The Queen Gets a Little Jazzy

Five albums and fifteen years later, Dana Owens, better known asQueen Latifah, has released her first full-length album as avocalist. Titled “The Dana Owens Album,” it is unlike anything shehas done before.

“My momma said it’s time to sing, and I alwayslisten to my momma,” Latifah told Rolling Stone reporters.”Actually, I sang all my life. And between the movie Living OutLoud and Chicago, I felt like the timing was good to go ahead anddo this.”

Her 12-track album was released on September27, and includes collaborations with Al Green and HerbieHancock.

 “It wasn’t planned for him to be on therecord originally,” she said to Rolling Stone magazine on recordingAl Green’s song, “Simply Beautiful,” “but after we listened to it,we thought, ‘Al would really sound good on this.’ For me, I neverreally cared about what anybody thought — except for the peoplewho made these records. So when I got Al Green’s stamp of approvaland his vocals on the record, it was like, ‘Yeah!”

Her album also covers a wide span of musicalgenres, including soul, blues and pop songs from the 1920s throughthe 1970s, as well as many covers by notable artists.Soul-Patrol.com reports that the New Jersey native gainedinspiration for this album from songs that impacted herartistically and emotionally.

 The album begins with a cover of DinahWashington’s 1949 hit, “Baby Get Lost” and continues with a coverof Bill Withers’ 1974 hit, “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh.” Sheis also joined by James Moody on the track entitled “Moody’s Moodfor Love” and Herbie Hancock is featured on the NinaSimone-inspired version of “I Put a Spell on You.”

“I wanted to have enough meat on the album inthe jazz department, but a lot of people have been doingjazz-standards albums,” said Latifah. “So we wanted to switch it upand make it a little different. Plus, I’m a little younger than alot of those guys, so I wanted to touch on songs that meantsomething to me growing up.”

When Dana Owens was eight years old, she tookon the alias “Latifah,” meaning delicate and sensitive in Arabic,and added “Queen.” She began singing in her local Baptist churchchoir in Bloomfield, New Jersey and eventually became interested inrap music.

 She and her two friends formed a groupcalled Flavor Unit. A local DJ/ basement producer named Mark Jamesdiscovered Latifah in 1988 and signed her to Tommy Boy Music. Thereshe released her first single, “Wrath of My Madness.”

Latifah’s first album, All Hail the Queen,which sold over one million copies, was a diverse compilation ofhip-hop, reggae, and jazz with tracks highlighting issues likeapartheid, women’s rights, and poverty.

Since her first album the rapper turnedactress has released four more that have dealt with issues, likeher brother’s death, an album which once received harsh criticismfrom critics. After her brother’s accident, Latifah was arrestedfor marijuana and weapon possession after she was pulled over forspeeding in California. She confessed that the incident had to dowith the impact of losing her brother.

According to RockOnTheNet.com, Latifah said,”I made decisions that I regret, and I took them as learningexperiences… I’m human, not perfect, like anybody else.” As anoutcome of this tragedy, Latifah founded the Native Tongues, anassociation dedicated to maintaining a voice against violence.

Latifah owns and is CEO of Flavor UnitManagement, a recording management firm in Jersey City. In additionto Latifah’s musical and entrepreneurial talents, Latifah has aresume filled with television and film credits.

In 2003, she starred in “Bringin’ Down theHouse,” co-starring Steve Martin, where she plays an ex-con whoengages in an unlikely internet relationship with a rich white man.She has also been featured in “Scary Movie 3,” “Chicago,” “BarberShop 2: Back in Business,” and has a new movie, yet to be released,called “The Cookout.”

She has appeared in more than 17 films since1991 and over 11 television shows including her own talk show, “TheQueen Latifah Show,” which debuted in 1999. In 1994, Latifahappeared on Fox’s “Smart Kids,” which was a program that encouragedand empowered youth.

Latifah received many acclimations and anImage Award nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture for herrole as a lesbian bank robber, Cleo Sims, in the1996 film “Set ItOff.” She also won an award as Best New Artist from the New MusicSeminar of Manhattan in 1990. In 1995, she won a Grammy for BestRap Solo Performance and also the Sammy Davis, Jr. Award forEntertainer of the Year at the Soul Train Music Awards.