Forget the fact that Queen Latifah hasn’t done a Hip-Hop album since 1998’s Order in the Court, the fact remains that Queen is most assuredly Hip-Hop royalty. From the time she dropped her debut album fifteen years ago, Dana Owens has been putting “Ladies First” by repping to the fullest.
Constantly challenging herself to reinvent herself the Queen’s fearless ambition has her living out loud from music, television, film, fashion and even literature, Coupled with the passion and commitment that has allowed her to introduce Hip-Hop to previously unfamiliar territory, like the world of the Oscar nomination, or even the face of Cover Girl. Nothing is out of reach for the cultural icon.
Just released, Beauty Shop has the Queen sporting a good look as the producer of hilarious spin-off. The Queen let her hair down as she spoke to a room full of media at movie’s pre-screening. Her standout cameo in Barbershop 2, laid the groundwork for her character Gina to fly solo. AllHipHop.com was among the roundtable in our discussion of the film, the music, and all things of the empire, perhaps better called The Queendom.
AllHipHop.com: So, the ladies want to know, did you pick Djimon to be your love interest?
Queen Latifah:Yes, there aren’t but so many men who can play my love interest and really deliver. You gotta be tall, you gotta have presence, you gotta be able to hold on to a woman my size, you can’t be all timid you gotta get nice grip. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: LL Cool J is slated to be your next love interest is that correct?
Queen Latifah: Yep, I’m running out of dudes.
AllHipHop.com: The cast said they wanted to be in the movie because of you. What do you say to that?
Queen Latifah: You know when they say that, it trips me out. That’s one of those pinch yourself moments, ya know. I think that’s cool. I don’t know how that makes me feel: proud, happy, it sure makes casting easier. When people want to be in it, I don’t have to beg and bribe. I can just say let’s make a deal and lets go. But I think that’s why the energy on the set was so high. The vibe was just right, everyone clicked everyone got along. I really loved coming to work everyday.
AllHipHop.com: Talk about staying true to the game as far as having the same people with you that you’ve had from day one, such Shakim Compere, and having made such strides in other arenas.
Queen Latifah: I would not have made it through this far without my partner, and we’re each other’s rock, sword, and shield, so to speak. Outside of God, it’s my parents and us. You need people that can be honest with you and that are gonna stand by you, regardless as to whether your hot or not, and now all of this stuff is getting bigger and things are flowing up here. But it was a climb, and there have a couple of straight drop outs you know where things got tough. We sacrificed a lot to keep things going and we’ve always been loyal to each other. You gotta have people you trust. I feel for people who switch managers and agents. I have had to work this agency a lot. I had to work William Morris a lot, because it wasn’t always like that. [At one point], I was like you know what keep that agent, give me that junior agent that’s hungry and don’t know that much, but she wants to work. Now we’ve come up together. This business is funny. People turn on you. In Hollywood, when it gets boring, they’re on to the next and that’s why I’m not just acting. I got to produce. I have to create business, get behind the camera that way. I am controlling my destiny a little better. But I can’t do it without my team. It’s no point; it wouldn’t even be fun anymore. If I couldn’t do it with them, then I’m just like, “Aight, I’m outta here. I’m gonna go start an adventure tour and run a riverboat somewhere.” [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: What’s going on with Flava Unit right now?
Queen Latifah: We’re finishing up a new deal, so we’re about to put some more music out.
Queen Latifah: Whatever’s hot.
AllHipHop.com: Are you as an artist, going to be putting out another Hip-Hop album soon?
Queen Latifah: I have one done already. It’s been done for a while; I have to do some new records, huh? But I just had to put that other album out first you know, I just had to slide on over to that side for a minute, and just let the singing breathe for a minute because that’s another side of who I am. That’s why I called it the Dana Owens Album. It’s really just been a countdown to that album for most of my life; it’s always been inside me.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like since you got your start in Hip-Hop, that the Hip-Hop community feels abandoned by you, or do you care?
Queen Latifah: I think some people feel that way, and I definitely do care. I feel bad, because people are like, “Man, you gotta put a Hip-Hop album out. We need you.” [I] Gotta pick things, I gotta focus on things when I do it. I can’t just do it, throw it out there and forget about it. I gotta push it and that requires energy, and I’m not trying to fight with anybody or beg anybody to play my record, either. You feel it or you don’t, and hopefully you feel it.
AllHipHop.com: There’s a part in the movie where your shop gets destroyed and you say how you can never catch a break and you want to give up. What situations in your career parallel that and what motivated you to push on?
Queen Latifah: There’s been a couple of times when [Shakim and I] both felt like that. Usually, maybe it’s a finance thing and we’re putting all this money into this one thing and waiting for it to please pay off. Or you bide your time, and hustle, and meet with people, and it’s like oh great I want to do this deal I’m ready for it to happen and then something happens, and the deal falls through. Or you see people take your ideas and reinvent them, and sell them and that can be a bummer but luckily there’s a wealth of ideas in here and that ain’t good Karma. Usually, Shakim and I aren’t down at the same time. He’s down, then I’m up and I’m gonna pick him up ,and vice versa. So we’re pretty good at balancing each other’s mentality. Sometimes we just have to vent and let it off, and come back and fight another day. Just like the people in the shop come through for Gina, that’s how we are with each other.
AllHipHop.com: Have you spoken to Kim since she was convicted?
Queen Latifah: I tried to call her, but her voicemail was full. But I’m gonna reach out again just to let her know I support her. You know, because she’s standing up for people who ain’t even standing up for her, and getting convicted. I really hope they don’t give her any jail time, but this kind of stuff sometimes it requires you to give people time, and I just don’t think justice would be served putting that girl in jail. I think lessons are learned – “Okay, point taken: don’t lie and don’t stand up for people who ain’t standing up for you.” This is a lesson to the whole hood, I mean we all live by this code, but everybody doesn’t go by it. People are always giving you up. Sometimes it wasn’t even worth it, but I just want her to know I support her because I love her to death. She’s one of the sweetest people in the world and she’s been the same person from the first time I met her, til’ now, in terms of how she’s always treated me, and talked to me. She’s always been cool people, so I really feel bad to see something like this happens – as if she hasn’t been through enough in her whole life and career already.
AllHipHop.com: Any chance on you writing another book?
Queen Latifah: I’m supposed to write a children’s book so that’ll be the next venture.
AllHipHop.com: You have an attitude in life that you tell people how it is, and they respect you because of it. Where does that come from?
Queen Latifah: I have no idea. I’ve always kind of voiced my own opinion on things. My parents never talked to us like children. They always talked to us like small adults. We were like little people. I was reading the newspaper at an early age, and discussing current events. Those were the types of things that went on in my house growing up. I remember when Anwar Sadat was assassinated, and I was only like eight years old and I cried like a baby because I watched this whole peace process and that’s when I was really getting introduced to this world, and really getting a sense of how this world is. So I’ve always had an opinion on things, and when I have a strong opinion or a belief, I’ve always been raised to stand up for what I believe in. I’m not always right, no one is, but it’s just how I do things.