Let me preface this by saying that I have not seen Bessie, I probably won’t watch Bessie, in fact I doubt I will watch any of the programs nominated for the 2015 Emmy’s Television Movie category. Does that mean I can’t unflinchingly demand that Queen Latifah win the award for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or a movie? Of course I can, even if I’m completely unqualified to do so. Does anyone actually think the right person wins for these awards anyway?
It’s lucky I’m not too worried about being cool, because otherwise I would be tentative to state that I only very recently encountered Latifah’s music career. Until a few months ago, to me, she was just that lady from that terrible Jimmy Fallon movie Taxi. I was then introduced to her 1993 classic Black Reign, and then I realised why she’s famous. Hint: it wasn’t for her performance in Bringing Down the House.
Now none of this is to deride her acting career, because she’s actually matured into quite a talented thespian with over 60 credits to her name, including some pretty decent performances. And from all accounts, she kills it in Bessie. But finally with some progress towards diversity in film and television, and I’m not saying we’re even close to equity in that regard, but with a show like Empire crushing television ratings and getting nominated, wouldn’t it be apt to reward one of hip hop’s pre-eminent MCs, someone who paved the way not just in hip hop culture, which is everywhere, but for women in the entertainment industry?
It’s not a brave statement to say that women and racial minorities should be treated equally by all industries, especially in entertainment, which is pervasive and helps to shape our perspectives in everyday life. And that’s not what this article is about, I don’t want to come across as a condescending white male who’s ‘throwing the little guys a bone’, like the Oscars seem to do every few years, and how the film industry only seems to respect films about the black experience that are torturous or historical enough to make them feel guilty. I just really like Queen Latifah.
If you need any convincing of Latifah’s dopeness, then let’s begin:
The saxophone opening gets me every single time. Try to listen to this song and not have the chorus stuck in your head all day. Seriously, even thinking about the song I’m repeating “you-enn-aye-tee-why das a unity” in my head over and over again. U.N.I.T.Y was Latifah’s biggest hit and even nabbed her a grammy in 1995. At a time when hip hop wasn’t exactly known for it’s propensity to be respectful towards women, wait, has hip hop ever been known for that? Anyway, Queen Latifah was a badass feminist of the highest order, standing up for what she believed in and promoting a positive message in a medium that many at the time considered volatile and perverse.
It’s not just her ability to interweave a political message into a catchy tune. She can also capture a feeling, and express it with some pretty fresh rhymes.
Just Another Day was another track on Black Reign to receive a music video, and thank god. That outfit should be immortalised somehow. Seriously, that belongs in a museum. Just Another Day has to be in the all-time list of chill driving songs, up there with It Was a Good Day and Gin and Juice.
We haven’t even mentioned her ability to craft those ‘pretend you hate them but actually secretly love them’ pop songs either. You know the ones, those TLC, Natalie Imbruglia, ’90s jams that you sing when you’re driving and hope nobody sees you. Superstar is pretty damn good at filling you up with that poppy nostalgia. Oh, and if it’s not good with Queen Latifah, then it’s incredibly bad:
So now we know what inspired Shaggy‘s career, and don’t try that “it wasn’t me” bullshit, we know it was you Weekend Love.
For those of you that already love Queen Latifah, I hope you had a nice trip down memory lane, and for those of you that didn’t, you’re welcome. Oh, and after she wins the Emmy for Bessie, Y’all need to update your EGOT pools, because she’s coming for that Oscar, and the Tonys? Pssh, the one woman Black Reign stage-play that I may or may not be penning as we speak will sweep those goddamn things.