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Photo by Emma McIntyre. Photo by Frazer Harrison. Photo by Jamie McCarthy. Photo illustration by ​Srikar Poruri for Okayplayer.
Photo by Emma McIntyre. Photo by Frazer Harrison. Photo by Jamie McCarthy. Photo illustration by Srikar Poruri for Okayplayer.

All Hail The Queen

Celebrating Queen Latifah, an icon, trendsetter, and towering symbol of strength for all women in hip-hop.

Hip-hop’s 50th anniversary was just last year; it was a time to celebrate our legends, from the early days of the genre to present day. One of the most important people in hip-hop is Queen Latifah, who was very visible during hip-hop’s celebration last year, whether it be speaking about the genre or performing at events. The New Jersey native has been a part of popular culture for so long, in so many different iterations, that it can be easy to not realize how many doors she kicked down. Her birthday is today, during Women’s History Month, which is poetic. Few rappers have stood up for Black women like Queen Latifah has.

Queen Latifah -

From jumping in the game at 19 years old with her 1989 debut album All Hail The Queen to her classic 1993 sitcom Living Single, to her extensive movie career, including Jungle Fever, Set It Off, Bessie, and more, Queen Latifah has done it all. Hip-hop began as, and still is, a male-dominated industry. Queen Latifah simply wouldn’t be silenced, as evidenced by her 1993 hit single “U.N.I.T.Y.” Rapping about the mistreatment of Black women in hip-hop and the world at large was bold at the time, and would still reverberate now. Her talents in both television and movies are key to hip-hop’s popularity now, where female rappers can get their own sitcoms, talk shows, be leads in films and be properly supported through it all. Fully embracing her beliefs about African and Black American culture, feminism and positivity set the groundwork for a lot of the women that would come after her.

Queen Latifah - Just Another Day... (Official Music Video)

Queen Latifah’s existence is key to the current renaissance of women in rap. Without Queen Latifah standing on the ideals of women’s freedom, Lil Kim would not have been able to change hip-hop’s idea of what women were allowed to do and say. Lauryn Hill’s insightful expression of her womanhood and experiences as it comes to romance and life, are an offspring of what Queen Latifah had the strength to rhyme about. Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Flo Milli and more are free within their artistry because Queen Latifah told hip-hop that the genre (and the world) needed black women’s talents, ingenuity, and personhood. It is impossible to move forward without giving credit to your beginnings, and Queen Latifah is one of the most influential and beloved talents from the early days of hip-hop.