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Queen Latifah’s Dominance in Hip-Hop/Rap

February 20, 2018
Kai L. Patterson
9 December 2016
Research Paper: Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah’s Dominance in Hip-Hop/Rap
Queen Latifah began her legendary career as a rapper, known arguably as the “first lady
of hip hop.”1 She was born in Newark, New Jersey as Dana Elaine Owens in 1970. Later on, she
received the nickname “Latifah” at eight-years-old, meaning “delicate and sensitive.” It was in
high school when Latifah found her passion for rap, rapping in restrooms and locker rooms. She
eventually started up a rap group with her friends called “Flavor Unit,” where they eventually
made appearances wherever they could, to anyone that would listen.2 She often refers to her rap
group in her music. Though Latifah was quite popular as a rapper, she didn’t rap about the
popular messages of her chosen genre. In the early 1990s, when her rap career emerged, Queen
Latifah displayed her strong sense of feminism through rap and hip-hop, a time period where this
genre was male-dominated. Not only was this genre male-dominated in this era, but men
specifically degraded women in their music, and the women you did see in this industry fit the
descriptions males described them as in their raps, as prizes dressing in skimpy and tight
clothing. Queen Latifah spoke out against the norm of women in this era, particularly how she
carried herself through attire and especially portrays her message of feminism in her music.
Latifah was born in a family where her African roots were made apparent, appreciated,
and important. This explains her African-themed style in most of her live performances and
music videos.3 Besides her frequent use of African attire, Latifah’s style never consisted of
1 “Queen Latifah UNITY Feminism,” available at:
http://www.refinery29.com/2015/08/91904/queen-latifah-unity-feminist-legacy (accessed November 3,
2 “Queen Latifah Biography,” available at:
http://www.biography.com/people/queen-latifah-9542419#synopsis (accessed November 10, 2016).
3 Robin Roberts, “’Ladies First’: Queen Latifah’s Afrocentric Feminist Music Video,” African American
Review 28 (1994): 246.
anything tight or revealing. She was never caught in crop tops or short skirts; her clothes
consistently covered all of her body parts. This wasn’t just to portray her style; it was to portray
who she was as a woman. “Queen Latifah” wasn’t just a name she adopted because she was fond
of it. She adopted it to describe her character and how she viewed herself a person a woman to be
highly respected and appreciated.
Latifah’s repetitive style of African or conservative attire along with the themes in her
music made her known a strong feminist. Latifah released her first album at just 19 titled All

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