Queen Latifah on Hip-Hop: "We Need More Female Rappers"

To put it simply, Queen Latifah is a goddess. This isn't like one of those compliments you give to your dudely pal 'cause she finally put on a dress. No, Latifah is divine in the way of Athena or Yemaya: a powerful natural force.

Though everyone knows Latifah as a rapper or actress, she also performs singing cover songs and jazz standards off her Trav'lin' Light album. But, she admits, rap isn't far from her heart. "There's things that only rap music can express," she says, "or poetry can express."

A recent conversation revealed Latifah's views on feminism, self-confidence, a Living Single reunion, and females in the rap game. And, for the record, as a former high school b-ball player, she came out in support of Miami: "I'm a fan of the Heat, for sure."

New Times: What do you think about the state of female rappers in hip-hop today?

Queen Latifah: The state of hip-hop for female rappers has been anemic for a while. And I've expressed that repeatedly. We need more female rappers. When people speak about what's wrong with hip-hop, to me, that's the main problem. We have to have a voice. We have to express the things that matter to us, the things that mean something to us, and we have to have that balance, male to female.

In the last decade or so, feminism has become a dirty word. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I'm not one for labels; the only sort of label I chose for myself was queen. I've never labeled myself a feminist. Maybe people gravitate toward me because I do share some of the same principles, by and large. The only time I'd seen the word feminist associated with media, when I was a kid growing up, before I knew what it really meant, was like a protest, and there was like an angry-looking woman, and I didn't know what that was. Later I grew to understand what it meant.

I would say that I am, I suppose, because I agree with a lot of those same principles. I want women to be able to set their goals and accomplish them. I want us to have a voice at all times. I want us to have self-confidence; I want us to have inner beauty. I want us to have equal pay for equal work. I want us to have, most importantly, a voice, which I said, that's the most important thing to me. Whatever that voice is is fine, because we're not all alike.

Where do you think confidence comes from?

For me, it started with my mother and my father instilling confidence in me, trying to teach me principles rather than a mere perception. Teaching me how to love myself. That was the first important thing. Confidence is really a form of self-love. That started with my parents, telling me I was beautiful, telling me they loved me, things like that. Putting those messages in me at an early age. Those things didn't always work when they told me; they kicked in later on when I kinda needed them -- they'd come out of nowhere. The groundwork was already laid, so those things had settled in my mind. I also think that it's a learning process for everyone. You have to find things that make you feel good about yourself. And you really have to work at it.

I don't find confidence to be something that if you find your confidence once, there it is forever. It has to be maintained. It's about being true to yourself. Being able to sleep at night and forgive yourself. Because sometimes we make mistakes, and we have to move past them, because we can beat ourselves up forever. Nobody can wage a better assault on us than ourselves. It's about treating ourselves as if we were our own best friend.

Living Single, best show ever, any chance of the cast getting back together and bringing that back?

I don't know. It would be fun. We all still get along with each other. Our lives have taken us a lot of different places.

Do you have any dream first guests for your upcoming talk show, The Queen Latifah Show?

We're kind of putting together our dream list as we speak in terms of celebrities. But really, the show celebrates everyday people who are doing extraordinary things. So it's really not about just putting celebrities on. It's about new, fun music. It's about having a good time for that hour of your day. I'm trying to bring all the worlds of who I am under one roof.

Queen Latifah, 8 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Tickets start at $25. Call 561-832-7469, or visit kravis.org.

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