Today’s Old Soul is Queen Latifah.
Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, model, television producer, record producer, comedienne, and talk show host. She has long been considered one of hip-hop’s pioneer feminists. Her 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. She currently hosts her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show.
Latifah was born in Newark, New Jersey, and lived primarily in East Orange, New Jersey. She is the daughter of Rita (née Bray), a teacher at Irvington High School (Latifah’s alma mater) and Lancelot Owens, Sr, a police officer. Her parents divorced when Latifah was ten. Latifah was raised in the Baptist faith and attended Catholic school in Newark. Her stage name, Latifah (لطيفة laţīfa), meaning “delicate” and “very kind” in Arabic, she found in an Arabic book of names when she was eight. Always a tall girl, the 5-foot-10-inch (1.78 m) Latifah was a power forward on her high school girls basketball team. She performed the number “Home” from the musical The Wiz in a high school play.
She started beat boxing for the hip-hop group Ladies Fresh and was one of the members of the original version of the Flavor Unit, which, at that time, was a crew of MCs grouped around producer DJ King Gemini, who made a demo recording of Queen Latifah’s rap Princess of the Posse. He gave the recording to Fab 5 Freddy, the host of Yo! MTV Raps. The song got the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who signed Latifah and in 1988 issued her first single, “Wrath of My Madness”.
Latifah made her mark in hip-hop by rapping about issues of black women. Her songs covered topics including domestic violence, harassment on the streets, and relationship problems. Freddy helped Latifah sign with Tommy Boy Records, which released Latifah’s first album All Hail the Queen in 1989, when she was nineteen. That year, she appeared as Referee on the UK label Music of Life album 1989—The Hustlers Convention (live). In 1998, co-produced by Ro Smith, now CEO of Def Ro Inc., she released her fourth hip-hop album Order in the Court, which was released by Motown Records. Latifah was also a member of the hip-hop collective Native Tongues.
After Order in the Court, Latifah shifted primarily to singing soul music and jazz standards, which she had used sparingly in her previous hip-hop-oriented records. In 2004, she released the soul/jazz standards The Dana Owens Album. On July 11, 2007, Latifah sang at the famed Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles as the headlining act in a live jazz concert. Before a crowd of more than 12,400, she was backed by a 10-piece live orchestra and three backup vocalists, which was billed as the Queen Latifah Orchestra. Latifah performed new arrangements of standards including “California Dreaming”, first made popular by 1960s icons The Mamas & the Papas. Later in 2007, Latifah released an album titled 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, Latifah, along with the NJPAC Jubilation Choir, recorded the title track on the album Oh, Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration, covering the song that the Edwin Hawkins Singers made popular in 1969.
Return to hip hop (2008–present)
In 2008, Latifah was asked if she would make another hip-hop album. She was quoted saying the album was done already and it would be called “All Hail the Queen II”. The following year, in 2009, she released her album Persona. The song “Cue the Rain” was released as the album’s lead single. She also has a song with Missy Elliott. 2011 saw Queen Latifah sing “Who Can I Turn To” in a duet with Tony Bennett for his album “Duets II”. In January 2012, while appearing on 106 & Park with Dolly Parton, to promote Joyful Noise, Latifah stated that she had been working on a new album.