Tag Archive | "Native Tongues"

Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: Queen Latifah

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Reminisce With M.I.S.S.: Queen Latifah


Queen Latifah, the hip hop legend, has been rapping since the late 80s.

Queen Latifah, the hip hop legend, has been rapping since the late 80s.

When I first embarked on my own blogging enterprises a little over a year ago (shameless plug: www.theladiesfirst.blogspot.com!), I brainstormed what I wanted my blog to represent. Fun, fresh, understated yet unmistakable femininity, and freedom of creative expression were definitely what dreamed of contributing to the online community. So when it came time to name my blog, I was at a loss for a few days. I thought about everything that had influenced me growing up–movies, music, pop culture in general. A lot of potential ideas were tossed around, but I finally settled on a name that came from the song “Ladies First”. The early 90s hit is all about a woman being the prototype when it comes to doing things right, with intelligence and grace. And I think there’s no better way to summarize the fem-cee behind the hit, Queen Latifah, whose power and musical positivity over the course of her 22-year career has changed the way women are received in the hip hop community, for the better.

The Queen started early on in her career by teaming up with the like-minded Native Tongues clique.

The Queen started early on in her career by teaming up with the like-minded Native Tongues clique, and was one of the original members of the Flavor Unit Posse.

Born Dana Owens in Newark, NJ in 1970, Queen Latifah grew up singing in the Baptist church, but as she got older, she found more of a home in the world of hip hop. In high school, the 5’10″ Latifah began beatboxing for a crew of girls that called themselves Ladies Fresh. This was good practice, but no indication of the Queen’s full abilities. She began writing and perfecting her own rhymes. She must have been getting ready for what was to come, because when a demo recording of Latifah’s  “Princess of the Posse” landed in YO! MTV Raps host Fab Five Freddy’s hands, she was quickly inked to a contract with Tommy Boy Records.

Her albums: All Haill the Queen (1989), Nature of a Sista (1991), Black Reign (1993), Order in the Court (1998), The Dana Owens Album (2004)

Her albums: All Hail the Queen (1989), Nature of a Sista (1991), Black Reign (1993), Order in the Court (1998), The Dana Owens Album (2004), Travelin' Light (2007), Persona (2009).

In 1989, when she was only 19 years old, Latifah’s first album All Hail the Queen was released to huge critical acclaim. The album also put Queen Latifah on the rap game’s radar with the classic “Ladies First”. The single, a collaboration with her fellow Native Tongues posse member MC Monie Love, spoke to the ferocity and power of women in the game. The song boasted some of the most lyrically sophisticated and influential rhymes, announcing to the male-dominated industry that “A Woman Can Bear You/Break You/Take You”. The song helped the album peak at #6 on Billboard’s Top Albums. With production from the likes of KRS-One and Prince Paul, it was evident that Queen Latifah had definitely earned the respect she deserved as a female rapper. And instead of resting on her rap laurels, the Queen formed Flavor Unit Entertainment, a management/production company that put on some of your favorite pioneers in the game, including Naughty by Nature. Keeping with the whole busy trend, she released her second album on Tommy Boy records, Nature of a Sista in 91.

Tragedy struck Latifah, but she only rebounded harder-- U.N.I.T.Y anyone?!

As part of the Native Tongues and during the 90s, Latifah's look was a mix of Afrocentric and more contemporary pieces.

However, it was not the chart topping success that her last album was, and when her contract expired, she was dropped by Tommy Boy. This seeming failure marked the beginning of a rough time for Latifah– she was victim of a carjacking, and her brother Lance lost his life in a tragic motorcycle accident. Years later, The Queen opened up about dealing with the tragedy: “I don’t know if I ever recovered completely. I know I don’t hurt as bad as I used to hurt. You can’t replace a person, especially someone with a big presence like my brother. We were best friends, there were no secrets between us.” (http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/music/musicnews/Queen+Latifah-58085.html). She has also gone on record to say that her music helped her through that rough time, and after re-signing with Motown Records and working on new material, she released Black Reign in ’93. The album was a smash, mostly because of the signature song U.N.I.T.Y. A firm slap in the face to disrespectful and abusive dudes, the song is an anthem for women everywhere and a SERIOUS life-long inspiration of mine. Lyrics like “You put your hands on me again I’ll put your ass in handcuffs” reminded women everywhere to stand up for themselves, and guys everywhere that the Queen was still in the house!

