Women’s History Month: Happy 51st Birthday Queen Latifah 


Queen Latifah has done it all. She’s one of the first female rap stars of the 1980s. The Newark, New Jersey product signed with Tommy Boy records in 1989. She has flipped that early mic hustle into an empire as a performer, record producer, businesswoman, actress, singer, and iconic spokesmodel. Her positive, potent and enlightening contributions to Black music, TV, and film are legendary.

Today, the living icon turns 51 years young.

Her debut album All Hail to the Queen went platinum and later, her single “U.N.I.T.Y.” earned Latifah her first Grammy Award.

She has also garnered acclaim on the big screen and appeared in a number of high-profile films, earning her first Oscar nomination (best supporting actress) for her performance in the 2002 blockbuster musical Chicago.

As a member of the cast for the classic and groundbreaking sitcom “Living Single,” Latifah was part of a Black woman revolution that saw the portrayal of the everyday Black Queen —  in all her imperfections and glory — finally presented to the world.

Her performance in HBO’s Bessie Smith was classic and showed the depth of her strength, versatility, and adaptability as an actor.

The Comeup

Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey. Hip-Hop was her ticket to freedom of expression, female empowerment and evening out the field in the male-dominated music industry.

Her value to our culture has withstood the test of time. She has personally endured heartache, a few run-ins with the law, brief drug addiction and the tragic loss of her older brother on a motorcycle that she purchased for him. Latifah is the epitome of strength, talent, the complexities of humanity and the multi-faceted greatness of the Black woman.

Her music always uplifted her people and reflected positively on the realism of rough urban conditions.

To celebrate a trailblazer and groundbreaker like The Queen is a no-brainer. Especially when the 5-foot-10 Latifah was a former high school basketball power forward. Her vivacious spirit and edgy yet feminine rap personality was influenced by her days on the hardwood, balling with girls and guys and putting in that work.

From Hoops To Hip-Hop

One of her classic moments that affirms her athletic gangster is when she ripped Shawn Kemp in a celebrity game and went coast for the layup.

When she had The Queen Latifah Show some years back, she had a “Hoop There It Is” segment where she played mini-hoops against celebrities.

From hoops to Hip-Hop to Hollywood to the heavens, Queen Latifah is a soul survivor and entertainment provider worthy of praise during Women’s History Month.

Social Activist, LGBTQ Leader, Hip Hop Pioneer

Who can forget the 2016 VH1’s Hip Hop Honors event, where the 46-year-old rapper threw her profound voice into the national conversation being dominated by issues of police brutality, racism and Colin Kaepernick’s freedom battle with the NFL. Latifah said it was imperative we changed deeply entrenched racist attitudes within society.

And despite the meteoric rise, the Jersey shorty-turned-Queen L-AT-I-F-A-H in command still rocks the mic. 

As more women begin to assert themselves and rise to fame in the rap game: Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion, etc, they all should thank Queen Latifah because she pioneered this women’s rap thing like nobody else and she did it with dignity, grace, and strength and truth.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.