When Hip Hop Happens

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May 2015 – All Hail To the Queen!!!

Earlier this year the Hip Hop community took a collective punch to the belly when Queen Latifah sold her New Jersey mansion and said “ba-bye” to her second foray into the talk show game.

The CBS syndicated daytime talk show, “The Queen Latifah Show “ was cancelled back in December of 2014 after two years – similar to the original show which aired from 1999 to 2001.

But for anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting Dana or has even thought to review her incredible story, we should know better than to feel bad for the indomitable Queen Latifah.

In this edition of “When Hip Hop Happens,” the larger than life Queen of Rap again redefines her place in the universe and reminds us that the culture that she helped to create can impact the world around it on its own terms, be it behind a break beat or by any means necessary.

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Although surprised by the end of another daytime talk show, Latifah gave no power to what would have been a setback for mere mortals. In fact, she took it in stride and even used the sad outcome to laugh at herself and thank her staff.

The 44-year-old Irvington High School alumnus instead took to social media and posted a letter to herself on her Facebook page:

Dear Dana,

Just a little note to say Thank You…
Thank you for your strong work ethic and great effort in getting The Queen Latifah Show off the ground and running.
Your dedication and sacrifice was crucial to the entire team, and in the face of intense challenges, you displayed “True Grit”!
Your Family, Partners, Staff and Crew showed up with you every step of the way. Be very proud of that! Not everyone can say the same.
You can also say you have been a blessing to and been blessed by amazing guests and incredible audiences for this show.
We truly changed people’s lives for the better.
So… STAY POSITIVE, STAY STRONG, and most importantly, STAY OPEN… There is so much more God has in store!

Lovingly, You!

P.S. This letter is for me, my staff, my crew, and everyone who was by my side for this incredible journey. The most important thing in life is that you wake up every single day and take chances. No matter what the outcome…believe in yourself and continue to fly.

 The Queen Meets The Empress

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Before we could even think about feeling sad about her departure, Latifah down-shifted and was onto starring in her long awaited HBO biopic about Blues legend/pioneer Bessie Smith.

Months ago Home Box Office (HBO) announced the pioneering rapper would produce the project and lead a cast of performers headed by Mo’ Nique, who portrayed Smith’s mentor and matriarch of the Blues Ma Rainey.

For the unsinkable Dana Owens, the movie marked a 22-year saga that saw her read for the lead role as well as court a number of studios in the hopes of bringing this important story to light.

However, in the end, it was the persistence of Owens and Hip Hop that got it done.

Entitled:  “Bessie,” the manifesto premiered on HBO on May 16, 2015. The film marked not only a triumph for the Blues, but Latifah herself, Black expression and the importance of Hip Hop succeeding against all odds.

After peeping the 1920’s masterpiece, it was obvious this was a role almost specifically tailored to the bawdy Latifah and her soulful singing voice. By the end of the flick, I learned a bunch of things about The Empress of the Blues, but remembered why Hip Hop’s Queen is something like a phenomenon.

Her beautiful voice and award winning performance were on full display in the HBO film, which cast Latifah in the lead role and served as a tale of female empowerment, androgyny, lesbian love set against the backdrop of the Roaring 20’s Blues scene in America following the Great War.

Although little has been written about the historic work, the movie set Bessie Smith’s story on its ear from Latifah casting herself as the groundbreaking Blues singer to Smith’s revolutionary reversing the shameful practice of using the “paper bag” test to determine if dancers were the right color to perform. It was pure genius!

Latifah approached this tale about one of America’s most famous singers and icons with her characteristic personal touch and anyone who had the pleasure of peeing this historic biopic will realize why the Grammy Award winning rapper/singer/and Oscar nominated actress is must see TV.

She’s Baaad!

Just when I thought she’d moved onto greener pastures and beyond her humble beginnings, Latifah brought it back to basics, but this time on a television show I’ve never watched or in which I’d had very little interest – Spike TV’s Lip Sync Battle.

I personally have never done the karaoke thing in a bar or at a friend’s house or anywhere.  Therefore watching others do it, even if they are celebrities, has little interest or value to me as a person.

However, when Latifah donned a red track suit and Run-DMC-esc hat to pay homage to show host and leading man LL Cool J, a Hip Hop head like me just had to take notice.

Battling Marlon Wayans, who weighed in with Sam Smith’s ballad “Stay with Me,” Latifah again broke and rewrote all the rules when she slayed the young Wayans with her version of “Rock The Bells” the 1985 mega-hit from arguably G.O.A.T.-  LL Cool J, the show’s host.

Not surprisingly, in the end, Latifah won.

In fact, the end of her last talk show launched her into a cinema feeding frenzy that included her roles in hits like Chicago, Bringing Down the House; Taxi, Beauty Shop and Last Holiday, so who knows what genre she’ll dominate this time around. Afterall for Latifah, a.k.a Dana Owens, this ain’t her first rodeo.

With a successful sitcom, a Cover Girl contract, many feature films as well as countless albums under her belt, this successful business woman, who stepped onto scene as head of New Jersey’s Flavor Unit all those years ago, can literally do any everything.

Despite her many heralded achievements, every once in a while she just needs to remind us that she does still reign supreme and in “Bessie” she did just that, with a powerful performance for the whole world to see.

So bow down  – especially when Hip Hop happens.

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