The Queen has become a big box-office draw, even scoring an Oscar nod for her role in the mega-star musical Chicago.

The Queen has become a big box-office draw, even scoring an Oscar nod for her role in the mega-star musical Chicago.

While her rap rebound was on the come up, Latifah began the second phase of her career, which would soon make her a household name–acting. Starting with smaller guest starring and supporting roles in films like Jungle Fever, House Party 2 and Juice, the Queen made memorable early on-screen impressions. Who could forget her guest-starring turn as Hillary’s bitchy celebrity boss on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?! CLASSIC. The small roles paid off, because Latifah soon landed her own sitcom, Living Single, the hilarious thorn in my productive side. Seriously, yo, it seems like ANYTIME I try to get something really important done, a Living Single marathon/DVD box set pops up and derails my plans with hours of laughs. *Sigh* It’s becoming a real problem! But I digress… on the show, which centered on the lives of six friends living in Brooklyn, Latifah played Khadijah James, a hard-working editor/publish of the fictional urban independent magazine Flavor. Portraying a strong, intelligent woman was something Latifah had no problem doing, and she received the NAACP Image Award for her work on the show in 1998. After the end of Living Single, the Queen got her mini-Oprah on and hosted her own talk show–The Queen Latifah Show, and continued to act. Her breakout role, in terms of boosting her star power and making her a certified Hollywood celeb, was her work as Matron “Mama” Morton in the 2002 Oscar-sweeping musical Chicago. Latifah managed to steal the spotlight even amongst a cast of heavyweights like Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and Catherina Zeta Jones, and was nominated herself for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year. Even though she didn’t win, the nomination marked a serious turning point in her career. These days, The Queen is a bone fide star, she commands anywhere from $10 to $15 million per flick, and has carried hits such as The Perfect Holiday and the upcoming Just Wright.

Now a Cover Girl spokeswoman, sometimes-face of Weight Watchers, and that mysterious Voice-Over in the Pizza Hut campaign on TV– the Queen is a certifiable part of American culture. Sure, she’s in a bit more (OK, a LOT more) of a commercial place now than she was when she started, but at least she’s done it her way. When hip hop, or the world at large, gets too out of check, Dana Owens–The Queen– is right there, quietly but powerfully reminding us that the Ladies really are First!

Especially Queenly Facts

*Queen Latifah played power forward on her basketball team all through high school– and won two championships! You go girl!
*She played two VERY different guest starring characters on The Fresh Prince: One, Marissa Redmond (Hillary’s stuck-up boss) and the other, DeDe (Will’s tomboy crush)
*”Latifah” is Arabic for sensitive and delicate– a cousin gave her the nickname when she was 10.
*One upon a time, even this Queen flipped burgers at Burger King.

VIDEOS!!

Queen Latifah feat. Monie Love– “Ladies First”

Queen Latifah– U.N.I.T.Y.

Queen Latifah as Matron “Mama” Morton in Chicago

Queen Latifah– THE LETTER O!!

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: A Tribe Called Quest

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Reminisce with M.I.S.S.: A Tribe Called Quest


A Tribe Called Quest

A Tribe Called Quest

Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden, they used to kick routines and the presence was fitting. It was Phife, Shaheed, and Q-tip the Abstract. The rhymes were so romping that we must be taken back.  Reminisce with M.I.S.S. as we go on a quest with the one and only A Tribe Called Quest.

The moment I fell in love with hip-hop was the day I purchased my first A Tribe Called Quest album. I remember being captivated by the smooth voice of Q-Tip, the wit and playfulness of Phife Dawg’s rhymes, and the laid-back beats of producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. This rap group was unlike any other rap group I had heard before. Their positive energy, intelligent rhymes, and mellow sound would greatly influence and enhance my music collection for years to come.

A Tribe Called Quest was formed in 1985 and consisted of rappers Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John Fareed), Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. A fourth member of the group, rapper Jarobi White left after the first album. The group met in high school and first went under the name of QUEST, until later given the prefix “A Tribe Called” by their high school buddies, The Jungle Brothers. Tribe along with the Jungle Brothers and De La Soul formed a collective unit that became known as The Native Tongues. The Native Tongues shared similar styles of abstract, positive-minded, and afrocentric lyricism that created growing buzz within the music community. People began to pay attention and in 1989, A Tribe Called Quest landed a recording contract with Jive Records.

