Queen Latifah has one of themost diverse filmographies in Hollywood.She has played the voice of Mammoth Ellie in the animated dinosaur film "IceAge," the boisterous Matron Mama Morton in the big screen adaptation of theBroadway musical "Chicago," and wise beekeeper extraordinaire August Boatwrightin the critically-acclaimed "The Secret Life Of Bees."
There are dozens of acting credits listedon her Yahoo! Movies page.
Over the years, Latifah madesure her fans did not forget that she could still spit a hot 16 bars,occasionally leaking web exclusive hip-hop tracks and collaborations. Shetapped into that energy when making surprise award show performances of late.Alicia Keys and Kathleen Battle on stage at the American Music Awards for aremix of Key's "Superwoman" that paid homage to Jennifer Hudson, who hadrecently suffered the tragic loss of her mother and nephew. This past June, shewas the unannounced featured MC at the BET Awards, assisting Mary Mary on anever-before-heard version of their crossover gospel hit "God In Me."
The two albums that shereleased since were both easy listening records, "The Dana Owens Album" in2004, and "Trav'lin Light" in 2007.
Queen Latifah's latest fulllength, "Persona," released in August on her own Flavor Unit Records, wasinspired by her desire to return to her hip-hop roots.
Just as in her eclecticacting career, Latifah's music has never conformed to one particular style. Still,the genres explored on "Persona" are surprising.Midnight Star and Cherelle on tracks "My Couch" and "Take Me Away(With You)" featuring Marsha Ambrosius from Floetry. She even tackles pop rockon "Cue The Rain" and the album's lead track, "Fast Car" featuring MissyElliott. The "Fast Car" video features cameos from Missy, Common, Robin Thicke,and Paula Patton.
"I set out to make a mostlyrap album," Latifah explained via phone. "But Cool & Dre, they are verymusical guys. Some of the beats they were giving me, they felt like beats thatwere more suited for singing, rather than rhyming. So when we were writing ittook its own path."
The most difficult part aboutcreating the album was determining how to incorporate all of her influences. Inaddition to releasing her jazz-oriented records, she has also toured with ErykahBadu and Jill Scott on the Sugar Water Festival. Plus, she also wanted torepresent the house music she grew up listening to in Jerseyand featured on the song "Come Into My House" on her first album.
It was important to make analbum that was true to its "Persona" title. "I had to have something that was representedthe things I'm into," Latifah said about the two-in-a-half month recordingprocess. "The Queen Latifah who tries to be a positive rapper had to bring someelement of what the world wanted to hear from me. I had to bring it all underone roof. I wanted to bring an updated version of me."
While it took some thoughtand experimenting to figure out how to best blend all the different musicalideas, it came naturally for the multitalented artist who has never beenconfined to a stylistic box.
In the beginning of hercareer, Latifah was fortunate to learn the importance of trying new things. Shethanks the Afrocentric hats she once wore for teaching her the invaluablelesson.
That revelation and Latifah'sresponse to it was pivotal in setting her apart from her hip-hopcontemporaries. Many rap artists are so concerned about potentially alienatingtheir base audiences that they rarely step outside of their comfort zones topursue other interests.Will Smith, Ice Cube, and Ice T, whosecontributions to the arts have transcended the hip-hop platforms that got themtheir start.
She hopes her risk takingencourages newcomers to do the same.
- Queen Latifah