Über Queen Latifah
One of the first female emcees to really make it big, Queen Latifah opened the door for an entire generation of women in hip-hop. She began her career in East Orange, N.J., beatboxing with a girl group called Ladies Fresh while in high school. Influential producer DJ Mark the 45 King hooked her up with beats for a demo, and in 1989 she dropped her first LP All Hail The Queen containing the hit "Ladies First." Her intelligent lyrics and strong pro-woman philosophies resonated clearly with many listeners, as the industry was even more male-dominated then than it is now. With a knack for diverse delivery, insightful rhymes and catchy production, she would be the premier female rapper for years to come. Latifah's third record, Black Reign (1993), featured the progressively minded hit "U.N.I.T.Y." which eventually won her a Grammy. In addition to her impressive skills on the mic, Queen Latifah is also a successful actress, writer and entrepreneur, with her own management company and label. Her last rap album Order in the Court was released in 1998, though she's since become a household name thanks to her work in hit movies like Bringing Down The House and Chicago (for which she won an Oscar nomination). In 2004, with her career bigger than ever, she showcased her exceptional singing skills on The Dana Owens Album, a collection of jazz and pop standards.