You Say It's Your Birthday: Queen Latifah

Also the birthday of Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell.

Today is the birthday of Queen Latifah (given name: Dana

Owens), who was born in 1970 in Newark, New Jersey. Latifah's appearance as a

strong female rapper in the wake of the male-dominant hip-hop movement brought

about by Public Enemy brought a reminder to the rap world that women needed to

have a say as well. She grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, playing basketball

and serving as beatbox for the group Ladies Fresh. Taking on the name Latifah,

an Arabic word meaning "delicate and sensitive," the rapper debuted in 1989

with All Hail the Queen which featured the powerful hit single "Ladies

First."

Latifah also supported other women, like Monie Love, and

supporters like De La Soul and KRS-One. She got more personal on 1991's

Nature of a Sista', but continued to make her message clear in ""Nuff of

the Ruff Stuff" and "Latifah's Had It Up 2 Here." In 1992 Latifah's brother and

closest companion was killed in a motorcycling accident; her forthcoming album,

1993's Black Reign, was dedicated to him and represents Latifah's

struggle to deal with the loss. In addition to winning a Grammy in 1994 for her

song "U.N.I.T.Y.," the rapper has achieved wider appeal through her acting on

the sitcom Living Single and in the 1996 film Set It

Off.

Other birthdays: Miki Berenyi (Lush), Wilson Pickett, Barry "BJ"

Wilson (Procol Harum), John Hartman (Doobie Brothers), Irene Cara, Taja

Seville, Vanessa Williams, Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) and Page Hamilton

(Helmet). -- Beth Winegarner