"I'm gonna change, and I'm gonna grow. People always kind of want you to stick to the same mold...But me, personally, I don't plan on going out like that."
*Photograph by Janette Beckman from an original copy of Rap!: Portraits and Lyrics of a Generation of Black Rockers by Janette Beckman and Bill Adler in the HARI Collection
New Jersey native Dana Owens always knew she was royalty. As a teenager, she turned a childhood nickname into a title, dubbing herself ‘Queen Latifah,’ and started building her kingdom before she could vote. Her first conquest? – Hiphop. Queen Latifah began as the human beatbox in a rap crew known as Ladies Fresh and an original member of the Flavor Unit, which she reconfigured into the management and production company Flavor Unit Entertainment with her best friend Shakim Compere. In 1988, at just eighteen years old, Queen Latifah released her first record “Wrath of My Madness.” The following year she dropped her debut album, All Hail The Queen, which confronted issues of gender and race with hard hitting rhymes and truly regal authority. By age 23, the Queen had become an icon. In her cover story for The Source Magazine’s May 1994 issue, titled “Original Flavor,” Bönz Malone explains:
“Now the overachieving schoolgirl is a 23-year-old Black Female Icon seen in movies such as Juice, Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever and House Party 2. Still crashin’ clubs on her bike, ridin’ around with a Black Mob – 60 deep. She’s doing talk shows, radio, interviews for dozens of fanzines, touring all over the world, plus rehearsing lines for the TV show, running a video store, and becoming Khadijah every Sunday night at 8:30. And she still finds time to drop a dope album?!”
*Photograph by Stefane Sednaoui from an original copy of VIBE (Dec. '93/Jan. '94) in the HARI Collection
Due to her growing success, Queen Latifah’s anonymity had been replaced by fame but her humility and hunger remained intact. As a result, her third album, Black Reign – released as she simultaneously starred in the FOX sitcom Living Single – demonstrated the world was only seeing the beginning of what she was capable of. The still-relevant anthem, “U.N.I.T.Y.”, reached the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 and earned her the Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance in 1995. Queen Latifah’s work in music, film and television have also earned her an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, an Academy Award nomination, and sales of over two million records. In 2006, she became the first hiphop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It’s been 30 years since she bust on the scene and Queen Latifah continues to rule over any domain she wishes – from hiphop to Hollywood.
All Hail The Queen Forever!
STAND UP FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS (#StandUp4WnG): Every day in hiphop is a day we celebrate women. The month of March is when we take our daily celebration to the next level. The 2018 HARI’s Women’s History Month Series, will establish a knowledge base, highlight key woman figures in and around hiphop and explore the significance of women in the development of the genre and its sound. The series will also celebrate the centrality of women in continually and creatively shaping and changing the world. Learn more HERE.