Rap’s Queen Latifah Fears Censorship


Rap artist Queen Latifah, whose debut album addresses everything from homelessness and poverty to apartheid and racism, says censoring music only sets a bad precedent in the recording industry.

“As far as censorship is concerned, I can’t even agree with that because today they’ll ban 2 Live Crew for explicit lyrics, but tomorrow they’ll tell me that I’m too black . . . ,” the 20-year-old Latifah said.

She was referring to the continuing controversy surrounding the rap group 2 Live Crew, whose album was deemed obscene in Florida. Two of its members were subsequently arrested for performing the material.

“Once you apply something to one person, it has to go for all people, and you can wind up messing up the positive things instead of just keeping out those things which you consider negative,” she said.

Latifah, who has been referred to as “the Aretha Franklin of Rap” because of her looks and dynamic stage presence, was quick to add that “it’s a First Amendment right to make what you want to make, (although) labeling, I think, is fair because it gives a warning that, hey, this record has explicit lyrics.”


Although she doesn’t want to come across as a preacher on wax, Latifah, born Dana Owens, is opinionated on many subjects. She cleverly sets these different ideas to varied styles of music on her first LP, “All Hail the Queen,” which incorporates such styles as jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, and reggae.

One of the most powerful songs is “Ladies First,” a fast-paced duet with British rapper Monie Love that quickly sets the stage for the rest of the album.

“It’s to tell ladies as well as men that we’re coming up, we’re standing proud and strong, and we won’t be impeded by anything,” she said in an interview.

“It’s not a feminist-type thing, ‘cause I’d never call myself a feminist. It’s just telling them they have to have more respect for themselves in an age where they are so exploited,” she added.

Latifah said the decision to use so many styles on her album was simply a reflection of her multiple tastes.

“Rap is fusing with a lot of other types of music. I like to sing and I like to rap, so it’s only natural that I experiment.”

Latifah--the name means “sensitive” or “delicate” in Arabic--had a rapping cameo on a remix of David Bowie’s song “Fame” for the soundtrack of the movie “Pretty Woman.”

Latifah, living in Jersey City, N.J., is on her first national tour, and the harsh realities about living out of a bus and encountering uncooperative audiences haven’t discouraged her.

On the contrary, she said, she plans to absorb all she’s learned on the road and turn it into a stage performance that fans will never forget.