Bonita Applebum Was The First Single Released By A Tribe Called Quest

Bonita Applebum Was The First Single Released By A Tribe Called Quest

“Do I love you? Do I lust for you? Am I sinner because I do the two? Can you let me know right now please…Bonita Applebum?”

“Bonita Applebum” (which happens to have been my ringtone for the past year) was the first single released by A Tribe Called Quest from their debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. It’s been rumored to be about a real girl from the group’s high school and surprisingly not about me. Just kidding! The single showcased Q-Tip’s smooth, spoken word style of lyricism over electric sampling courtesy of the psychedelic soul/funk band Rotary Connection. Electric sampling and the group’s ability to incorporate jazz into their music helped them stand out amongst their counterparts. They offered an alternative to the then widely popular “gangster rap” genre by addressing topics such as industry politics, consumerism, and date rape, while still promoting positivity. People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was certified gold and also featured other memorable hits such as “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” and “Can I Kick It?” The album was well-received critically, but had little mainstream appeal.

The Low End Theory Was The Second Album Released By A Tribe Called Quest

The Low End Theory Was The Second Album Released By A Tribe Called Quest

It wasn’t until the release of their sophomore effort The Low End Theory, considered by some to be one of the greatest rap albums of all time, that A Tribe Called Quest were well on their to becoming legends and hip-hop royalty. The Low End Theory was credited with linking hip-hop and jazz together in a way that was truly unique and never done before. “Check the Rhime” and “Jazz (We’ve Got)” were commercial successes from this album. The formula, the layout, and even the album cover art were so dope! From that album and moving forward, Tribe would forever become synonymous with a red-and-green body-painted female form on black background. The mysterious and sexy woman would also follow A Tribe Called Quest onto their third album cover, Midnight Marauders. On this album, the woman on the cover takes the role as the “Midnight Marauders Tour Guide”. In a robotic voice, the woman explains the title and introduces the album to us as a sort of program that we are being led through. Here are two excerpts:

Hello. This is your Midnight Marauder program. I’m on the front of your cover. I will be enhancing your cassettes and CDs with certain facts that you may find beneficial. The average bounce meter for your Midnight Marauder program will be in the area of 95 b.p.m. We hope that you will find our presentation precise, base heavy, and just right. Thanks.

Seven times out of ten, we listen to our music at night. Thus spawned the title of this program. The word “maraud” means to loot. In this case, we maraud for ears.

Phife Dawg And Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Phife Dawg And Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Midnight Marauders was certified platinum and proved to be a critical and commercial success for the group. Many of the artists that we love today such as Kanye West and Pharrell have stated that hearing the album, first inspired them to make music. Hits such as “Award Tour” and “Oh My God” instantly became classics. In the song “Electric Relaxation”, Q-tip wooed the ladies within the first few lines of the track by stating,

“Honey, check it out. You got me mesmerized with your black hair and your phat ass thighs. Street Poetry is my everyday, but yo I gotta stop when you trot my way…”

Rapper Q-Tip From A Tribe Called Quest Released Three Solo Albums

Rapper Q-Tip From A Tribe Called Quest Released Three Solo Albums

A Tribe Called Quest released two more albums before they split and went off into solo ventures. Beats, Rhymes, and Life and The Love Movement both featuring production by the late-great J. Dilla, spawned greats hits such as “Once Again“, “Stressed Out“, and “Find A Way“. Phife Dawg recorded a solo album, but has kept a relatively low profile due to a battle with diabetes and kidney failure. Ali Shaheed Muhammad teamed up with two other artists from former groups, Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné!, and Dawn Robinson of En Vogue to create super group Lucy Pearl. They had a big hit in 2000 entitled “Dance Tonight”. Unfortunately, they split soon after that. Rapper Q-Tip has kept himself busy by releasing three solo albums entitled Amplified, Kamaal the Abstract, and most recently The Renaissance in 2008. In 2007, the group was formally honored at the 4th VH1 Hip Hop Honors.

“Bonita Applebum”

“Check The Rhime”

“Jazz (We’ve Got) & Buggin’ Out”

“Find a Way”

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