President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": Today's female hip-hop artists seem like a carbon copy of each other or make you wonder whether Mattel or Sierra Leone should have stock in their records as much as they rap about diamonds and Barbie dolls. Female rappers didn't sink to new lows of rhyming about having sex with "five or six best friends," and they were too busy rhyming to purchase an entire fake body and face. They were proud of how the faces and bodies that they were born with. In early hip-hop, female rappers were coming harder, able to just be themselves and actually rapped what they were doing without lies just ﬂying out of their mouths. However, there was no one rhyming while wearing full African attire in one video and Daisy Duke shorts with a T-shirt in the next. Queen Latifah was big-upping womanhood but able to easily blend in with the hood, too.
She created her own brand and has managed to stay relevant when rap is constantly making folks as funky as their last hit. How many other rappers could match soul star Al Green on a magnetizing song like "So Beautiful" or even get the opportunity to work with one of the R&B greats? And if you've heard "The Dana Owens Album" or even heard her brief singing moments as Khadijah James on the hit sitcom "Living Single," you know she is multi-talented. If you've smelled Queen by Queen Latifah perfume, you know she can do fragrances, too, because that perfume is one of the best on the market. She took singing, rapping, acting, perfume and then modeling on. She has a Cover Girl deal to help black women celebrate their own shades of beauty.
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: Generation Y knows her as an actress in movies like "Chicago," "Just Wright," "Brown Sugar" and "Set It Off," but Generation X was fortunate enough to see her in her earlier days when she was rhyming as hard as the fellas. I have so much respect for her being able to hold her own and for making songs like "U.N.I.T.Y.," showing young, black ladies that it's not cool to let a man put his hands all over you and disrespect you. She was pretty, and she was a guy's girl. She could rhyme on the same level with Public Enemy and Naughty by Nature but smooth it out with songs like "Just Another Day" to let you know she was all woman...ahem, queen...too. Between her, MC Lyte and Salt n' Pepa, they were demanding respect and letting hip-hop know women had a ﬁrm stamp on it. And she did it without disrespecting herself and making everybody look at her like a joke. I miss those days badly. I get them with artists like Missy Elliott and Eve, but talented female rappers are so few and far between.
Accomplishments from the Artist: Queen Latifah is one of the most successful female hip-hop pioneers, and she did it without trying to conform to what someone else's idea of success should be. She also hit the hip-hop charts with "U.N.I.T. Y.," (24 weeks), "Weekend Love" (13 weeks), "Just Another Day" (11 weeks), "Paper" (10 weeks) and "It's Alright‘ (4 weeks). Under her birth name, Dana Owens, "The Dana Owens Album" was on the Billboard Top 200 for 29 weeks and the top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums for 39 weeks. She also won a 1994 Grammy award for Best Rap Solo, in addition to hosting the Grammy awards in 2005.
Queen Latifah is a Cover Girl and has her own makeup line.
Queen Latifah was Khadijah James on "Living Single."
Queen Latifah wrote the introduction to Pepa's "Let's Talk About Pep" biography.
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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