteen, Latifah signed with Tommy Boy Records and released her first album, All Hail The Queen in 1989. Known for her signature flow, she demanded attention for major issues like feminism, struggle and abuse. Looking back, it’s clear that her fly-girl infused single, “Ladies First” packed a punch and made her mark as a female pioneer for hip hop. Two years later, “Nature of a Sista” was released, which marked her last album on Tommy Boy Records.
In 1993, Queen Latifah released her third studio album, Black Reign with label Motown Records. Her track “U.N.I.T.Y.” spoke out against domestic violence and thinly disguised misogyny. In 1995, Queen Latifah was awarded the Best Rap Solo Performance award for “U.N.I.T.Y.” at the Grammy Awards. “I chose to kind of take the route of uplifting women by trying to make some records that had some positive thoughts in it,” she told the Huffington Post. “There are ways to make records that appeal to the masses but still have a message that leaves something with you.” Queen Latifah has cited EMPD, KRS-One, Stevie Wonder and Bessie Smith as some of her biggest musical inspirations.
Hip hop aside, Queen Latifah has conquered movie screens and taken TV by storm, starring in Living Single, House Party 2 and Juice. Soon after, she debuted her own talk show in 1999, The Queen Latifah Show, which featured celebrity interviews and musical performances. The show focused on stories about the human experience and after more than fifteen years of being on air, officially culminated in 2015. Last year, she performed in The Wiz Live! and Bessie, in which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Queen Latifah still plans to make major moves, through film and television roles or behind the scenes as an executive producer.
Artists such as Missy Elliott credit Queen Latifah as a major influence on their musical career, citing her as an inspiration for paving a way for women in the hip hop industry. Decades later, Queen Latifah continues to inspire a new generation of artists onto the scene.